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Thanksgiving kicks off the annual holiday season which stresses and over-extends most American households financially and socially. Many American households do not have the financial resources to make the most of the holidays without going into debt, often by spending more than they can afford on credit cards. Simply trying to absorb all of the costs for an American holiday meal or getting gifts for the family members may mean drastically straying from their standard budget, which can be a mistake they have to pay the price for over the next few months.
If you need to travel or you have mandatory days off of work, those issues can be additional reasons for people to stress, as hourly workers likely won’t have any paid leave related to the days their business closes for the holidays. All of that financial stress can make some people certifiable grumps during the holiday season.
However, you shouldn’t assume people who are less than cheerful are grouchy because of their own decisions, such as the decision to spend too much money on holiday gifts. For some people, the holidays are a time of intense emotional turmoil. Given that families tend to get together around the holidays, many people have to face their abusers during family parties. Often, they have to do so without giving voice to their trauma or discomfort at having that person present.
Even those without a background of trauma caused by their families can find the holidays incredibly difficult. For those who have recently lost a loved one or who have gone through a divorce or break-up, these holidays may be the first time they’ve had to celebrate without someone they love present. That can be a difficult and traumatic thing.
For some people, the holidays themselves are an anniversary of a loss. Sometimes, people die around the holidays because of traffic accidents, illness, or an unexpected injury. For those who have lost a loved one around the holidays, every year will be a fresh reminder of their grief.
Instead of telling those who seemed unhappy about the holidays to get into the season or grin and bear it, try to have some compassion for others during this holiday season. What you and your family may wait for with nervous joy can be a source of pain, depression, and unpleasant, traumatic memories for other people.
Thanksgiving itself is a holiday that exacerbates the existing inter-generational trauma experienced by Native Americans and indigenous peoples. After all, Thanksgiving is a holiday whose myth is effectively that the noble Natives decided to help the colonizers who would eventually commit genocide against them.
The holiday celebration itself involving a feast is less offensive than the wildly inaccurate historical narrative upon which the day is based. To show respect to the indigenous peoples of North America, your family might consider foregoing the traditional myth and Thanksgiving story.
Instead, this year, you could take a little time to learn about the tribes that once lived on and protected the land where you live. Taking a moment at the table to honor them is one way to acknowledge the tragedy and genocide that the holidays so glibly glosses over.
Of course, be grateful for what you have and excited about the upcoming holiday festivities, but do so while still holding space for those for whom the holidays will not be a source of joy this year.