How to survive and thrive when the holidays just aren't your thing

Jessie Hynes illustration
Jessie Hynes illustration

Does your heart light up like Rudolph's nose when you hear the tinkly opening of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You"? That's great. I'm happy for you. Enjoy this holiday by donning Santa socks and tying a jumbo wreath to your truck's grill.

This is a Christmas guide for the rest of us — we Grinches gritting our teeth through our least wonderful time of the year. This is for folks who switch radio stations at the first shake of a jingle bell because, to our ears, Christmas songs sound like a fork scraping metal.

I don't despise all holidays, OK? As a Pagan witch, I've already had my Christmas — it was called Halloween. On Dec. 21, I celebrate Winter Solstice, nature's version of that line from Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town" that assures us: "Won't be long till summer comes." Daylight will soon increase! Even the gothest Goth can admit 3:40 pm sunsets are a bit bleak.

Christmas turns me off because there's pressure to express affection by spending money. Gross. I also can't stand certain bell-ringing religious charities' disapproval of queer and transgender people. I even hate how the Elf on the Shelf normalizes surveillance culture. New Year's Eve's sad countdown to an artificial time marker isn't much better.

So, fellow bah humbuggers, here are tips on how to cope:


Avoiding all interaction with Christmas is nearly impossible. The trick is to pick a few Yuletide things you do like and access them, quickly. Get in, get out. Tchaikovsky is basically a heavy metal legend to me, so I have a soft spot for The Nutcracker Suite. Maybe you're into some foods only available at Christmas. Stock up! Aplets & Cotlets candies are easy to find now. Martinelli's special apple-pomegranate and apple-cranberry sparkling ciders are here, but not for long. If you sip harder stuff, track down whatever fleeting gingerbread vodka you fancy. Seek the small positives.


The beauty of adulthood means you can loathe Noel and still use holiday down time to form traditions you actually enjoy. Ten years ago I started baking vegan cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning to munch throughout the day as I re-watched The Shining or Titanic — two long films that both feature ice and an axe. Seasonal! Why not host a Tales From the Crypt marathon for your fellow anti-Xmas pals? Tally each of the Cryptkeeper's gory puns; call the event Merry Cryptmas! It's your wonderful life. But if you visit an eatery open on Christmas, remember to tip profusely.

For some of us, The Shining is better than A Christmas Story as seasonal fare.
For some of us, The Shining is better than A Christmas Story as seasonal fare.


If you can't escape family gatherings, you should still shoehorn alone time into your vacation to avoid a stress meltdown. Hosting guests? Just say, "Be back in an hour!," rip open hand warmers and stroll through Manito Park by yourself. A great way to get that sweet, necessary privacy is by house sitting or pet sitting. Before the holidays, offer your services and you could score a quiet place to recharge. Once you're home alone, put on a discount sheet mask from Marshall's, wear soft pants (or no pants), and indulge in your strange interests. (I love looking at gowns and dollhouse furniture on Tumblr.) You don't always have to be social or productive.


Human bodies are like playground equipment: Potentially fun, but teeming with bacteria and weird liquids. Face it: We're gross. Is it time to replace your toothbrush? Your comb? Your loofah sponge? Swap 'em out if they're getting grody. Make a list of bodily maintenance to schedule in January: haircut, STD test, teeth cleaning. Watch a YouTube clip of a snake shedding its skin, then hop in the tub with an exfoliating glove or sugar scrub. Visualize the year's emotional crud swirling down the drain. You'll feel fresh and new. Throw open your closets and cupboards and ditch any items you've accumulated that need to leave.


Take it from someone who spent Thanksgiving in urgent care due to ear pain caused by Spokane's ultra dry air: Crackly winter air is merciless. If you want to prevent bloody noses and ear emergencies, make humidity a priority. A simple thrift-store Crock-Pot can become a simmer pot that adds moisture — not to mention warm scents of orange slices and cinnamon sticks — to your indoor air. If you have a wood stove, keep a water-filled iron kettle on top (and use a metal trivet). Hit up a YMCA steam room. The women's locker room at Urbanna Salon also has a steam room for gals getting spa services. Moisturize or suffer!


Neutral-to-negative about the holidays? It's still a good idea to text a friend or faraway relative to say "What's up?" Even Grinches can get lonely at Christmas and New Year's, and checking in on loved ones is a free way to show that even if you don't care about stockings and ornaments, you care about them. ♦

Elissa Ball is a comic, poet, and former Seattle Weekly columnist. She lives in Spokane, reads tarot cards at Chosen Vintage, and is the author of three books.

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