Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and the “holiday season,” nowadays reckoned as stretching from Halloween through New Year’s Day, is here. Tis the season to be jolly. So why are so many publications currently offering advice on “Holiday Depression?” It seems that this is an all too common problem. Nor is it a new one.

It once was popular folklore that suicides and murders peak between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This, as it happens, is untrue: the rates for both actually drop. In recent years we have been treated to numerous seasonal news articles cheerily debunking the old myth. However few of those articles mention that suicides spike 40% (source: in the days immediately after Christmas, which are still part of the season. Nor do they usually mention that, while murder may be less frequent, the risk of dying from all causes, including cardiac arrest and accidents, is in fact higher in the holiday season than during the rest of the year. Less severe crimes than homicide rise alarmingly: fraud, identity theft, burglary, and scams of all kinds among them. Being a crime victim can depress anyone. Yet, this is not high on the list of reasons the season is hard on some people.

What is? Unresolved family issues loom large, and they have a way of re-emerging at family gatherings. There are worries about overspending and stresses from overscheduling. There is the recognition that our lives are not as idyllic as a Norman Rockwell painting. The end of the year also brings to mind thoughts of aging, mortality, and missed opportunities. Furthermore, some psychologists argue (no joke) that many adults have a lingering unacknowledged sense of loss from the bad news about Santa Claus. Of course, many of us (all of us who are old enough) have experienced real losses: loved ones who are absent from the table. My mother, for example, though never in a general way depressed by the season, after my sister died in 1995 found it impossible to listen to Elvis’ Blue Christmas, which turns up frequently on the radio this time of year. She always changed stations or turned the radio off.

None of that seems to offer much reason to smile, but in truth there is no more cause to be down than at any other time of the year. As in other aspects of life, so long as we are aware of the potholes ahead we are less likely to step into them. There are pleasant aspects to the season too. Remaining friends and family are likely to be present, for one thing, and presumably we like some of them. If that’s not enough, keep in mind it will all be over January 2, a day to which we can look forward. That’s the day we break our New Year’s Resolutions, and that always is fun.

Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley


  1. The holidays don't depress me, and it's largely your fault! Your generosity in hosting holiday dinners for the usual suspects makes this time of year something to look forward to.

    1. I’m always glad to have your quirky sense of humor at the table.

      The table might not be the Algonquin, but we’re working at it.

  2. Well, there's always Black Friday, though I've never really participated--I say that fairly joking too. Although I wonder if there's a study that links depression after the rush of blowing a bunch of dough, and then too, having to pay for it later. Double whammy. :)

    I always enjoyed the holidays because I had a pretty close and loving family. It was a time to come together and relax, and my mom was also a great cook. They always cared for us kids like we were royalty, and for that I'm always grateful. My holiday activities have changed somewhat over the years. I'm going to try and incorporate some exercise and get outside to get some sun. It'd be nice to also take in some sort of live music or festive event. It doesn't have to be a paid or extravagant, just something you might like to do. There's a wood wind concert here at the university I'd like to hear and see, and a choral presentation at one of the churchs. I think it's a matter of getting out, being a little social, exercise, and then eat some good food, and rest a little.

    1. Yes, I’m sure there is a lot of guilt – and just plain worry – about overspending. Overeating too.

      Sounds like a great childhood. Those of us who had them are lucky indeed.