For some, the holiday season is a joyful one. To these people, the holiday season is for spending time reconnecting with friends and family, shopping, dining, gathering, wrapping, singing, and generally celebrating the season regardless of one’s religious beliefs or lack thereof. This is the group that society recognizes the existence of. Multibillion dollar corporations spend significant amounts of money catering to the people in this group. One of the most significant cultural holidays–Christmas–is a national holiday. People plan their vacations around this time of year. Public schools take a winter break during this period as well. If you’re someone who celebrates the holiday season, no matter how you celebrate it or what religion you do or don’t belong to, your existence is recognized. If you enjoy Christmas caroling, participating in religious plays celebrating the season, or even sending out holiday cards, your participation in cultural traditions reinforces the idea that the holidays are a thrilling time of year.
Don’t get me wrong…it can be and is.
For some people.
Not so for others.
Despite the slogans and Christmas songs and holiday movies and candy canes and family feasts, for many people, this is not the most wonderful time of year.
Instead of joy, excitement, and the thrill of family gatherings, for these people, the winter holiday season brings heightened anxiety and a sense of dread. It can cause memories to surge to the surface; memories you might want to forget, but which you never will.
Just as bad as the memories (perhaps even worse for some) are the conflicts, disagreements, shouting matches, and even physical fights. So many people have family members who are bigots whom they dread sitting across from the table with. A fuckton of people have family members with diametrically opposite political leanings and in the current climate, I can completely empathize with the liberal or progressive who, for the sake of family unity and the greater good of civility, is quiet on the outside, but a seething cauldron on the inside. You shouldn’t have to remain silent as that conservative asshole spews the same lies, hate, and rhetoric as the current POTUS.
There are also those who are unable to spend the holidays with family. My sister recently moved to Japan, and while she is such a gregarious person, when I consider the thought of making such a move, I know this time of year would be rough, bc the isolation of being so far from close friends and family. Perhaps even worse than that are the people who have no family or friends. The people who lost a spouse in a mass shooting and don’t feel there is any joy to be had, or the people who lost a spouse to cancer around the holidays and cannot find any joy in this time of year. The parents whose child took their own lives after being bullied. The elderly parent/spouse whose child and spouse are dead; killed by a drunk driver. The queer teen kicked out of their home for being bisexual.
How about the people who are indigent, with no roof over their heads, and struggling to find a decent meal? Or the people who work several jobs, but are unable to provide their children with presents? The teenager who faces the one two punch of seeing their rapist at the dinner table, but also dealing with family members who engaged in victim blaming, utterly failing to place all the guilt on the guilty party (the rapist)? The transgender girl who knows her family will refuse to use her pronouns, and continues to deadname her, despite her correcting them? The people just barely able to contain their rage at once again having to spend the holidays around a family member who slut-shames and victim blames sexual assault victims, doubts every claim made by the women who stepped forward to accuse Harvey Weinstein.
These people need to be acknowledged and their struggles recognized.
Those who remain silent for the greater good of family unity.
Those who still have no electricity in Puerto Rico.
Those who have lost someone.
Those who have lost their jobs.
Those who have lost a furry friend
Those who cannot afford to keep up the Santa lie.
Those whose families were torn asunder by murderous law enforcement officials.
Those marginalized ppl who, thanks to the current administration, feel a heightened sense of fear and concern at the possibility of being the victim of a hate crime.
All the queer folks who remain closeted, rather than risk being disowned or killed by their conservative families.
To all those people–and anyone else who does not feel a sense of joy and excitement over the holiday season, no matter the reason–I see you. I’m listening. I hear your stories. While there may not be much I can do to assist directly, I can help shatter the myth that this time of year is a joyous one for all, by reminding people that a thrilling, wonderful, joyous holiday season is a privilege. One that a great many people do not possess. Hopefully, reminding people that social justice issues don’t take a holiday break will help normalize the struggles of people for whom this is not the most wonderful time of the year.
Your voices, struggles, and experiences matter.