We Are Free to Opt Out of Oppressive Christmas Traditions

christmas star

A guest post by Karuna Gal written for The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser really resonated with me: The Tyranny of American Christmas. The characterization of "week after oppressive week of the Christmas season" is apt because it can feel oppressive at times. I wouldn't mind it so much if it didn't start until after Thanksgiving, but it has been starting much earlier and lasts far too long. I can relate to the sense of pressure to buy, the impossibility of leaving my home without being aurally assaulted with Christmas music, and the difficulty of finding anything on TV that isn't Christmas themed and surrounded by Christmas-themed ads. And then there's all the predictable church-state violations.

Like Karuna Gal, I opted out of Christmas several years ago. I didn't just opt out of the tree and the decorations; I opted out of the entire thing. But why? I didn't enjoy it. It brought far more aggravation than joy, and I'm happy to be rid of it. These days, the Christmas season really is relaxing for the most part as long as I avoid retail stores as much as possible. For a few years, I created my own traditions before realizing that this was not necessary. Now I just enjoy the little time I have off work.

I understand that not everyone wants to opt out. Some people genuinely enjoy some or all of the Christmas season. No judgment here - more power to them. But I really hate to see those who do not enjoy it feeling trapped by everything it has become. For them, I would simply suggest that it might be worthwhile to try opting out for a year or two and see what it is like. I thought there might be a few aspects I'd miss, but there really weren't. The only reason I didn't do it sooner than I did had to do with concerns about disappointing others. In the end, I decided that was silly. Others are free to participate in the holidays of their choosing without me. I'm not powerful enough to ruin others' holidays.

Before I opted out of Christmas, I remember how drained I always felt when it was over. I always felt like I needed a vacation afterward. It was a weird kind of stress because it was stressful but few were willing to acknowledge that it was stressful. In fact, I remember being scolded if I complained about feeling stressed. I remember being told I wasn't supposed to feel stressed even though it was obvious others did too. I wouldn't go so far as to say that conformity is always stressful, but I do think it tends to be stressful when one doesn't particularly enjoy whatever one is trying to conform to.

There is a certain sense of liberation that accompanies freedom from religion, and I have found something similar involved in freeing myself from participating in any aspects of American Christmas traditions. It is of much lesser intensity, of course, but that is what it reminds me of. And much like religion, it is hard to imagine ever wanting to return.