Messed Up Things About Christmas You Only Notice As An Adult

Let's begin with a disclaimer: Christmas is a magical time. It's cozy, it's exciting, it's full of family and friends and gifts and drinking and trees and lights and all sorts of other awesome things. Christmas, as a child, is even better. It's full of all that stuff (except the drinking, obviously), but if you're lucky, you never know the dark side to it all. Yes, there's a macabre underbelly to the festive season, and it only takes one bad year to demonstrate that to you — it can be exhausting, stressful, dramatic, expensive and even downright dangerous, but it's only as you enter your adult years that you really come to realize this. Grip your nostalgia tight because these grim little quirks will have you yearning for December to end in no time at all.

It's stressful

There's no doubt that Christmas can be a stressful time, especially if you're running the show. You can't really judge anyone who feels it's the most stressful time of the year. In fact, according to the Stress Management Society, 1 in 20 people even feel that Christmas places more on the nerves than a burglary.

The reasons are myriad: having to shop, visit rarely-seen relatives, and endure the cold of winter puts pressure on you, and the endless eating of fatty foods and drinking of alcohol doesn't exactly help. Everything goes doubly if you're hosting Christmas or if you constitute the adult portion of a family with children. If you do find yourself a little too stressed in the lead-up to Christmas, there are a few ways to lessen your woes. Take a deep breath or two and stretch your diaphragm, try smiling, and laughing a bit more and take a hot bath with Epsom salts before bed. Or really whatever else usually relaxes you. Otherwise, things are going to get real overwhelming, real quickly.

It's exhausting

Perhaps as a natural successor to all the stress of Christmas comes the total, utter exhaustion. Anyone over the age of 25 who can reach Boxing Day without wanting to curl up and hibernate for an entire year is a special person. Stress, of course, is a factor, and has a major impact on your physical state of being. But the hangovers, the huge meals, and the constant requirement to socialize don't help matters.

Naturally, if you've got kids, this becomes so, so much worse. Your to-do list triples, and your entire festive season becomes chock-full of relentless chores and activities: attending school events, getting Christmas shopping done, hoarding masses of food for the big day itself, keeping the kids under control, decorating, wrapping — and your normal, day-to-day life doesn't ease up. You still have to shower and do laundry. Adulthood is exhausting. Children are exhausting. Christmas is exhausting. Throw them all together and you've got a recipe that'll wipe you out at the drop of a knitted winter hat.

It'll bankrupt you

When you're a kid, you don't really have money to worry about. Sure, you can come from a less well-off or even impoverished background — and that can have a pretty major effect on your enjoyment of Christmas, even when young — but you're not likely to be the one handling the money. And a lot of money goes into Christmas.

In fact, according to a study released by the American Research Group, the average American spends just under $1,000 a year on holiday gifts alone. Throw in all the cost of eating, drinking, getting around and even little expenses such as decorations or new, warm clothing, the festive period ends up being remarkably difficult to get through without your bank account taking a serious hit. It's only as an adult, however, when the money is earned by your own hard work and where it's down to you to actually spend it, that the reality truly hits home. And by that time, maybe you've already bought a swimming pool with the Christmas bonus you're (hopefully) getting.

Awkward times with the family

Family is a fairly huge part of Christmas. When you're a child, it means spending time with your own immediate family, or occasionally going on some cross-country jaunt to visit your grandparents or cousins or whomever else. When you're an adult, it means — well, pretty much the same thing, just with the risk of everything being far more awkward than it used to be.

See, adults don't get on with each other like children do. If you're interacting with people you haven't seen for a year (or more), there are a number of pitfalls to navigate if you don't want things to get tense. Politics, for example, is a big one, but any sticky topic can quickly turn things sour, and sometimes, sadly, people just don't get on. Christmas, wonderful time of year that it is, doesn't care about these pitfalls — it jams you into a room with these people and doesn't care one jot whether you like them or not. There are ways to deal with the never-ending small talk, the controversies, and the dramas, but you can't predict anything with Uncle Randy. And usually you're just trying to paper over the wounds caused by the political discussion that got out of control at Thanksgiving.


This one is something of a double-edged sword. When you're a grown-up, drinking becomes one of the best things about Christmas. Mulled wine, actual wine, rum, whiskey, port (with cheese, of course) and all the rest — the season was practically made for it, and you certainly don't get that fun when you're a little one.

We don't need to tell you why drinking has a dark side, though. Putting aside the vicious, life-destroying hangovers, there's also the fact that, according to an addiction specialist at King's College London, the stresses and joys of Christmas can drive people to drink dangerous amounts, upping their chances of alcohol dependency as a result. Binge-drinking issues worsen and, as the day itself nears, more and more people are willing to drink at times which would otherwise be problematic. Also, why would you put aside the vicious, life-destroying hangovers? They suck, too.

Gift drama is a real worry

Ah, the gifts. When you're young, it's the best part of Christmas. You can try to get all pious and argue to the contrary if you want, but you're lying and you know it. As a kid, opening your presents is by far the most exciting part of Christmas. Nowadays, however, the gift-giving tradition — while undoubtedly an appealing one — constitutes just another minefield that could blow up in your face.

The Huffington Post quite succinctly explains the awkward dynamics behind the giving of gifts: having to fake appreciation of an unsuitable gift, straining to figure out something thoughtful to offer somebody else, trying to work out who you should and should not get gifts for — there are so many places to go wrong. And, God forbid, should somebody's distaste for a gift break through the forcefield of passive-aggression and come out into the open, all hell might break loose. We'd all be trading equal-value gift cards by now if it wasn't so tacky and pointless.

The weather outside is frightful

Christmas is a time for bright, cold days, snowy vistas, and a gentle chill settling through the dark mornings, right? Well, when you're older, that all starts to look a bit more grim. Snow days don't mean running around outside and bunking off school, they mean having to shovel snow to get to work and figuring out how to keep your children busy during the day — if they're old enough. If they're younger, it means trying to convince your boss that you can work from home. Dark mornings aren't mysterious or exciting as an adult. They're just dark.

On top of this, there's the fact that, quite often, you won't see snow at all. This doesn't reconcile well with the fact that many of us are deeply preoccupied with the idea of experiencing a white Christmas — perhaps as part of a neurotic need to make sure everything over the holidays goes 'perfectly' (there's that stress again), or perhaps simply because of a false sense of nostalgia. And false it is: according to the Telegraph, some experts believe the main reason we associate Christmas with snow so much is down almost entirely to the fact that Charles Dickens had an unusually snowy childhood. Even if you live farther north, you shouldn't expect to be walking through a winter wonderland most years. And on the years that you do, you'd better get that shovel ready.

It could end your relationship

The trials and tribulations of the holidays can put a load of pressure on even the most hardy individual, so you can probably imagine what it does to couples. Yes, according to David McCandless and Lee Byron of Information is Beautiful, Christmas ranks second (just behind spring break) as a time of year where people are most likely to break up.

A number of factors, including the high levels of stress and depression you might feel, the self-reflection incited by the experience of going through the holidays with a partner and even the expectations of gift-giving can all lead you down a road which ends in a split. An opposite effect can materialize, of course — the cheer of Christmas often helps to reinforce the foundations of good relationships — but if you're on slippery ground, there's a good chance you'll lose your footing.

It's gluttonous

Christmas has an ethical problem. As a festival, it carries a strange and unsettling dichotomy with it: it's suppose to be a time of giving, of charity, and of good will. But other than the brief time we're actually acquiring and giving away our gifts, we're mainly taking, consuming, and devouring to our hearts' content. It's easy to separate yourself from the truth of Christmas, which is that, even though you may be filling up with turkey and wine, far too many people are going hungry. Christmas also has a health problem. Different sources will tell you different things, but the consensus tends to be that you're going to put on weight.

It's not good for everybody

The devastating truth behind Christmas is that it's a tragically unhappy time for many people. Loneliness is a serious issue for many, and can lead to bouts of depression for those left alone during the holidays, including the 29 percent of people over the age of 65 who live alone in the U.S., according to government statistics. Child homelessness is, of course, rife: U.K. government data suggested that, in 2016, over 120,000 children in England, Scotland, and Wales were in temporary accommodation over the Christmas period. And, as we've mentioned, people go hungry over the festive season, too — just as many who go hungry during the year.

You might be having a great, booze-filled eating season during which you gripe about your stress levels and having to grit your teeth through a conversation with that family member, but not everyone is so fortunate. There are lots of ways to help others during this time, but it often takes entry into adulthood to begin to realize this, and, even then, many don't.