Why It's Time We Removed the Pressure Around Christmas

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt pressure to be happy at Christmas.

It’s not that I dislike Christmas — I love the lights! The food! The days off! — no, it’s not dislike. It’s more the unspoken pressure that surrounds it.

The pressure to smile and enjoy copious viewings of Elf and sing along to songs that you actually, really quite hate. The pressure to pause life and pretend that everything is merry and bright.

For a recent sanity check, I decided to conduct an experiment. As I went about my day, I asked the people I encountered — colleagues, friends, store workers, waiters, anyone! — what they really thought about Christmas. Many of them looked perplexed, but then there were the ones that didn’t. The ones that paused and replied yes, actually. Christmas is tough.

Christmas is tough for a multitude of reasons, I learned. It’s tough because of loss and breakups and childhood memories and hated hometowns and the unspoken pressure.

It’s tough because the sad side of Christmas isn’t reflected in the glimmering lights of the John Lewis ads, nor the Hollywood movies. It’s unspoken of, but it’s there.

I know it’s there because I am there. In the awkward space between feeling like I should enjoy Christmas and knowing, silently, secretly, that I can’t. Not this year. 

Personally, I’m going through a shitty time.

In October, I lost my role model, my grandmother, and am still in the midst of some of the toughest months of my adult life to date. I’m lost. I’m wandering through the fog. My rational mind knows I’ll get through it, but my emotional side is screaming: “When? How much further? How much longer do we have to go?!”.

This sense of loss and panic is heightened as I scroll through Instagram and see smiley, happy people staring back at me. 

And I know I can’t be the only one. 

If you’re feeling fragile, for whatever reason, this Christmas, my advice is simple: pause. Give yourself permission to feel sad at Christmas. Give yourself permission to eat what you want. Lose all expectations — of yourself and of others. Drop the pressure. Say no and say it often. Use Christmas as an excuse to sleep. Use it as time to breathe. Use it as time to heal and ground yourself. Know you’re not alone. Know it will get better. It will get better. 

 

And if you’re not feeling fragile this Christmas, but know someone who is? Be present. Remove the pressure. Wrap someone in a hug. Send peace. Donate. Be the light.

You’re not a grinch, or a scrooge, or a misery if you’re not feeling Christmas this year.

You’re a human who is navigating what it means to be human. This Christmas and always. 

 

Bianca Bass