It is that time of the year when companies and industry slow down and welcome the holidays. No matter what religion you are, you cannot avoid Christmas. As the month of December begins, the countdown to Christmas starts. The whole Christian world enters the advent season of preparation and waiting for the birth of Christ. Towns and cities are decorated inside and out and malls and food markets go crazy advertising and selling merchandise from all over the world. We enter a frenzied shopping period from Black Friday until Christmas Eve. There are Christmas trees, tinsel, and lights and the big man in red comes to “visit” our malls so kids can make their Christmas wishes. The internet is bombarding us with deals and commercial extravaganza. You cannot help but be rolled into it all at some point as you buy presents for your loved ones.

It is a time of year when families are especially busy preparing for the holidays. We decorate our houses inside and outside. Some neighborhoods have giant light displays in their backyards, each bigger than the next. Kids are busy at school, making decorations, cards and holiday play for their families. Parents work hard to earn that last bit of money before taking time off for Christmas. It is time to wind down and spend precious time with family. A time when extended families get together and enjoy each other’s company for perhaps the first time that year and share news and events of past months. It’s a time when you get to catch up with long-lost cousins and aunts and uncles who live far away. Elderly relatives come to stay and the normally fairly quiet house gets super loud and busy. The bathroom is always in use, there is always someone on their cellphone, the TV is blasting out the news for elderly relatives in one room and a games console in another. The family members who can cook gather in the kitchen and carols and laughter ensue as dinner is on the way. Little kids are running from room to room craving attention from anyone who will listen. There is usually a pet or two in the mix somewhere too. Christmas is super busy. It can be wonderful to spend quality time with family.

Christmas is a time when most people feel love and happiness surrounded by family. I feel so much joy at this time of the year because I know that my kids are growing up in this environment and not the one I did. I wish I had Christmases like these when I was little. It takes work to decorate and set things up but with a little planning and time, it is so easy to create a loving, magical Christmas environment for everyone to enjoy. Parents and relatives all together and sharing time. It really doesn’t take much to set aside differences and smile more and use kind words to one another. If the kids are happy, the entire family is usually happy as well.

Not every kid gets to have a magical Christmas at home. Families do not always get along and it can be a time of great pain to be apart from loved ones, especially if parents are divorced and live far apart. Kids can be bounced between families and siblings of various ages from different marriages or relationships. Sometimes it works but sometimes it can be a nightmare, especially if you are the “black sheep” of the family.

I was that kid who did not belong when I grew up. My so-called dad had new girlfriends and lovers all the time and most often they had kids. Some of his “love affairs” lasted over the Christmas season. I never got to know any of the families because the relationships did not last long and always ended badly. My so-called dad would turn up uninvited on a doorstep demanding that we would be welcomed and join them in celebrating. I know now that he was using me as an emotional crutch to get into family lives to get access to other kids. Christmas was awkward, arriving at a stranger’s house and learning their traditions and customs. Some of which were completely crazy in my young mind. Sharing in opening gifts and having to watch other kids open a ton of beautifully wrapped presents and be reminded that I would get food that day if I just behaved and watched. I would maybe get a hastily wrapped torn magazine or calendar to which I acted like the gift I always longed for. It was cringeworthy but my so-called dad expected this false farce to carry on so he could have his “fun” later. I just wanted to disintegrate into the floor. Why were we even here? I just wanted to be at home and hide away until Christmas was over so I could go out and play with my friends. Life was so much easier when it was not the holiday season and I could go to school.

I am sure there are lots of you out there who share my pain of Christmases in the past as being anything but joyful and happy. If a family is already living under strain due to financial status, substance abuse, or any other kind of stress, Christmas will add to that.

If I was at my mother’s house, she would constantly complain about it being so hard to get ready for the holidays. She just wanted to sit down and relax but felt like she was obligated to put up every last decoration we had, including the ones I had made lovingly for our house. She would keep asking me if we really needed to put up this and that decoration. Could she throw that decoration away as I made it so long ago? Did we really need to cook all that food and then have it for days afterward? What was the point?

I found this adult behavior awkward and odd. Why on earth didn’t she want to embrace the holidays? Why not decorate the house and cook amazing food with people you love? What was her problem? It was Christmas! I still can’t to this day understand why she would act this way in front of me. My family would be doing the same with presents and try to compromise buying less and less each year saying it was so hard. I never understood what was so hard about it. They all worked and so they had money to spend and yet it always came with that constant negotiation. Do we have to?

When it was time for Santa to come, the adults would act it out for us instead of going with the tradition of opening them. A man would knock loudly at our door and come in wearing only red. He’d be really loud and zone in on me shouting if I had been good while mother and the rest of the family would laugh their heads off in the room. I was absolutely terrified of this intruder in red. Santa scared the crap out of me every year until I realized he was not real and it was grandad in a costume. As soon as I found out the truth, our family stopped the act and we barely exchanged gifts because what was the point of it?

The days after Christmas was spent traveling to see family and friends who “wouldn’t” come for Christmas. These visits were painful and came with strict instructions on how to behave and what to say. I was forced to curtsey older relatives and eat what I was given no matter if it was moldy or off… I had ice cream that had been frozen and thawed several times and ended up with food poisoning one year. It was awful. I’ve eaten biscuits off the floor because I had to. No matter how rude people were to me, I had to remain polite and grateful. I tested this one year and the punishment that came with it was so bad I never wanted to try my luck again. It was not worth it.

I don’t know which Christmas was worse. The one spent with strangers and my sex-crazed so-called dad or with people who just couldn’t care about the holidays at all. I decided after a terrible Christmas one year that I would change things when I grew up. Christmas was a season not to be forgotten and traditions were kept alive. Christmas came to mean so much more to me because I had not had good experiences with it. So like Thanksgiving, I made sure that when I had my own family, I would celebrate everything.

How did you celebrate the holidays growing up? How are you celebrating them now? Have you changed your opinion of the holidays? Are you happy celebrating with people who you like being with? If the answer is no then please consider this and give it some thought on how to change it. Change can be good. Embrace it if it is the right thing to do for you.

Guest Post Disclaimer: Any and all information shared in this guest blog post is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog post, nor any content on, is a supplement for or supersedes the relationship and direction of your medical or mental health providers. Thoughts, ideas, or opinions expressed by the writer of this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of CPTSD Foundation. For more information, see our Privacy Policy and Full Disclaimer.