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When the holidays are no time to celebrate

By Eda Kamal, November 30 2023—

As the December break draws ever closer and Mariah Carey begins to chart once again, it is evident that the holidays are upon us. No matter how routine or monochrome the rest of life is, it seems that December manages to bring a little colour to everyone. However, for some, the winter holiday season is a time that is disregarded or even dreaded. There are many reasons that one may choose not to partake in the festivities, and it can be extremely isolating as it seems that the rest of the world decks the halls.

I grew up Muslim but attended majority Christian schools for most of my childhood. The Christmas season would be embraced in full swing with teachers decorating their doors in tinsel, putting up trees and nativities, and doing a showing of The Polar Express accompanied by hot chocolate the day before winter break. This time of year in school is a very distinct memory for me, and I cannot say I didn’t enjoy it. I will forever cherish the cozy atmosphere around me in those years — but it didn’t change the fact that Santa wasn’t coming. 

My peers would often pity and degrade me for not celebrating Christmas, which made me feel even more isolated and resentful. In my childish mind, I thought that I was being excluded from something that everyone else had, and this made the holidays more bitter for me than anything. I didn’t grow up with many friends who didn’t celebrate Christmas, so I felt utterly alone in the omission of the holiday from my life. For a few years, my parents put up a tree on New Year’s Eve and I got a handful of presents on the first of January, but it just didn’t feel the same and I still did not fit in the way I craved. As I matured and found others with similar experiences to my own, I was able to reconcile with my beliefs and Eid became more exciting for me than anything else. I have since been able to enjoy the lights and snow of Christmas without the feeling of being left out. 

However, for some, the holiday season continues to be a time of emptiness rather than celebration. I have found myself dreading this December, as a close family member passed away around Christmas last year. The holidays and the atmosphere they carry will serve as a reminder of the loss for a very long time. Those who are estranged from family for their own well-being also find themselves struggling during this time — the movies all emphasize that Christmas is best spent with family, and if one doesn’t have stellar home experiences, this can be far from the most wonderful time of the year. 

At the end of the day, I don’t think the end of December will ever feel “normal” for me. But looking out at the lights on trees and menorahs in window sills helps remind me that the air is still tinged with joy, and embracing it will let me find some peace and even enjoyment. A warm drink and a Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer rewatch never hurt anyone. 

I am one of many with negative experiences during this season, and it’s important to consistently be reminded that you are not alone in your holiday blues. Make sure you have at least one person you can reach out to who will hear and understand you wholeheartedly, and reach out to further support if needed — there is no shame in it. 

This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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