Remember that the holidays can be a toxic time of the year for some
By Yvonne Sam
It is that time of the year when we get inundated with Christmas special reruns, inundated with holiday cheer, remakes of old jingles and advertisements, encouraging us to find the best gift for that special someone — not to mention every other person in your life.
Strange but true, Xmas is also that time when people are expected to tolerate borderline abusive behavior from people in their lives, in the name of holiday spirit. There appears to be (origin unknown) an unspoken rule that the holidays are the time of the year, when people are expected to “put their differences aside”, and be happy and grateful for everything in their lives.
However, not so fast. While family support and involvement are touted as important facets of one’s well-being, in the short term, family can be a source of stress.
What happens if your relationship with your family (if you are fortunate to have one) is strained? What if you do not have any family at all? What happens if the Xmas holidays are linked with some life-altering tragedy that plays havoc with your mental health, every time December rolls around?
Let’s face it, many of us have strained relationships with relatives, siblings, etc., and being forced to sit around the dining table at Xmas, facing Uncle Jim and Auntie Iris, and listening to their sick comments, especially when she reverts to the schemas that governed your behavior and thinking during your adolescence, is tiring to say the least. Trouble is, you are not an adolescent any more. You are an adult, with a wife and children, with no desire for exhumation.
On the other hand, what happens if you do have a family, and also a good relationship with them all, but due to circumstances you are unable to make it home for Xmas? For example, there are foreign students at university, college, exchange programs etc. who cannot afford to go home for the holidays. Spare a thought for them, as around this time of the year can be very lonely.
There are also many people who have lost loved ones during the holiday season, which makes this time of the year, either bittersweet or totally unbearable. The context cues cause unpleasant memories to come flooding back.
It is difficult not to notice the insane amount of people flooding the shopping malls and the department stores. We all feel pressured to have a gift for everyone, as if it is a sign that we really care. More often than not we buy useless gifts just for the sake of giving a loved one something to unwrap and enjoy for two minutes or less on Christmas. If we know the reason for the season, why do we keep making it about material objects?
Let us commence being cognizant of the ways in which the holidays can be a toxic time of the year for others. There is more to Christmas, (although it is not apparent) than just lighting up homes and engaging in conspicuous consumption.
It is about lighting up lives; it is about reflecting on the core teachings of Christ. There is, I wish to respectfully posit, no greater and nobler way of celebrating Christmas than that of reaching out to the poor and the needy and spreading joy to where it matters the most, that is, among the so-called “wretched of the earth”.
Remember that each time a hand reaches out to help another – THAT, is Christmas. Every time someone puts anger aside and strives for understanding – THAT, is Christmas. May this Christmas bring us closer to the spirit of human understanding.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.