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Why I've Decided Not to Celebrate the Holidays This Year

And I promise I’m not a Grinch!

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illustration of finger about to press on opt out button inside christmas present
Jon Krause
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Just not feeling it. If you’re one of a growing cadre of older women not on board for the holly jolly this year (or any year) for reasons that have to do with religion, health, work, trauma, grief or burnout, you are not alone.

And you need not be labeled a vicious Grinch.

Many of us women of a certain age just need a season off from culturally mandated holiday euphoria. Not even a few good Hallmark Channel movies will jolt us out of ho-ho-ho apathy.

For me, this year’s holidays culminated in several months of health concerns, a relationship breakup and some discord amongst my three grown sons, ages 34, 32 and 29, that started last Christmas. So I am not doing my usual deep dive into holiday cheer.

Even as glistening fake Christmas trees spontaneously generate in stores beginning in August, know that your respite from holiday extravaganzas can be temporary or permanent, and it is all fine.

Opting out for any reason is your choice that needs to be respected by others, and boosted by some affirming self-talk.

“Now is the time to please me,” says Suzanne Degges-White, professor and chair of the Department of Counseling at Northern Illinois University and co-author of several books including Friends Forever: How Girls and Women Forge Lasting Relationships. “It’s important I make the choices I love. It’s OK to put myself first. If someone gets mad at me for going to Cabo on Christmas, I am happy to talk about it, but this decision is best for me.”

Degges-White is the mother of three adult children, ages 34, 33 and 30. They celebrate the holidays with their in-laws, while she schedules a family get-together later in January.

Opting out of the holidays is not the norm. In 2022, Statista reported that 85 percent of people in the United States stated they were joining in the festivities. That percentage is down from 2019 when Gallup reported that 93 percent of Americans said they celebrate Christmas.

“I’m Jewish,” says Diana Leifer, 76, a retired caterer and teacher. “It is not my holiday, but I do believe it has very little religious value anymore in this country. The commercialization of these celebrations is kind of obscene.” This includes the lavish gift-giving during the eight days of Hanukkah."

To support that sentiment, holiday retail sales more than doubled over two decades in the United States, from $416 billion in 2002 to $942.6 billion in 2022, according to Statista.

There are many who opt out for religious reasons. The World Population Review reports an estimated 3.45 million Muslims live in the United States. Pew Research reports that 7.5 million Jews of all ages also reside in the U.S. Many do not observe the Christian holidays, while some do.

“I am not tied to a church, synagogue, mosque or temple, but I believe we should treat all people in a kind and generous way,” Leifer says. “That’s my religious practice.”

Many in my circle of 60-something friends opt out of traditional celebrations for a number of reasons beyond religion. They perhaps endured a recent divorce, the death of a loved one, an economic shift or a trauma that is triggered by holidays.

So instead of hosting and gift-giving, they spend the holidays vacationing alone or with close friends, all while trying to escape the burdens of cooking, buying and overdoing decorations. Sometimes they just go to the movies.

“Give yourself permission to do for yourself,” says licensed counselor Degges-White.

Family constellation shifts can erase the joy of celebrating. Health concerns also may be a factor for some who decide to opt out. As we age, taking on a large-scale celebration is both physically challenging and stressful.

Normally, once December comes, I am bursting with holiday euphoria. Yet, the trials of the past year have me trying to escape the routine and press “pause." Pretending everything is fine and going ahead with all the rituals feels inauthentic to me.

At the age of 65, honoring where I am at this point in my life feels like the best gift I can give myself. That doesn’t make me a Grinch. That makes me be me.

Have you ever skipped a year when it comes to celebrating Christmas? Let us know in the comments below.

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