by Gracie Bucklew
It’s that time of year again. I love me some colorful lights, freshly-baked cookies, indoor trees, and Christmas carols, but not everyone does. There are myriad reasons you should not force feed Christmas cheer to anyone. One is that many cannot afford Christmas.
The commercialization of and consumerist mindset toward Christmas conjures inaccessible standards for the 40.6 million Americans living in poverty. Romanticized with a lush tree, warm fire, and collection of gifts, the idealized Christmas morning flaunts wealth and the materialism that accompanies the American Dream.
Year round, but specifically near Christmas, we are so obsessed with getting and buying. The dazzling image of a tower of pristinely-wrapped presents under the tree is unrealistic, unattainable, and even toxic for low-income families. Seeing others with so much, actually achieving this extravagance, wears on the spirit and enthusiasm of these families.
Along with the presents, a plentiful Christmas feast is expected. Low-income folks again fall short. The inability to afford Christmas gifts and food can be humiliating for many, exacerbated by the indisputable association of the holiday with these things – is it even Christmas without it?
Another source of harmful obligatory Christmas cheer and activity is the splurge mindset. While during the rest of the year we are shamed for indulging – feasting and boozing are encouraged during Christmas time. These expectations can make those struggling with eating disorders feel very vulnerable, especially when surrounded by concerned family and friends.
Widespread heavy drinking as a method of social connection can tempt newly sober people into relapse. When all your loved ones are drinking around you, it’s easy to be tempted to join in.
In addition to all this, overblowing the importance of getting Christmas just right risks overwhelming and totally stressing out perfectionists and those with mental illnesses. The pressure to achieve the classic Norman Rockwell Christmas creates unrealistically high expectations for some, jeopardizing their mental stability and well-being preparing for the holiday. It can stir up feelings of inadequacy and failure.
The end-of-the-year holiday also serves as a reminder of any traumatic or difficult events from the year. Those entering a season typically laden with emphasis on spending time with loved ones, while well-meaning, can be very painful for them if they have lost a loved one or loved ones, or have lost connection from some.
That leads to the loneliness many experience around Christmas time. Old folks who don’t have offspring, are widowed, and/or are (one of) the last living relative(s) they have are especially vulnerable to this isolation.
Queer folx, those with unsupportive family, are also at high risk. Despite not being nearly as commonplace today, plenty of people who come out (or are outed) as LGBTQ+ to their family are still disowned and kicked out often. When entering this season of family time, estrangement takes a much greater toll on some than during the rest of the year. With all this said, Christmas alienates billions of people in a whole other way.
Millions in the U.S. and billions worldwide do not celebrate Christmas. About 6,202,668 people in the U.S. celebrate Kwanzaa and about 21,219,654 Hanukkah. Loads of others celebrate holidays like Bodhi Day, Yule, Feast Day at Our Lady of Guadalupe, and dozens more.
If this is true, why does every storefront display mannequins with Santa hats, every radio station play Christmas music, and every school district let out for Christmas? Christian hegemony, the system of dominance of Christianity in every aspect of life, makes these things happen.
So when you’re out feeling festive this winter, maybe don’t say “Merry Christmas” to everyone you meet.
Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings from me to you!
Gracie Bucklew is a musician, artist, Unitarian Universalist, intersectional feminist, and activist and contributes a regular local pop-culture column to the Emerald. She is currently a student at The Center School. She lives on Beacon Hill with one of her moms, and is a lifelong resident of Rainier Beach with her other mom. She loves her friends, cats, and ice cream.
Featured image is a cc licensed photo attributed to Taryn