The Holiday Blues
We have been told the holidays are when families should come together. We are also told that the holidays are meant to be filled with laughter, love, sweet smells, desserts, sugar, spice, and everything nice. Popular songs and movies are played on television and radio stations every year when the holiday season rolls around. Many of us can recite the lyrics to “Jingle Bells” and Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas,” and know the plot for Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas. We have heard countless stories of how Thanksgiving represents a time when the Pilgrims and Native Americans came together and celebrated a good harvest and became friends. Many of us know this holiday is a lie and has numerous negative connotations connected to it, however, the holiday continues to carry on. These songs and movies are regarded as classics and portray Americans as having a shared culture. These media portrayals of how Americans celebrate the holidays cater to a select demographic of people. This demographic is made up of the upper-middle class, white, and Christian Americans who have not experienced separation (i.e., divorce, or long distance). Additionally, these movies and songs fail to acknowledge mental health issues, disabilities, parental divorce, illnesses, arguments between family members, and loneliness. It is not uncommon for American families to experience these problems, especially during the holiday season. However, when these problems are not acknowledged it can make individuals feel as though they are outcasts. Without a clear rulebook for how the holidays should be handled when they have additional difficulties, it becomes the responsibility of the individual families to figure out ways to adapt their situations to fit with how idealized American holidays should be celebrated.
Families who have divorced, or separated, parents are faced with the task of arranging how children and other relatives will meet for the holidays. Popular movies do not portray these types of families, although, by considering the increasing divorce rate in the America more and more families are facing these circumstances. Additionally, the popular media does not show families who are separated by distance. Some family members are away at war, live in different states, or live overseas, and cannot afford to travel to meet with their family. With this lack of representation on how families may have to accommodate for distance and separation, this increases the distress and unease individuals may experience during the holidays.
It is common for families to experience high-stress levels during the holidays. There are naturally members who do not get along, and by being near one another, arguments are bound to occur. These arguments add stress to not only the members who are engaging in them, but also to the rest of the family members around them. It is nearly impossible to ensure everyone is content. However, the ways popular media portrays how families interact during the holidays creates the appearance that this collective universal happiness is not attainable but also expected.
The holidays can result in high levels of stress, feelings of inadequacy, and loneliness. On the other hand, there are ways to combat these difficulties. Modern holiday movies are now being released which demonstrate these problems many families experience. By having these issues shown to popular audiences, it makes individuals feel like their families and holiday celebrations are so different from how everyone else celebrates. It is also important to find a way to make the holidays realistic, no matter how they are being celebrating and with whom. There is time for you to recharge and focus on self-care. There is no wrong or right way to do this.