Happy Holidays!

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Santa Claus. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Santa Claus. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Christmas – this time of the year when all sorrow and every problem is forgotten, when we are only happy and cheerful and grateful, when we spend time with family and beloved ones and forget about all our daily problems for a while.

In theory. In practice, it is like the most stressful time of the year ever:

– It’s already mid-December, but you still have no presents yet?

– You need to finish this project at work, but latest on the 23rd  you should pack your belongings and yourself and get your butt on the road towards the awaiting family that you haven’t talked to in weeks?

– Shopping becomes a nightmare in grocery stores and a suicide attempt in shops that sell anything else but food from the 18th onwards?

– Everyone at work is wishing happy holidays, and you wonder how you can possibly get all your stuff done by the end of – oh no, tomorrow?!

Stressed and panicked you grab your things and leave for the family meeting. You should relax now, but all you can think of is how Aunt Ruth will interrogate you about your non-existent love life in the most inappropriate matter, how you have to listen continuously for the next four days to numerous relatives telling you how big/small/pretty/exhausted you look, and whether all the presents you bought more or less blindly – because you have no clue what’s missing in the people’s lives you see at most once a year anyways – might be accepted or even tolerated.

You should relax now, but all you can think of is how Aunt Ruth will interrogate you about your non-existent love life.

If you have to take a flight, you are one of the thousands of people increasing the yearly turnover for flight companies by 200%, and leaving yourself with minus a million bucks on your account, and thoughts of hate and regret in the corner of your mind – why do you do this again? Why do you, every year again, agree to this insanity?

Because it’s Christmas. And that is, as we all know, the time of love and happiness and family. And consumerism, of course. Buying and receiving presents we don’t need, spending time with people we deliberately avoid the rest of the year, being squeezed back into our childhood room with 24/7 surveillance and monitoring (let’s rethink, why did you move out again?) . . .

But it is also the time of holidays. No one can work anyways, so we can as well spend the time together. Everyone has at least 2 days off, which enables us to actually get going and meet that old bunch of grumpy but dear relatives, at least that one time a year (we should actually aim for doing it more often). And cramming a bunch of people with different expectations and backgrounds into one room, forcing them to enjoy the same meal and conversation topics, does inevitably lead to discrepancies and friction, no matter how happy of a family you got. True story.

Not long ago, I attended a Thanksgiving dinner with friends. Friends, the family you chose, not the one you were given by blood. One might conclude logically now that it was all relaxed and easy. But, here it comes, the priceless Christmas epiphany: there seems to be a certain holiday-add-on released once people get together to enjoy a dinner. Stress, misunderstandings and panicking due to exaggerated planning and – here it is again – the well-known different-expectations-gap are pre-destined and unavoidable, even if we surround ourselves solely by those we handpicked as friends before.

So, no matter the occasion, gatherings with exponential amounts of people leads to increased stress. We might as well just consider this in our panic-planning and tick it off as one of the many holiday traditions we all, no matter the religion, have in common – and not make a big deal out of it. Happy Holidays!