Why Christmas isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year

Now, we don’t mean to sound like a grinch. We love joy and merriment as much as the next person. And there’s a lot about the festive period we can get on board with – any excuse to wear a bit of sparkle, after all.

But right now, deep in December – with Christmas songs seemingly playing on repeat in our actual brains and every single email that lands in our inbox referencing the C-word (no, not that one) – we’re taking a minute to give a shout-out to anyone who isn’t dizzy with excitement at the coming holidays. We see you, and we appreciate you.

First off, there’s the news that Christianity is now a minority religion in England and Wales – the number of Christians falling by 17% in a decade to 27.5 million. Of course, plenty who celebrate Christmas are more committed to the idea of Santa than Jesus – take the 22.2 million people who ticked the “no religion” box in the 2021 census. But let’s not forget people of other faiths who may not celebrate – including 3.9 million Muslims (that’s 7% of our population), over 1 million Hindus, 524,000 Sikhs, 273,000 Buddhists, and 271,327 Jews.

There are other reasons Christmas might not give you that warm, fuzzy feeling. For people who don’t have a great relationship with their family – whether strained or estranged – the somewhat frantic emphasis on spending multiple days in a voluntary lockdown with said relatives could make them feel anything from empty, to stressed, to downright sad.

Of course, the cost of living crisis brings with it new challenges this year, too. The pressure to spend on celebrating – with work, with friends, with family – and buying gifts – from thoughtlessly pitched Secret Santas, to presents for your second-cousin-once-removed’s dog – can be crushing, sometimes leading to credit card debt and more stress down the line.

Then there’s the booze and food, the sheer excess of which can be triggering for anyone struggling with disordered eating or alcohol addiction – not to mention isolating for people who choose not to drink for other reasons. And the endless socialising, often with large groups of people, which for neurodiverse and introverted people can be nothing short of overwhelming.

The point here is not to argue against celebrating Christmas, or “the holidays” if you’re going all American on us. The last thing we want is accusations that “You can’t say or do anything anymore” (yes, from exactly the person you’re picturing in your head right now). No, we only want to encourage a bit more awareness, a bit more consideration, and a bit more kindness. Remember: inclusion is a mindset, not just a line on your annual ESG report.

Take the approach by a growing number of brands who let customers opt out of Mother’s and Father’s Day emails. Aside from being empathetic, marketing analyst at Gartner Kate Muhl says it’s also a smart business move. By stemming the tide of people who are frustrated, hurt and triggered by your emails, you can discourage them from opting out altogether. 

Same goes for Christmas parties. As McKinsey writes in a 2020 report, “Hiring diverse talent isn’t enough – it’s the workplace experience that shapes whether people remain and thrive.” Forcing Christmas down the throats of people who either don’t celebrate or have complex feelings and challenges to face won’t make them want to hang around for more of the same next year.

So, whether it’s your brand’s marketing, your internal team activities, or your own email comms, before you hit send on that tinsel-bedecked, somewhat assumptive ad, event, or message, why not take a minute to consider those who aren’t feeling the festive cheer? Maybe there’s another way to reach out and make their season just a little bit better. 

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Thea Bardot

11th December

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