It goes without saying that the holiday season is stressful. Holidays may be especially stressful for young adults, as going over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s isn’t quite as simple as it once was. Young adults reside in the land of “already, but not yet” in terms of career, relationships and financial stability, and navigating through that land during the holidays can make one want to have pizza delivered and bypass all things holly jolly.
For example, John landed his ideal medical residency program, which means he doesn’t have time to travel for holidays. His family is proud of him, but does not understand why he’s not spending a week with them like his graduate student sister.
Beth has been dating Ryan for years, but since they are not yet engaged, she dreads taking him to her family events due to the inevitable marriage inquisition.
Allison loves that her job grants her the flexibility to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with family, but she isn’t looking forward to sitting at the kids’ table or spending Christmas Eve on the broken sofa bed simply because she’s single.
The cost of travel alone is daunting, in addition to the stress of wanting to give gifts while having limited funds. Some cannot afford to travel for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, while others — especially the single or childless ones — feel they are expected to travel because it’s logistically easier for them than other family members.
Holiday headaches may be treatable with an eye roll and extra eggnog for some, but for others, being exiled to the kids’ table, not invited to parties due to being dateless, or not being able to be home for Christmas makes the holidays more painful than merry. For those already prone to depression or other mental health issues, the additional stress and potential for loneliness means the journey to Bethlehem may be more bleak than bright. The holidays are especially hard on those grieving friends and loved ones whose chairs will be empty due to being in the hospital, being in prison, serving abroad, or now celebrating eternal life.
Regardless of what your seasonal stressors are, remember that the meaning of Christmas is often skewed by society, and social norms need not dictate how you celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. The birthday we celebrate on Christmas is that of a baby born to poor young parents who were far from home. While the Three Wise Men gave lavish festive presents, Mary and Joseph also needed necessary and simple gifts of blankets, a warm meal, someone to hold the baby so they could nap, and help with their travel back home. Create rituals and traditions that are meaningful to you, be honest about what you can financially and emotionally afford, and surround yourself with those who understand that the birth of Love is the greatest gift any of us will ever receive.
May you have a sacred, wonder-filled trip to the stable of newborn Hope, and may visions and dreams for the New Year bring you great joy.