The Holiday Season

Ten reasons that we blame the holidays

Posted Dec 04, 2014

Thank God we’re in the “holiday” season. Holidays are useful for many things. They provide entertainment, enjoyment, and enlightenment. How vital are holidays? Their importance may be best described by comedian Henny Youngman who stated, “I once wanted to become an atheist, but I gave up—they have no holidays.”

We love the holidays, so why in the world would we ever blame the holidays for anything? In fact the holidays are rife with blame. Here are 10 reasons that we blame the holidays.

1)     Loneliness: Holidays are associated with getting together with family and friends. As such, they can be painful reminders of poor relationships and are often blamed for feelings of loneliness, isolation, and seclusion. It feels wonderful to be invited to that great party next door; when you are sitting by yourself at home, not so much.

2)     Depression: Typically a time of happiness, celebrations, and goodwill, the holidays can be some of the happiest times of the year. Holidays also spur fond memories from the past which is potentially a marvelous and pleasurable experience. However, we can blame the holidays for reminding us of family members who have passed on, for times long gone by, and for memories that cannot be relived. If you aren’t included in the festivities or invited to the parties, or if you spend your time recollecting the past, you may travel the wrong way on the pleasure meter and find yourself sad, disheartened, and depressed. This is one of the paradoxes regarding the holidays. They are a time for merriment, yet often associated with instigating or aggravating depression.

3)     Eating: Holidays are a time for eating. We binge and partake of all sorts of treats and delicious cuisine. Apparently this must not be a good thing since we blame the holidays for setting us up to put on weight and causing indigestion. Does this sound familiar, “I was doing so well on my diet…until the holidays came along and ruined it for me!” or “Of course I put on weight, it’s the holiday season.”

4)     Lethargy: As we are all well aware, what happens after we are finished with that huge holiday meal? We finish our Thanksgiving turkey and we have an overwhelming desire to take a nap. Why is this? Postprandial somnolence or “food coma”- the feeling of lethargy and fatigue after eating excessive amounts of certain foods. This was felt to occur from redistribution of cerebral blood flow or perhaps of modulation of neurohormonal chemicals acting on sleep centers in the brain, such as high levels of tryptophan. We may not know the precise physiologic reason, but we do know that in the end, the holidays are to blame for our inability to motivate, lack of productivity, and feeling lazy.

5)     Drinking: Holidays are not just a time for eating, they are also a time for drinking. Once again, this can be a wonderful benefit of the holidays, yet it frequently becomes troublesome. Holidays are associated with (in other words, blamed for) binge drinking, “falling off the wagon”, and intoxication. “I was doing so well, until the Holidays came.” The other name for Thanksgiving Eve – Black Wednesday, the unofficial busiest bar night of the year!

6)     Shopping: The holidays are a time for shopping. We shop for clothes, we shop for food, we shop for presents, and we shop for decorations. Why the blame? We stand in line at stores for hours; perhaps even sleeping overnight to get an advantageous place in line. We waste hours upon hours of time. We compete with hundreds or thousands of others at retail stores promoting “Black Friday” holiday deals, often incurring bodily and psychological distress. Every year we read about customers being trampled when doors open. The holidays encourage us to spend more than we can afford. We dip into our savings and are left with financial heartache. What to do? Blame the holidays!

7)     Lack of money: As a direct consequence of all of our spending and shopping, we tend to spend lots of money during, or in preparation for the holidays. According to the National Retail Foundation, celebrants spent an average of $730 each on winter holidays alone. In 2013, Americans spent a little over $600 BILLION on winter holidays! Even Mother’s Day is associated with spending $163 each for a total of almost $20 billion. The holidays are indeed expensive and when we arrive on the other side of the festivals with a financial deficit, blame the holidays.

8)     Stock market: Consumer spending online and in retail stores usually increase during the holidays. People use credit cards excessively during this time and in doing so, run a personal deficit. The US Economy and US stock market depends and relies on this consumer spending. When people are not spending as much on retail in December, the stock market declines blame the holidays. This week the Nasdaq Composite fell for the first time in seven sessions. The reasons given include our inadequate spending on the holidays. As CNBC has stated, “US markets closer lower; lackluster holiday shopping blamed.” You don’t spend enough money on Black Friday, the US stock market loses money, economy slows, blame the holidays. You spend more money on Black Friday, you have no money to pay your bills in January, blame the holidays.

9)     Traveling: Most of us get some time off from work during the holidays and make plans to travel “back home” to spend time with family. Traveling means booking trips, airlines, more spending, more waiting! You don’t like to wait at the airport. Don’t like to fly? Don’t appreciate waiting in traffic jams? Blame the Holidays. While many retail stores do have discounts prior to holidays, this is isn’t true in the travel industry where seats are limited and supply does not always meet demand in terms of availability. Thus, prices often soar and waiting lines become intimidating. Yes, it’s worth it but it’s fraught with trepidation and blame.

10)  Tickets: Not the kind of tickets that you are hoping for. During the holidays there are increased traffic enforcement patrols. Is this your imagination and paranoia speaking? No. Traffic ticket campaigns have brought in about $5 billion per year in the United States. We are driving and rushing to get to that party after shopping or cooking or picking up supplies. Going on summer vacation with the family? Chances of getting a speeding ticket are increased – blame the holidays. Police increase squads to make quotas during holidays.  They are out in full force waiting just for you. Driving out of town to unfamiliar areas also increases our chances of getting tickets for local traffic violations. Not too surprisingly, the holidays are also to blame for an increase in traffic accidents. These mishaps may in fact be due to inattention, distraction, and/or fatigue. However, we know that we wouldn’t have been in those mindsets had it not been for the holidays.

Trying to park somewhere during the holidays? Good luck. With increased holiday traffic, parking is nearly impossible. Wasting time driving around looking for a spot and then paying premium “holiday prices” for parking – blame the holidays.

What other tickets might you be lucky enough to receive? Leaving that party, too much to drink. DUI – drinking under the influence. Why does the number of those tickets increase in December? Is it just the cold weather? Nope. It’s the HOLIDAYS to blame! Between Thanksgiving and New Years is known as “DUI season.” Black Wednesday (Thanksgiving Eve) is not only the busiest bar night of the year, it is also the biggest drunk driving night. As this is occurring during the most traveled holiday period, this is a dangerous combination. Between 2001-2005, there was an average of 36 fatalities per day in the US due to intoxication. This number increased to 45 per day during Christmas and 54 per day during New Year’s. The National Safety Commission blames speeding while sleepy or intoxicated on the number of deaths. Of course, ultimately these people were sleepy or intoxicated because of the holidays!

So, what’s the point of all this blaming?

Each of these blaming points above are excuses that we use for our inability to take control or responsibility for our actions and emotional reactions.

As occurs with any other event that involves us, we have a decision as to how we choose to assess the situation. We can look at the “bright side” in an optimistic fashion, we can look at the “woe is me, side”, pessimistically, or we can simply be mindful of everything going on and try not to assess but to experience and appreciate. Whichever road you choose, realize that it is really your choice. I choose to be a realistically, responsible, optimist.

We are responsible for our thoughts, feelings, emotions, words, actions, and reactions.  Yes, the holidays set up some potentially very challenging situations. And yes, you can blame the holidays for your misfortune…or realize that you can always take control and chart your own course for your holiday adventures.

Have an incredible Holiday Season. Be Safe. Be Well.

Neil