Holiday Alternatives When You’re Estranged From Your Family
It’s not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. For those of us who’ve lost family members to death or estrangement (a.k.a emotional death), the holidays bring more grief than cheer. I do love my parents and my two brothers, but it’s complicated. Plus, I can’t afford to fly to the east coast during the holidays, and I have too much going on in California to leave for more than a day (#humblebrag). Sure, it’s sad, but I have loved my last two Christmases spent with friends and lovers. Being an adult means you get to put yourself first and celebrate however feels right to you. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. I stand in solidarity with all of you who get the sad feels this time of year. Here are some ways to muddle through somehow.
This is your best option. Chosen family is usually infinitely better than our families of origin. I don’t want to project my own shit onto you, though, maybe your non-chosen family is simply the bee’s knees. But spending the holiday(s) with your dearest buds ensures a drama-free, fun celebration… unless you have a lot of drama with your friends. But that’s a bigger problem, back to happy friendships! You can exchange gifts or not. Decorate or not. Listen to holiday music or not. But definitely, eat food and drink yummy things, either alcoholic or non, let’s include everyone, etc.
2. Don’t Celebrate
You don’t have to do anything. I know some adults who don’t celebrate the winter holidays because they’re not religious or they hate the consumerism inherent in the month of December or they just don’t want to or whatever. December is filled with pressure to get the right gift, do the right thing, be the kindest and the happiest and the bestest everest. Fuck that. Do whatever feels right to you, even if that means eating takeout and binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix (that’s actually how I celebrate Mondays).
I am conflicted about recommending this because apparently the biggest volunteer days of the year are Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some soup kitchens and shelters resent the fact that people don’t volunteer year-round and they end up having to turn away volunteers on holidays. Google “volunteer Christmas [your town]” and see if there are options. In the Bay Area, I found tons of events that still need folks to help out. If you know you’re gonna feel sad and/or weird on a certain day, working hard to serve others will be a welcome distraction.
4. Host your own holiday gathering.
Make your own traditions! Have an anti-holiday party where you eat ice cream and wear sundresses. Have a traditional holiday dinner with turkey and peppermint bark and egg nog and/or whatever traditional cuisine you grew up eating on special days. Seriously, I can’t stress enough that you are a grown-ass adult and you can do whatever you want during the holidays. Invite other sad loved ones over and share traditions or make up new ones.
5. Go on a trip by yourself.
I am a big fan of self-care vacations and day trips. They don’t need to cost a ton of money. Rent or borrow a car if you don’t have one, and drive somewhere pretty. Take a journal and a picnic lunch and go on a hike. Write about your feelings and reflect on your year. Draw pictures of trees. Write about how sad you are and let your tears blur the ink. Write about how happy you are and let your tears blur the ink. If you have no one else to count on for the holidays, count on yourself. Thank yourself for still being alive. Thanks from me too. May your holidays, or lack thereof, be peaceful. And may they be over quickly.