I just typed “holiday depression” into my internet browser, and Google returned 40,700 articles. Medical websites, psychiatric websites, and countless newspapers and blogs have written up tips for helping us all “cope” with the depression and negativity that is all too common during the holiday season.
Family conflict, death, financial trouble, and a thickening waistline all have their part to play in dragging down people’s spirits during the holidays. Holiday movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” may be uplifting for a couple hours, but when the credits roll, real life hits us between the eyes, and many people are reminded that their lives do not live up to the ideal.
Much of holiday depression is due to our culture’s misunderstanding of the word “holiday”. In America–and in much of the world–people act as if a holiday is just an arbitrary date on the calendar where we should decorate, dress up, spend too much, eat too much, put on fake smiles, and pretend that everything is fine. This playacting works for a while. But then reality sets in:
- No matter how much we spend on presents, family conflict remains unresolved.
- No matter how well we decorate for the holidays, our departed loved ones are still gone.
- No matter how many gifts the credit cards let us purchase, we still end up in debt.
- No matter how delicious the abundance of food may be, overeating still weighs us down.
The holiday hype builds up our expectations, promising joyful hearts, happy families, and pleasant experiences. Then when reality comes crashing down, we get depressed because our expectations are not met.
But the Church has always known that a “holiday” is truly a “holy day”. It is a time set apart to honor and worship God, in recognition of the great works He does on our behalf, bringing healing to our broken condition.
- Christ brings reconciliation to families.
- Christ brings resurrection from the dead.
- Christ frees us from our enslavement to possessions.
- Christ encourages us to practice fasting instead of gluttony.
- Jesus feeds us with His own body and blood, a feast far richer than any holiday spread.
Our culture asks us to put a mask on our troubles, pretending they don’t exist.
Meanwhile, God gives the solution to our troubles, providing a path to victory.
And that, my friends, is something truly worth celebrating.