Will my children inherit my Grinch attitude at Christmas?


Dear Adele,

Sometimes when December rolls around I feel like the ultimate Grinch. I find myself hating Christmas carols, the tiring shopping and wishing the Christmas turkey dinner with aunt Gertrude never had to happen. I’m not exactly sure why I feel this way but if truth be told I know I am a Debbie Downer about Christmas celebrations. I’m wondering if my children will inherit my negative attitude and if so, what I can do about it. Can you help?

The Grinch Reincarnated


Dear Grinch Reincarnated,

You are not alone. All kinds of us dislike super hyped cultural/religious holidays, especially Christmas.

Many of us in this category have learned to pretend that the season is wonderful for us. We will bump elbows and wish others the best of the season. We will ask questions of our workmates as to whether they are ready for Christmas yet or whether the Christmas shopping is all done? We will write a few Christmas cards and shop the malls searching for gifts, sometimes beyond our budget, that we hope like Hades, the recipients will not return. We will do the expected, act it out and play a good game.

But inside many of us feel like you do. Many of us wish it were all over as quickly as possible. Many of us find the Christmas season too protracted and quite exhausting. Many of us get a full-blown case of the Christmas Blues.

The reason for this is often rooted in our own childhood. The season, the songs, the smells, and the customs, remind us of childhoods which were less than perfect and families of origin that fell into the same category. These triggers that cause sad feedings are like having the scabs on our heart picked at. A Christmas Carol, a social gathering or a Christmas movie can cause us to bleed just a little bit, over and over for weeks.

Sometimes we have expectations of what Christmas should be that are unrealistic. The perceptions of the Christmas celebrations seen in movies, heard in songs and thought to be in the lives of others may be incongruent with our own experiences. Because we want no more pain around the holiday, and because we want not to revisit poor memories or sad feelings, we dislike the Christmas period with its triggers, and would dearly love to skip the whole celebratory season.

You are at risk of passing these feelings along to your own children, which you may not want to do. I have a few suggestions to cure you and immunize your children. I hope you will experience a lighter heart and help your progeny escape catching an annually recurring dose of the Christmas Blues.

May I suggest you eliminate past ways to celebrate the holiday that cause you grief. Forge a new path for your family by creating new customs and activities for the holiday. Completely reframe the season at your home.

COVID-19 19 may have an unexpected side benefit for you in carrying out some of the ideas I have. Large and numerous social gatherings will likely be curtailed for most of us this year. Therefore, you should not have to attend some of the customary events, gatherings and extended family commitments as in the past. Once you have declined invitations to any and all gatherings that cause you stress you will be setting a precedent for future years. This should be helpful going forward.

May I suggest you only see people you really like and really want to be with. Tell everyone else COVID-19 is preventing you from visiting almost everyone. Tell them you are hardly socializing at all but wish them a Merry Christmas. Tell them you have decided not to exchange gifts either this year because the malls are too crowded. Suggest an exchange of Christmas cards or phone calls/video chats.

In your own family why not think of ways to celebrate Christmas day that are fun for all but that do not trigger your Debbie Downer tendencies. How about writing letters to each other with a gift of time which can be exchanged Christmas morning over a pancake breakfast? How about an afternoon of skiing, skating, tobogganing, snowshoeing or snow fort building with your nuclear family? How about some family boardgames? How about some Canadian folk music playing all day in the background instead of Christmas carols? How about everyone pitching in around the island/table making a fondue dinner, followed by watching an inspirational non- Christmas themed classic family film such as ‘Call of the Wild’?

As for the Christmas part, how about helping your children find meaning in the season by modelling on the story of the baby boy born in a stable 2000 years ago, who came to the world to spread peace, and righteousness? Why not involve your children in discussion over dinner about how they can be better people, sharing the talents they have in their station in life with those less fortunate? Perhaps the family can come up with a way to volunteer some time currently, and later once Covid-19 is under control. If you are spiritual perhaps you can make up a prayer together?

Planting these kinds of ideas in the minds and hearts of your children and spending quality time together as a family reframes Christmas for you. Hopefully such changes can support healthy, positive thoughts and feelings from your Christmas celebrations for your children to carry into adulthood.

It will be good to let them see you do not feel the need to meet the expectations of others. It will be good to let them see you can treasure quality, low cost, family time in this season. It will be good to let them see that you want to spread peace, kindness and joy in the new year and that you hope they will do the same.

Best wishes to you and your family, Grinch Incarnate, for the Christmas season.

Sincerely, Adele

Photo via Illumination Entertainment / Universal Pictures)