Unraveling the Tinsel: The Psychological Toll of Modern Christmas Celebrations


11/25/20233 min read

As a therapist, I find myself pondering the paradox of the festive season, a time intended for joy and togetherness that, for many, brings about increased stress and despair. To comprehend this enigma, let's embark on a journey through the evolution of Christmas, from its spiritually profound roots to the present-day spectacle of consumerism and social media.

The Spiritual Essence of Yule: A Time for Reflection and Gratitude

In its nascent form, Christmas, or Yule, was a spiritual celebration marking the end of the dark and cold winter season. It was a communal gathering to reflect on the journey through good and bad times, expressing gratitude for the return of light and love with the sun's resurgence. In Christianity, the return of the sun is symbolised through the birth of Jesus Christ. At its core were intrinsic values — the connection between individuals and the divine, family, and close ones. It was a celebration of the presence of togetherness, a time for reflection on one's inner growth and journey. As a therapist, I emphasise the significance of reflection, connection, and belief in a greater good in human psychology. Research consistently shows that individuals who engage in reflective practices and maintain strong social connections exhibit higher well-being and mental health levels. Spirituality has been linked to increased resilience and life satisfaction through religion or a broader sense of interconnectedness.

The Commercialization of Christmas: From Reflection to Comparison

Fast forward to the present day, and the essence of Christmas has undergone a profound transformation. The celebration has become a marketplace for sales, promotions, and a constant need to compare with others. The jump from the spiritual essence to the commercial frenzy is quick but significant. Malls are adorned with promotions, urging us to buy, consume, and compete. Psychologically, the impact is profound. Social media, designed for comparison, fuels unrealistic standards and unattainable desires. Research indicates a correlation between excessive social media use and mental health issues, as individuals constantly measure their lives against curated online personas. The continuous exposure to materialistic displays fosters a sense of inadequacy, perpetuating the cycle of 'I want more' and 'I am not enough.' It's important to note that one doesn't need to suffer from mental illness to feel exhaustion and stress from the preparation and expectations. Additionally, the portrayal of grandiose family dinners and celebrations can be isolating for those who do not have families to join or whose family dynamics are not a source of comfort. The exaggerated images of togetherness may induce feelings of loneliness and inadequacy, exacerbating the challenges of those already struggling with mental well-being.

Rediscovering the True Meaning: Intrinsic Presents of Reflection, Growth, Gratitude, and Togetherness

In navigating this complex holiday landscape, the key lies in returning to the essence of Christmas. Amidst the flashy lights and consumerist fervour, it is crucial to remember the intrinsic presents that the season originally symbolised — reflection, growth, gratitude, and togetherness. True presents are internal, not external. As individuals, we can take proactive steps to safeguard our mental well-being. Limiting social media exposure during the holiday season, embracing simplicity in celebrations, and focusing on meaningful connections rather than materialistic pursuits can alleviate the pressure associated with the modern Christmas frenzy. Engaging in reflective practices, expressing gratitude, and fostering genuine connections with others can contribute to a more fulfilling and psychologically sound holiday experience. Ultimately, by recognising the psychological impact of modern Christmas celebrations and actively pursuing a return to the core values of reflection and togetherness, we can unravel the tinsel and rediscover the true spirit of the season.