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The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Blue Christmas?

Blue Christmas?

If you find it difficult to get into the spirit of the holiday season, you’re not alone. Many people experience what is commonly called a “blue Christmas” (thanks, at least in part, to Elvis Presley’s famous song on the subject). While all of the lights, decorations, sweet treats, gifts, music and other festive trappings of the season can add a touch of joy to an otherwise dark and dreary time of year, these very things can leave some feeling empty and alienated from the happiness they see around them.

There are many reasons why the holiday season can be difficult. For those who’ve recently become divorced or widowed, lost a parent or a child, or are simply forced to spend the holidays far from loved ones due to work or other commitments, remembering the happiness of past Christmas celebrations can often intensify feelings of loneliness and/or grief that may have been building up over time.

For others, it’s just the opposite. Painful memories of parental abuse, addiction, or other difficult family dynamics can make it hard to relate to the positive associations others feel at this time of year. Witnessing others’ joy can serve to sharpen the contrast between one’s own experiences and those who enjoy happier family relationships.

Unemployment is another reason the holidays may be less than merry for some. Losing a job, or looking for one without success, is a stressful situation at any time of year, but can be especially devastating during the holidays, when many parents feel a great deal of pressure to provide happy memories, often in the form of expensive gifts, for their children. It’s also not uncommon for someone who’s lost a job to take it personally, leading to feelings of failure and inadequacy. This can make it difficult to face family members, who may or may not be able to understand how difficult it can be to find a new job, especially during an economic downturn.

Finally, many people, particularly in northern locales, suffer from a form of clinical depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short. People with SAD produce less serotonin, a chemical in the brain that regulates mood, during the darker months of winter, causing them to feel symptoms of depression. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, and include unexplained sadness, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, feeling withdrawn and unsociable, loss of energy, sleepiness, decreased ability to concentrate, and a desire to overeat (especially sugary and/or starchy foods, which can briefly elevate one’s mood). For those who suffer from SAD, the increasing number of social and family commitments during the holiday season can feel overwhelming. In addition, all of the Christmas cookies and other sweet treats that are readily available at this time of year can be hard to resist. Eating too may sugary snacks, while sometimes providing mild temporary relief of SAD symptoms, will usually result in a crash, causing irritability and mood swings.

The good news about SAD is that there is a highly effective, inexpensive, and noninvasive treatment for it. Doctors have had a great deal of success treating patients with light therapy. This simply involves having the patient sit in front of a bright, full-spectrum light for as little as half an hour a day. SAD sufferers can go about their usual business — reading the morning paper, paying the bills, eating breakfast — while the light enters their brain through the eyes and resets their seasonal clock. If you suspect you may suffer from SAD, talk to your doctor about whether adding some time in front of a light box could help.

If your problems stem from stressful life situations, rather than a chemical imbalance, talking to someone might help. Whether it’s a friend, a clergy member, or a licensed therapist, letting others know what you’re going through is often the first step toward healing. Part of the problem with feeling blue at Christmas is that is can be very lonely. It’s easy to believe that everyone around you is happy, and that you’re the only one who feels the way you do. Understanding how difficult it can be for those who become depressed during the holidays, many churches now offer special “Blue Christmas” service specifically for parishioners who are having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit. Just being in a room full of others who feel the same way you do can go a long way toward easing feelings of isolation.

If your problems stem from loneliness, the best thing to do is to get together with some friends or acquaintances who may also be separated from loved ones for the holidays. If you’d rather avoid the trappings of Christmas altogether, you can just go out for a nice lunch and a movie. Or go for a hike together (or snowshoeing, skiing, or ice skating, if weather permits), and take some comfort from the beauty of nature.

Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence. Let others know how you’re feeling, and don’t allow anyone to make you feel like a “Scrooge” or a “Grinch” for your legitimate emotional state. You may just find that you’re not so alone, after all.

6 comments

1 dorothy { 12.25.11 at 7:36 pm }

al, your family & friends may not be nearby, but it sounds like you have the best idea for a Christmas. That is what it is all about, really. Your thoughtfulness is a wonderful gift to others. May the meaning of Christmas be with you always.

2 Drake { 12.22.11 at 12:03 am }

A “Blue Christmas” is simply in the mind of the beholder and have a wonderful Christmas!

3 al { 12.21.11 at 6:06 pm }

I have experienced the loss of both parents and of a son. My daughter and other son live back east so we can’t get together for Christmas. All my friends have moved away from this town because of the economy and so I’m more alone than I’ve ever been in my life. Its sad. But I started a tradition for myself several years ago. I buy a nice big white candle and then surround it with several smaller ones in white and red etc. I decorate the plate I set it on and then on Christmas eve I light the candle and sing Happy Birthday Jesus. I’ve made the holiday about him and then I go an volunteer at the homeless shelter. That will put everything into perspective when you see others that don’t even have a home or food. I consider myself lucky. Thanks to Jesus and our Father.

4 carole lilly { 12.21.11 at 12:25 pm }

Yes, a free Farmers’ Almanac sounds good. It is not fun being along on Christmas. With no family, you try to get something going with neighbors or friends, but they all seem to be very busy with their own families and “kind of” don’t hear your plea.

5 larry { 12.21.11 at 11:19 am }

i hope you have a very merry christmas!!!!

6 Betty Smith { 12.21.11 at 10:39 am }

Know what would make my Christmas a little less blue? A free Farmers’ Almanac!!!

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