Every year, without fail, when it comes to Christmas there will always be a vocal minority who feel the need to proclaim how much they hate the holiday season.
I am one of those people. You probably think I’m a horrible person, right? And I don’t blame you, my life is full of apathy and general self-loathing for the world at large.
But why Christmas, after all it’s the happiest time of the year. If you spoke to my editors they’ll probably tell you: ‘Oh he’s just trying to be edgy, typical Southerner.’
My rebuttal; after more than 10 years of working in retail for the likes of JD Sports (the worse years of my life) and Size? (the peak of my enjoyment in the retail industry – and ground zero for my trainer addiction) working the dreaded Christmas shift was akin to Sam and Frodo’s journey into Mordor.
You might think I’m exaggerating but for those who have worked – or will be working (my sincere condolences BTW) – those brutal Christmas shifts will understand my grievances with the festive period.
Bar the Boxing Day sales and Black Friday, the Christmas shopping experience is a nauseating trial by fire for those at the bottom of the retail industry and consumers. It honestly brings out the worst in humanity which makes you wonder if Christmas is actually some sarcastic joke which went way too far.
However this is just my personal account of why I hate Christmas, for others who share my mutual dislike for the holidays they’ll have different reasons stemming from the obscure and irrational, all the way to personal trauma.
In 2013 YouGov conducted a survey to gauge the public’s feelings towards the Christmas holidays, they found more than one in five of the British population (21%) hate the festive season. And 16% of the public would cancel the holiday’s given the chance.
The survey also discovered women were more forthcoming to Christmas than men. Over a quarter of men (26%) confessed to not liking Christmas compared to 17% of women. The 2013 survey also found 27% of people aged 60 and over had no love for the holidays compared to 13% of 18-24 year olds.
Among political parties UKIP voters tend to dislike Christmas more (32%) than any other party with Tories least likely (19%). Unsurprisingly, people who don’t identify with a religion are likely to dislike Christmas (29%) or to want to cancel the holiday (24%).
However while these stats make for a interesting read it does not get to the heart of the dislike for the holidays – a good place to start is for those who aren’t part of the Christian community, whether they believe in another religion or identify as an atheist.
No matter what anyone tries to tell you Christmas is ultimately a religious holiday, its one of the most important days in the Christian calendar – after Easter. So on a day which is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ it could be, for those who don’t believe in the Son Of God, the context of Christmas might make them feel uncomfortable – perhaps slightly offended.
On the flip side you could argue those who believe in the God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit may be turned off by Christmas today as it’s now seen as non-denomination holiday. Christmas is far removed from it’s original meaning – instead it’s becoming nothing more than a grandiose event to see which city, store and house has the best decorations.
Of course having a dislike for the holidays could stem from much more personal, and sometimes darker places.
The University of Birmingham’s Dr Marc Exton-McGuinness, Dr Charlotte Flavell and Dr Jonathan Lee looked into why certain individuals may hate Christmas.
In their research they say:
We acquire learned responses to other stimuli… such as our favourite TV shows, places and designer brands. This happens because our brains remember how we felt when we had contact with these stimuli.
By pairing a stimulus with our feelings and emotions, the stimulus acquires an ‘incentive value’, which allows it to unconsciously influence our future emotions and behaviour.
Over time we may no longer remember why something makes us feel the way it does, but the effect of the experience can endure.
With the way our brain is wired – through ‘incentive learning mechanisms’ – it helps to keep us with a happy and healthy mind, which leads us to ‘acquire good things and avoid harm’. Most children in the UK have had a positive exposure to Christmas and ‘incentive learning leads them to like the holiday season’.
However there is a completely different take for adults. Sentiment for the holiday is divided and it ‘is unlikely that those who have a dislike of Christmas have always held that view’. So where does it all stem from?
To find the answer they turn to the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol (made even more famous by The Muppets) with the main focus being on protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge.
The researchers explain that as a result of:
... lonely childhood Christmases and an unloving father seem to have entrenched a negative incentive memory of Christmas. Over time this makes him bitter and hateful of Christmas time.
If we transfer this theory over to modern day society it appears a strained family relationship can cause someone to be less receptive towards the holidays.
For those who have no one to spend Christmas with, the idea that friends and acquaintances are celebrating the day with their loving families could push them towards a sense of bitterness and perhaps even envy.
Christmas can be a polarising time of the year where you can experience two extremes, the first is the total euphoria of being with your loved ones, truly embracing the intended spirit of the season.
The second is one seeped in cynicism, general apathy and sometimes outright irrational hatred.
For those who are completely lost in their Christmas joy, maybe we shouldn't treat those who have disdain for the holidays with absolute contempt. It maybe a survival mechanism to hide a more deep rooted to pain.
In that moment the best we can do is put into practice the Christmas spirit of good will among all men and women and let them know you're here for them.