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How to Stop Hating the Holidays
From a grinch who's trying to change.
If you could marry Santa Claus, I’m sure 8-year-old me would have done it.
When I was a kid, I used to make cookies for Santa Claus, write a Christmas list that was a mile long for Santa Claus, and of course, I watched every damn Christmas movie that was ever released.
I did the whole thing. Christmas was the best time of year.
Christmas meant snow (everyone knows that pre-Christmas snow is better than post-Christmas snow), Christmas meant new toys, and best of all, Christmas meant that I didn’t have to deal with school or any of my other “exhausting” 9-year-old responsibilities.
Christmas was magical for me until one day, it wasn’t.
Somewhere between 10–14, Christmas lost its charm. The holidays lost their charm.
I started to resent those “corny” movies I’d grown up watching. I started to think that stockings were a stupid and impractical way to hide gifts. By the time I was 13, I was completely fed up with the way cultural materialism had commoditized a holiday that had once brought me so much joy.
The more I learned about how Western Christmas really worked, the more I didn’t like it.
Why the holidays SUCK:
In addition to not liking Christmas, I’m also not crazy about Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, my birthday, or New Year’s, to name a few of my least favorite holidays that everyone seems to love.
The short answer? Expectations.
The long answer is a bit more complicated.
I don’t like having to have my emotional state dictated by the day on the calendar. I don’t like putting on facades to avoid conflict with whoever I’m spending that holiday with.
“Be happy, it’s (insert holiday name here).”
I didn’t like having to be happy just because it was my birthday. I didn’t like having to show someone I loved them extra just because it was Valentine’s Day. I didn’t like being expected to go out on New Year’s and drink myself silly.
I didn’t like being expected to hang out with my family because it was Thanksgiving. Furthermore, 2 Thanksgiving meals without any of my family (when I was away at college) when I was 18 and 19 taught me just how miserable holidays alone can be.
I hated that there were so many people out there who were experiencing that every single year, just because these holidays were magnified so that people could make money.
These expectations paired with a few negative experiences during various holidays have made me, as people would say, a grinch. I don’t like holidays.
I’ll own up to it.
This year, I learned about a different kind of Thanksgiving.
On my dad’s side, my grandparents have been dead for years and I barely knew them.
My dad had a bit of a rough upbringing, and that made the relationship with those grandparents a bit complicated over the years for me and my sister. That, and those grandparents passed when I was 8 or 9.
Currently, my mom’s parents are getting up there in age as well. This year, my mom, dad, sister, sister’s dog, and I all agreed to head down to North Carolina to visit them. My parents and sister planned to drive down on Tuesday, and I was to fly down and meet everyone on Wednesday.
To put it bluntly, I wasn’t really looking forward to it.
Not because of family time, but because I don’t like holidays. Doing stuff for holidays with your family creates expectations — which is kind of the reason I don’t like holidays.
Selfishly, I was also missing “Friendsgiving” with my group of friends from my gym, I was missing 3 days of Jiu-Jitsu training, and I was stressed that I was going to gain a bunch of weight ahead of my upcoming match this weekend in the United Kingdom.
The trip was a bit of an inconvenience for me.
Then, on Monday, my grandpa had a stroke.
Before Tuesday, when I found out about the stroke, I knew next to nothing about strokes, except that they were a rock band from the late 90s/early 2000s.
That all changed when my grandpa — “Papa” — had his stroke. Suddenly, Thanksgiving the way that everyone had planned was royally fucked. Our plans were completely irrelevant now because the entire weekend suddenly (as it should have) revolved around my grandpa’s condition.
How was he doing? When was he going to get out of the hospital? What would be the long-term effects?
Really, it boiled down to this:
Would he be okay?
Here’s the hard truth: I don’t know what the long-term effects of that stroke will be yet. Papa is doing well right now, but it’s still a jarring experience.
When I went to see him in the hospital, it felt like he barely knew me.
I can’t tell if that’s because of the stroke or if that’s because he doesn’t really know me. I mean, I haven’t exactly been the most fun grandson over the years — especially during the holidays. I’m a holiday cynic.
Holidays bring out the worst in me.
This Thanksgiving made me realize something very important that I read about in Sahil Bloom’s Twitter thread just a few days earlier:
The older you get, the time that you have left to spend with your family decreases exponentially.
It’s okay to hate the holidays.
Last weekend made me think a bit differently about holidays.
Everyone seemed so much more anxious than normal. It was a hard time.
One thing that I realized was that the entire time I was there, struggling to get through Thanksgiving with my family who was also struggling to get through Thanksgiving, I wasn’t thinking about how much I hate Thanksgiving. I wasn’t having the best time given the circumstances, but I was a lot more present this Thanksgiving than I usually am.
I still hate the holidays. It’s weird that Thanksgiving has become “National Binge Eating Day” and Christmas has become “National Buy People Shit They Don’t Need Day”. However, this doesn’t mean that these holidays are bad inherently.
What sucks about holidays isn’t the holidays, it’s the way that they’re practiced. Modern holidays are practiced and celebrated with a lot of weird, mindless traditions. These holidays create expectations that make us disconnected from ourselves and each other.
If you can learn to be mindful despite the odds being stacked against you, you can become very present during the holidays.
You might realize like I did this weekend, the fragility of everything we have in this life. This might make you appreciate the holidays a bit more.
I’m nervous to publish an essay about how I hate the holidays because I don’t want a family member to stumble upon it and think that because I hate the holidays and you’re supposed to spend holidays with your family ergo I hate my family.
This isn’t true.
I honestly don’t have much in common with my family anymore, but I know them and I love them.
I just hate the way holidays are practiced.
One thing I’m trying to make a more active effort to do is to get through the holidays without becoming wrapped up in customs, and instead trying to become wrapped up in moments.
To put it bluntly, I don’t give a fuck about Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas presents. I care about being accepting of whatever I experience.
“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” — Eckhart Tolle
You can’t escape the holidays (they come every single year), but maybe you can escape the misery you feel during them.
Escape the misery of the holidays by accepting the miserable experience and dealing with it.
I’ll be competing tomorrow at Grapplefest in Liverpool, UK. If you’d like to watch, here’s the link to the Pay-Per-View.
A few of my new projects are almost done and dropping soon. Excited to share what I’ve been working on. 😊
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