Magazine

Miss Conduct

Advice: I hate Christmas. How can I create a holiday-free zone?

I just don’t want to join seasonal festivities.

Need advice? Submit questions for Miss Conduct here.

I hate Christmas, and I don’t want to do any of it. How do I politely tell everyone in my life to leave me alone? Unlike the Grinch, I don’t want to stop their Christmas from coming, I just don’t want it coming after me. Advice? (I’m child-free, so that’s not an issue.)

D.L./ Lawrence, Kansas

Christmas is far more optional than most people realize. Far, far more.

But you can’t treat it like just any other day. I mean, you literally can and are morally allowed to, but good luck getting people to leave you alone about it. You’ll wind up expending more energy not celebrating the holiday than you ever spent celebrating it.

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What you can do is create your own alternative Christmas — and if you’re feeling burned-out in general, this might be exactly what you need. Think of December 25 as a 24-hour gift certificate, made out to you, from the Time Store. How would you spend it? I do a movie and Chinese food with friends. You might spend it doing charitable or activist work, or going on a yoga retreat, or hiking, or flying to Chicago on your own to window-shop the Magnificent Mile. Or spend a whole day on the couch reading a novel.

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And when people ask what you’re doing for Christmas, tell them your plans, enthusiastically. They’ll get it. Ninety percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, but the Hallmark ideal of the holiday — kids, snow, time off, disposable income, the whole family in one place — is pretty doggone rare. People are more likely to hint around for an invitation to join your unconventional celebration than to scorn it.

Avoiding the whole run-up is trickier, and probably can’t be done entirely. If you’ve sent Great-Aunt Sylvia a Christmas fruit basket since 2002, keep doing it; an old lady shouldn’t risk scurvy just because you’re not feeling it this year. Participate in whatever workplace secret Santas or office parties are necessary to keep the wheels greased. Think of these as seasonal chores like winter-proofing your house, or take the anthropologist-from-Mars perspective to keep yourself amused. (Reading a bunch of Nathan W. Pyle Strange Planet cartoons will help with this.)

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.