Get Inspired

"I have broken up with Christmas." Our editor-in-chief has the holiday advice you need to hear

If you're the kind of person who switches their workout playlist to Holiday Hits starting in October, please feel free to skip right over this page. Dream in sugarplums? Flip on by. Own a Christmas sweater...and Christmas socks...and Christmas underwear? Gentle reader, this is not for you.

What I am about to say makes me feel like the worst sort of person: Hi, my name is Karen, and I have broken up with Christmas.

Like many breakups, our relationship seemed somewhat doomed from the start. As a little kid, I loved Christmas: piles of presents, fancy cookies, beautiful tree ornaments, the steadfast belief that reindeer landed on your roof. What's not to adore? 

Then, when I was 8, my parents got divorced. Despite my mom's best efforts, the magic of the season disappeared. (The fact that my dad and I had to exchange Christmas presents in his car because my stepmother wanted to focus their celebration on their "new" family—one that didn't include me—might have had something to do with it. To his credit, at least my dad picked a church parking lot.)

As I got older, I decided I'd try to banish the ghosts of my Christmases past and do the holidays the "right" way. I'd pick out the prettiest tree I could find, devote tons of time trying to find the perfect gifts for my friends and spend hours cooking up feasts. While it was fun at moments, it all felt a little off. Christmas and I still weren't quite right together.

Fast forward a couple more years—and my mom is told by her doctor that her mammogram is problematic. She needs surgery to determine if she has breast cancer...and her test results would be available on Christmas Eve. Surely no one tells someone they have breast cancer on Christmas Eve, right? Well, this doctor did. And just like that, once again, Christmas and I were most certainly on the outs.

Thankfully, my mom beat stage three breast cancer and, because she loves Christmas, I tried once again to summon my holiday spirit. I threw myself back into decking my halls, trimming my tree and mustering up as much merriment as possible.

Then, four years ago, my dad began to feel sleepy after a holiday party. He went to bed and never woke up again, dying on his favorite holiday: Christmas.

This time, I knew I was breaking up with Christmas for good.

This doesn't mean I'm a Grinch. I have never nabbed any presents, whisked away decorations or robbed anyone of their roast beast. And to everyone for whom the holidays are a warm and fuzzy wonderland: I wish you nothing but good tidings.

But for me, when it comes to Christmas, it's...complicated. Which is somewhat frustrating as I am a very positive, optimistic person. But as the holiday season rolls around, I just...can't. Do I still fantasize about one day having a happy holiday where the spirit of the season fills me once again, allowing me to star in my own personal Hallmark movie? Sure. But for now, Christmas and I are keeping our distance in the hopes that I can ultimately give this relationship another some point.

Until then, maybe I'll just make my childhood Christmas spirit my everyday spirit. (And if you are someone who is feeling adrift this season, I invite you to join me.)

So instead of wrapping presents and stashing them under the tree? I'll just hand them over on a random Tuesday to put a smile on someone's face. Those fancy cookies? They taste just as good in the summer. And my desire to lift up those who are less fortunate by volunteering in my community? Well, the world needs that on the daily these days. 

Here's wishing all of us, no matter what our relationship with the holidays, peace and goodwill. Goodnight to all...and to all a good night.

Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our December/January 2024 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE.


by Karen Bokram | 12/2/2023