Is it OK to hate Christmas? - (12/15/2020)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Mary wandered into the pharmacy for no real reason. Just to browse at sale items, maybe. Or to leaf through a few magazines, perhaps. She certainly wanted to escape the sting of the winter cold. Yet, the vibrant holiday lights in the pharmacy windows made her grimace. “You look so down, Mary. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” exclaimed the pharmacist. "Is something wrong?" 

“I don’t really know,” Mary admitted to the pharmacist. “Am I depressed? Do I need an antidepressant? Is there a pill that will make me stop hating Christmas?” As she grumbled, the pharmacist suddenly became aware of the music permeating the store. “The first Noel, the angels did say…”. Since the holiday tunes began the microsecond Thanksgiving was over, the pharmacist learned to “un-hear” the constant drone of hymns. Does the pharmacist “hate” Christmas music? No, he remembers the Christmas music of his youth. Caroling in the snow. Listening to the church choir. Yet, at the retail level, the music causes pressure and anxiety. The guilt one feels when one passes by the Salvation Army bell ringer. The annoying sounds of shopping cart wheels screeching on wet floors. “Open your wallet and spend money” is the subliminal message. Mary chimed in. “What I loathe is the Christmas card routine. Every year on December 23, I get a card from someone I barely know. Do I need to respond in kind?” The pharmacist shot back, "What about those year-end letters? Who wants to know that Joe got a spy drone or Mitzi had a butt-lift?”

The pharmacist told Mary that the Puritans had the right idea. From 1659 to 1681, that Protestant group banned Christmas in Massachusetts. These religious extremists believed that Christmas had nothing to do with the birth of Christ. Instead, the holiday was a repurposed Saturnalia, a weeklong orgy of feasting, role reversals, gift-giving, and gambling that started around 220 BCE. As the Christian population grew and the Roman Empire withered, the debauchery was transformed into a quasi-religious holiday. The stodgy colonial Puritans even squelched that idea and fined holiday celebrators 5 shillings (about 9 cents). However, as the colonies prospered, the traditions returned, even though no one really knows in what month Jesus was born. 

Some people have phobias that relate to the Christmas experience. OK, take a deep breath: Christougenniatikophobia is the fear of Christmas. This phobia usually starts during early childhood, typically from a harmful event that occurred during Christmas time. Symptoms of this phobia include rapid heartbeat, labored breathing, nausea, and a feeling of dread. This phobia is treatable with psychotherapy and possibly a drug to calm anxiety. So, hide Santa, the mistletoe, and the Nativity scene.

What is the root of Mary’s yuletide hatred? The pharmacist has known Mary for years. He sees her in the summer looking happy and tanned. Thus, he doubts she is depressed to the point of needing an antidepressant. However, she might visit her family doctor to see if she needs a referral to a mental health specialist. Hating Christmas can be for all sorts of good reasons. Not enough money, the memory of loved ones who have died, or the Madison Avenue takeover of what should be a religious holiday.

If it is merely a cheerless time for you, do not recreate a half-hearted Christmas dinner for one. Nothing is sadder than the smallest fruitcake. Instead, get sushi, watch a non-Christmas movie like Jaws or Moonstruck. Do something nice for someone else. Treat it like every other day. Because after all, you really do not hate Christmas. You miss the Christmases of your memories. Instead, choose happiness. Choose joy. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a recovering pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.

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