“I Hate Christmas” (6 Reasons Why + Strategies To Get Through It)

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Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you get through the Christmas season if you really struggle with it. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com.

It’s that time of year again: when holiday music blares from every radio station and we’re accosted by gift idea adverts from all directions.

A lot of people are delighted by this time of year, but that’s not a universal response. In fact, many absolutely despise the holidays and just want Christmas to be over as soon as possible.

There’s nothing wrong with hating Christmas, and there might be many valid reasons why you go into full-on Grinch mode every year.

Below are some of the most common reasons why people hate the holidays, plus coping strategies on how to get through them relatively unscathed.

6 Reasons Why You Might Hate Christmas

While you might think that you’re in the minority as far as Christmas hatred goes, that’s far from the truth. Here are some of the reasons why you may despise the holidays:

1. You hate what Christmas has become.

If you’re lucky, you won’t start to see or hear Christmas adverts until the day after Halloween. In many places, however, the gift-giving commercials start in September and don’t lay off until after Boxing Day.

For many people, what was once a beautiful holiday has turned into a consumerist nightmare. There’s an immense amount of pressure to buy, buy, buy to prove to your loved ones that you care enough to spend tons of money on things they’ll never use. Furthermore, the spiritual aspects of this season are often lost in the maelstrom of expectation.

Giving gifts to those we love should be an action that comes from the heart, yet it has become obligatory. If you don’t give someone a gift, they’ll feel slighted. Or if it seems like you didn’t spend enough, then you might be considered cheap. Those who don’t have money to spend on gifts are often shamed, as are those whose contributions to family potlucks are store-bought rather than home-made.

Expectations don’t revolve solely around family get-togethers either. If people don’t show holiday cheer in general, then they’re called “Scrooge.” We seem to be expected to parade around with manic grins from November onward, as though the “magic of Christmas” is the most important thing in our lives.

When behaviors and emotions are demanded, all the joy is sucked out of the celebration. Everything feels obligatory rather than celebratory; chores instead of delights.

How can you enjoy looking around at Christmas decorations in your home when you were bullied and coerced into putting them up? Or how can it be fair to expect you to be happy to hear the same Christmas carols for the 300th time this week?

2. Family gatherings are torture.

Some people have been blessed with loving, supportive families who are a joy to spend time with. Others aren’t so lucky. For many, the Christmas season is an exercise in withstanding torture rather than being a celebration.

You might find yourself agonizing over which gifts to give because family members will judge them and cause drama. Or you know there will be months of fallout from whatever crap your drunken uncle will cause at the dinner table.

Maybe you had to get a “secret Santa” gift for a cousin you’ve met twice and don’t know at all, or you have to pretend to love a horrible book that someone bought you because they heard that you like to read, so here’s something with words in it: be grateful.

Almost everyone has relatives they can’t stand, but are forced to interact with during the holidays because “family.” It’s as though people are expected to get along with others merely because they share DNA, or are related by marriage.

Additionally, those who are mistreated by said relatives are expected to “be the bigger person” and tolerate their atrocious behavior with good humor so as not to cause any upset. The instigators are rarely called out on their actions, so it’s up to the ones being tormented to keep the peace.

The worst part is that you can’t pick up and leave when someone is being offensive. In any other situation, you’d be able to either retaliate, choose not to engage in conversation, or walk out… but if you do that at one of these gatherings, then you’re the a**hole who “ruined Christmas.” There’s no winning.

While these situations are quite normal, if uncomfortable, they can be downright excruciating for those who are different from most of their family members.

Neurodivergent people whose extended family don’t believe in or acknowledge their differences might find themselves tormented for the sake of others’ amusement. Those who have transitioned gender, are in the process of transitioning, or have come out as nonbinary may have to endure being the butt of jokes, or getting deadnamed by family members who refuse to respect their gender identity.

The same goes for those who married into a family that despises them. Maybe you’re of a different cultural background or social class than your spouse/partner and their family makes this a major point of contention. They might make subtle digs about you, or refuse to speak in a language you understand. They might even re-gift you with something you gave them last year to prove to you that you don’t mean a damned thing to them and you’re simply tolerated to humor your partner.

The above situations aren’t merely horrible to endure, but can lead to serious mental health crises over the holidays.

Folks who have raging narcissists in the family will also have to face insults and mockery, especially if the narcissist in their life tries to rope others in to help them with their antagonism. What would otherwise be an awkward meal with people who supposedly love you becomes abusive and damaging. 

3. Christmas doesn’t feel special anymore.

The holidays might have been incredibly special and magical to you when you were a child, but that was a long time ago. Now, instead of waking up to gifts and tasty treats on Christmas morning, you’re stressed out and exhausted by having to put on a good show to make that magic happen for others.

Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas did when you were younger because you’re suddenly aware of how much time and effort goes into making everything fall into place… and you just don’t have it in you.

Furthermore, you might be acutely aware of both the falseness and far-reaching negative effects that all that manufacturing and consumerism has on the rest of the world. When you look at a Christmas tree, you see clear-cut forests instead of holiday cheer. That turkey on the table suffered horribly before it was slaughtered, the gifts around you were manufactured by child labor in Asia, etc.

As a result, this holiday is just not fun anymore. It’s hollow and performative, and it leaves you feeling depleted and sad rather than joyful.

Depression can also be a major contributing factor when one feels unable to experience fun things anymore. Job loss, relationship issues, and global events in general can make one feel like there really isn’t much to celebrate at all.

4. It reminds you of lost loved ones.

A lot of people have beautiful memories of wonderful holidays spent with family and friends. In fact, for many of them, annual Christmas get-togethers were annual opportunities to see some of their favourite people and experience the same heartwarming, comforting traditions year after year.

For example, maybe Grandma had a secret gingerbread cake recipe that she only made at Christmastime.

When those people pass away, Christmas will never be the same again. Sure, those comfort foods and traditions might be carried on, but they’re not quite the same, are they? Recipes always taste a bit different depending on who’s cooking them, and traditions that were established by a particular group always emphasize the fact that one of the founding members is now missing.

There’s also the possibility that traumatic loss is a contributing factor as to why you hate Christmas.

In the 80’s movie “Gremlins,” one of the characters talks about how she doesn’t celebrate Christmas because it always reminds her of how her father died while trying to climb down the chimney dressed as Santa Claus to surprise everyone. While that’s an unusual example of holiday trauma, death around Christmastime is common and can suck the cheer out of the holiday season for the rest of a person’s life.

5. You’re too old to care.

You might have noticed that most Christmas adverts either revolve around children, or include them prominently. That’s because this season is most exciting and magical for the under-12 crowd.

Kids get incredibly excited about all the toys and treats they’ll be able to enjoy while they’re off school for a couple of weeks. Furthermore, they get to experience surprise and delight when they wake up to a pile of presents beneath a beautifully decorated tree, and discover that Santa and his reindeer have devoured the biscuits and carrots left out for them.

Parents and other relatives often live vicariously through this delight, as they get to bask in the joy on their little ones’ faces as they experience this magic before they grow up and lose interest.

If you’re solidly in adult-land now, and you either don’t have kids of your own or don’t have many in your life at all, then you might not see the point of celebrating the way you did when you were a child. Furthermore, life’s stresses and burdens might have taken what was left of the holiday spirit out of your soul.

Instead of appreciating meals spent with friends, you think of the bills you’ll have to pay. Why bother with a Christmas tree when you’ll be vacuuming pine needles out of the carpet for a month? Etc.

6. You hate Christmas shopping.

Anyone who has either worked holiday retail or done their shopping in late December knows what an absolute nightmare Christmas shopping can be. Many people go absolutely insane when it comes to gift buying, going so far as to get into fist fights or screaming matches over a toy or accessory that they want to get.

Shopping malls get so crowded and frenetic that they can cause anxiety in even the hardiest shoppers, and shipping delays can make online purchases difficult as well.

Even worse can be the crushing weight of expectation: many people are offended by the idea that they should let others know what they want for Christmas, and that their loved ones should “just know.” Then they get upset when their family members give them things that they’re not interested in.

In general, Christmas shopping is stressful on countless levels. Very few people enjoy it at all, which ends up adding to the resentment of holiday expectations.

8 Strategies To Get Through Christmas

When you know that you’re heading into a difficult situation, it’s important to have strategies and tools that you can put into practice. More importantly, remember that there’s always the option to opt out.

We really do recommend that you seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to cope better with the holidays.

1. Say “no thanks” if and when you need to.

You’re under no obligation to go to events that you don’t want to attend, nor to buy gifts for people you dislike. Family members may try to coerce or guilt you into doing so, but you can choose not to let their manipulations affect you.

Furthermore, you can call them out on that behavior and let them know that it won’t be tolerated. This might rock the boat, but it’s often better to do so for the sake of maintaining your sanity than to sacrifice your wellbeing on the altar of familial harmony.

Saying “no thank you” also extends to food or drink that others are trying to foist upon you. If you’ve chosen not to drink alcohol, for example, you don’t have to acquiesce because someone might take offense if you toast with ginger ale instead. If they get offended, that’s on them.

The same goes for eating anything that goes against your personal ethics, or might make you ill. You’re under no obligation to explain yourself, nor should you be made to feel that you need to sacrifice your integrity or your wellbeing so you don’t make your aunt or gran feel bad.

Remember that you’re not responsible for anyone else’s emotions, and you can’t “make” anyone feel anything. That’s on them.

2. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself as needed.

You don’t have to put up with abusive behavior for the sake of maintaining the illusion of harmony. As mentioned earlier, some people are admonished when they stand up to inappropriate behavior by relatives because they’re family, or because elders should apparently even be respected when their behavior is reprehensible.

That’s a big “nope” right there.

During family get-togethers, relatives may think it’s appropriate to ask intensely personal questions, such as when you’re going to find a spouse, or have children. If this is the case, you can determine the approach that you’re most comfortable with. One person might respond by saying that it’s inappropriate for them to even ask such questions, while another might respond with an even more uncomfortable question in turn to shut the asker up.

Whatever strategy you use, remember that nobody has the “right” to insult you, belittle you, or make you uncomfortable with intentionally offensive queries. You’re an adult, as are they, and that levels the playing field. Stand up for yourself and make it crystal clear to them that being related doesn’t give them carte blanche to treat you like crap.

If they continue, leave.

3. Create new traditions.

If you’ve been feeling like you want Christmas to be over with so you don’t have to deal with the memories that your holiday traditions evoke, then a great alternative is to create a new set of traditions.

For example, many families serve specific dishes year after year because their grandparents established a menu and they’re expected to adhere to it. Well, if those grandparents aren’t around anymore, there’s no reason why that menu can’t be changed. The same goes for decorative items, music, games, and the like.

Ditch the old color scheme or theme and choose something completely different. Opt for classical music instead of cheesy carols, and order in sushi or Chinese food instead of spending a few days cooking. Come up with fun family games, or choose a tradition from another culture that you’re fond of.

If you’re a family of introverts, consider the Icelandic Jolabokaflod (“Yule book flood”), in which everyone curls up with books, something hot to drink, and chocolate, and spends a lovely evening reading in silence. Alternatively, most boisterous families can play board games or charades until everyone falls over.

Basically, celebrate things on your own terms. This can go a long way towards healing old traumas, as you won’t have the same visual or auditory triggers haunting you year after year.

4. Do holiday shopping throughout the year.

It might be a bit late to start this now if the holidays are right around the corner, but it’s something you can keep in mind for next year (and beyond). If you want to participate in gift exchanges, then you can spare yourself a world of stress by spreading out your shopping excursions over the entire year, rather than the few short weeks before Christmas.

Keep a detailed spreadsheet of the various types of things your loved ones enjoy or collect, and keep an eye out for those things regardless of what time of year it is.

Is your best friend obsessed with squirrels or rabbits? Keep an eye out for sales during the spring and summer when cute animal items are popular. Same goes for various fragrances, craft materials, snack flavors, and the like. Keep some money aside in your budget for impromptu gift purchases when you’re travelling, and take full advantage of sales when you come across them.

You don’t have to do any shopping at all between Halloween and Christmas: there are 10 other months that you can put to great effect as far as shopping goes, right?

5. Make gifts instead of buying them.

People who are put off by the commercialization of Christmas can opt for a more sincere, heartfelt approach as far as gift-giving goes. For example, you can make your holiday gifts instead of buying pre-made items.

Once again, this requires a bit of planning ahead of time, especially if the items you plan to make require a fair amount of time and effort to complete. You don’t want to be up all night the week before Christmas, knitting your hands numb or accidentally gluing wood pieces to various parts of your anatomy.

There are countless different DIY gifts you can put together depending on your budget and skill set(s). For instance, it’s easy to fill Mason jars with gourmet hot cocoa or soup mix: the recipient just needs to add hot water and enjoy.

6. Choose not to exchange gifts at all.

While you may feel pressured to exchange gifts with other people, you’re under no obligation to actually do so. Giving gifts is a nice tradition if you have the means and desire to do so, but the spirit of the holidays is lost when you feel like you HAVE to do so or risk causing offense and upset.

As mentioned above, you could make some gifts yourself to give to others if you really want to, but the alternative is to make it known that you’re not taking part in this tradition this year. How you choose to phrase this is up to you of course, and can be tailored to suit the people you’ll inevitably shock with this announcement.

One of the best ways to absolve yourself of all gift-giving expectation is to announce well ahead of time that you’re choosing to give to charity this year instead of spending money on “stuff.” This way, anyone who causes a fuss about not receiving anything (or breaking with tradition) will look like an a**hole. As a result, they have no choice by to save face by showing their support.

*Note: you can also try to use this approach to get out of obligatory family gatherings. Let them know that you’re choosing to give of yourself this year, and will be spending Christmas doing volunteer work at a homeless shelter, hospice, elder care facility, or other organization that desperately needs volunteer help. You might get a couple of disparaging remarks, but you can counter those by reminding them of the true spirit of Christmas, and that those you’ll be helping are far more in need than they are. It’s a remarkably effective tactic that may very well get you out of having to attend at least one terrible dinner.

7. Align your values and priorities with the holidays.

One of the main reasons why so many people hate the holidays is because they feel that they’re being insincere. This often happens when someone’s authentic self (e.g. their values, interests, spiritual leanings, etc.) does’t align with their family’s traditions.

As an example, you might feel very strongly about honoring the solemn, sacred spirit of the season, whereas your relatives prefer to huff eggnog while listening to Bing Crosby. If this is the case, there’s nothing wrong with making a very brief appearance at a family gathering before you go to a church service that’ll make your heart soar.

Or the opposite may be true: your family might be super-religious, but you’re in love with 1960s nostalgia with an extra dose of tinsel. In a case like that, you can find a middle ground by decorating your home the way you want to, and attending a service with them. Or skip the Midnight Mass completely and stop in for a brief visit on New Year’s Eve.

If you want to buy gifts for your loved ones but you don’t want to take part in unethical consumerism, get items that both align with what’s important to you, and will make others happy as well. For instance, I’m big on sustainability, so one year I gave every family member a reusable canvas tote bag in a theme that they loved. Inside it was a set of either bamboo or stainless steel cutlery, steel water bottle, ceramic coffee mug, and an assortment of fair trade/ethically sourced drinks and snacks to suit their individual preferences.

Everyone was delighted with what they received, and I felt happy about the fact that I was staying true to my principles regarding sustainable practices and ethical products.

8. Get supportive both before and after the holiday season.

If you know that you’re going to be struggling at Christmas, take preemptive measures and talk to a therapist about it. Let them know in great detail where your stresses and anxieties spring from, as well as what types of situations inevitably unfold to make your life hellish over the holidays.

They can work with you to develop coping strategies that will help you endure whatever you’re going to have to deal with, and they can schedule time for you after the event so you can decompress and heal as needed. Your therapist can also reassure you that there’s nothing wrong with you for thinking or feeling differently about the season than those around you, and that you’re well within your rights to defend yourself against those who might mistreat you.

There might also be past trauma that rears its ugly head as soon as those bells start jingling. Maybe you were badly injured in a holiday car crash and you get panic attacks about it possibly occurring again. You might have even been accidentally poisoned by a family member who wasn’t diligent about your food allergies, so now you’re anxious about ending up in the ER again this year.

If you experienced something awful during the holiday season, the sounds, scents, and images you saw around you when that traumatic event occurred will undoubtedly be repeated. A good therapist can work with you to figure out the best way to navigate these difficulties so that they don’t affect you as badly.

A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

In addition, they can help you find what truly brings you joy over the holidays, and offer options on how to manifest those instead of enduring chaos and stress. You may discover that you actually do like the decorations and music, but you’d prefer to celebrate the holiday alone at home with your pet, some soup, and your favorite streaming service rather than a boisterous get-together full of barking dogs and screaming children.

And that’s absolutely okay. In fact, celebrating in this fashion may very well spark a new appreciation for the holidays, because you’ll get to celebrate them on your own terms.

Ultimately, remember that there is no “right” way to celebrate a holiday, and that includes not celebrating it at all. In fact, it can be immensely freeing to opt out of taking part in these festivities as a form of self-care.

If you have the financial means to do so, consider going somewhere completely different for a week or two. Your chosen destination can depend on what you want to experience, or what’s best for your budget. For instance, if you love Christmas but can’t stand your family, consider going to Strasbourg to experience their Weihnachtsmarkt/Christkindelsmarkt. Alternatively, go somewhere warm and beautiful where Christmas isn’t celebrated at all, such as The Maldives, which is primarily Sunni Muslim.

Your life is yours to live, and that includes how you choose to acknowledge and celebrate various holidays. If people give you grief about choosing self-care over forced celebration, then that’s a big clue to lessen your contact with these folks. Those who truly love you will do so selflessly and support the choices that make you happiest.

This is supposed to be the season of joy and peace, right? Then give yourself permission to experience your own peace and joy by any means necessary.

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About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.