Winter holiday season is something I really enjoyed for most of my childhood. Holidays or any school-free days were great, but Christmas season in particular was cool; I got to be away from my shitty teacher for a longer period of time, visited relatives, was taken to not-too-shabby restaurants, got bombarded with gifts, and so on. I never really bought the whole Santa Claus myth, mostly because I noticed that if he were to descend our chimney, as everyone claimed he does, he’d get scorched to death by our giant, orange, greasy, smelly, fossil fuel furnace that roared in the basement day and night. My parents went pretty far to keep me believing, like my dad, who faked Santa footage with his camcorder… it naturally didn’t work because of his signature gait and awful costume, but I non-explicitly pretended to believe in the mysterious fat old man anyway, as I understood it to be a tradition. I just shut my trap and enjoyed its benefits.
However, as I grew older I got less and less excited about the Christmas/New Year season, and disquietude became my underlying mood whenever we lit the first of four Advent wreath candles. I started to comprehend the reality of it all a bit better. My parents weren’t infinitely rich — very far from it, actually — and after they told me this shocking fact I became extremely anxious when writing down my wish list, because I had no clue how much things cost, and didn’t want to end up looking greedy or too demanding on one hand, while on the other I just wanted more junk (read: toys). Every one of my relatives tried to make holidays perfect, and as a consequence nobody really enjoyed them too much, but had to anyway — it was a giant farce, a heavily scripted film, literally, my dad wanted to film everything professionally for his archives. Furthermore, I begun to question the authenticity of gifts, of the exchanged good wishes, of joyful greetings conducted with serious gazes. The fakeness of it all repulsed me.
Perhaps I could’ve handled it if these issues were unique to my family, however that’s just not the case, everything I’ve described is standard; few escape the phenomenon of Holiday Blues.
Holiday Blues is when people experience sadness, trepidation, stress, and even depression during the holiday season. It might sound innocent or insignificant, but it’s not. It is so common that I rarely see anyone who’s not completely marinated in stress hormones from mid December to early January. There might be a sort of collaboration going on between Holiday Blues and seasonal affective disorder (very appropriately abbreviated as SAD), a type of depression typically activated by shortening of days in colder climates, places we’re psychologically and physiologically unfit to inhabit, though HB has more to do with holidays, as the name suggests.
Winter holidays are supposed to be a season of joy, of closeness, of serenity, of fairy tale-like magical perfection, which is precisely why it turns out to be the exact opposite under the thin performative veneer. A survey of 2,000 Americans over the age of 18 found out that 88% of them experience stress during Holiday Season, “with five top stressors including purchasing presents (39 percent), how much to spend (38 percent), cooking holiday dinner (30 percent), prepping the house for guests (28 percent) and cleaning before and after gatherings (27 percent)”. Most stress-inducing factors are financial, since gifting is not actually a genuine expression of love, it’s a bare-minimum requirement for one to not outright insult people by not gifting them stuff they don’t even need half the time. What adds to this pressure is also the fact that the expensiveness of a gift is usually considered to be indicative of the degree of affection, which makes things even worse for those with empty pockets; getting someone a second-hand hoodie might raise eyebrows, for example, so you better get them a new one, possibly of a cool brand. I should note that this sort of ritualistic gifting far predates modern consumer culture, and that it’s mainly a characteristic of societies where sharing is no longer the norm, so it becomes an investment.
To return to the aforementioned survey, 15% of participants also admitted that talking to their family and friends stresses them out, though contrary to my expectation the cause wasn’t pathological anxiety, instead the paper lists arguing as the main source, most often arguments about politics, religion, and finance. Remember the ‘joyful’ greetings with cold gazes I mentioned earlier? They’re not exactly a surprise once you consider the fact that the reason relatives come together on such days is that Christmas is, like many other holidays, supposed to be spent with family. “Loved ones” and “family” are often conflated, so people who otherwise dislike or even hate each other end up spending an evening together, coerced by culturally manufactured sentiment. They put up with it; nobody dares, even in their private thoughts to think “Gawd, I fucking hate Christmas,” it’s too much of a sacred cow.
Those who never experienced the family meetings feel lonely during family-oriented holidays like Christmas, they feel like they aren’t doing it the way they should, and more unfortunately, some never get the chance to be disillusioned. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, a classic children’s book, tells a story of a grumpy cave-dwelling creature who hates Xmas, so he steals gifts and decorations from everyone in the nearby village, hoping to undo the holiday, but the power of “Christmas spirit” enables villagers to endure the loss very nonchalantly. Grinch is so moved by their attitude that he returns the gifts, and stops hating the holiday. The original book never explains why he hates it, his transformation is almost allegorical to a sinner finding God’s grace (Christmas spirit) and repenting. At the end of the book, after his change of heart, he joins the villagers at the feast. What I’d desperately love to see is whether he kept his newly acquired liking of the holiday for the next decade or so — I doubt he did — anyone who’s not in severe denial should see through the bullshit of Christmas jolliness.
For those whose spouses passed away, the Holiday Season is just a time of grief-stricken remembrance of their loss, so much so that “more than three million older people in the UK aren’t looking forward to Christmas,” because it just brings back painful memories. A similar thing happens to singles on Valentine’s day, in fact, most of these issues aren’t unique to Christmas, but are most visible then, as Westerners don’t celebrate other holidays as intensely; Valentine’s day, Thanksgiving, and Easter, for example, are completely dwarfed by it.
Besides all the psychological damage they inflict on participants, damage that actually turns their reality into the complete opposite of what we imagine ’em to be, they also have disastrous consequences in the physiological realm. Health issues resulting from a mixture of stress, excessive drinking, and overeating go from as innocent as heartburn, to as serious as alcohol poisoning or heart attack. The West is, of course, not alone in this insanity; Ramadan is a month-long Muslim religious holiday where people fast from sunrise to sunset. What follows is often ridiculous stuffing with food to the point where whole families are sent to the ER, and one doctor was quoted saying “[w]e are receiving too many patients with abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea in Ramadan, it is really too much now,” as the numbers of people in U.A.E. needing urgent medical attention literally doubled, all thanks to the holiday. People also get injured putting decorations in absurd places, houses get burned down due to fire accidents, and stupid teenagers blow themselves up with pyrotechnics; there’s just no end.
One thing that hurts me far more than any idiot eating his way into an early grave or blowing his hands off is what those who don’t have anything to do with civilised humans’ revolting traditions have to go through. I am, of course, talking about the wild beings (for the most part at least).
For those with an anthropocentric worldview, the large majority of this global culture’s adherents, wild(er)ness — that which is wild in character, and not enclosed or otherwise controlled by man-made monstrosities — is just a background to their center-of-the-world concrete hives. Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, the infamous Canadian clinical psychologist and right-wing demagogue, spent some 25 minutes rambling about how “wicked environmentalists” want to steal Christmas by, among other things, curtailing the lighting, saying that “nothing, either beautiful or pleasing is acceptable in the least to the grinches, and the Grinch was in fact green.” Let me make something clear first: I’m not a naive dork who believes we’re gonna magically save Earth by taking short showers, and turning off some lights. I’m placing Peterson’s comment here to show just how blind many are to the wild’s beauty, being pleased only by viewing man-made objects, despite the fact that everything we create to be beautiful is just a poor attempt to infuse something with aesthetic qualities inherent in the wild living world.
These people don’t see the terror birds, and other animals with a decent sense of hearing go through when they saturate the skies with fireworks, hell, they don’t even see fellow humans with PTSD having panic attacks, they don’t see their own pets hiding in closed spaces for hours, they don’t think about all the dangerous chemicals, like sulphur dioxide, that linger in the air for hours afterwards, raising air-pollution levels up to five times. I knew a guy who blew up a rocket in his face — you can still see the scars. Did he learn anything from this? Of course not, so I’m truly not shocked that there is barely any consideration for the non-humans, when people don’t even value themselves.
One New Year’s Eve me and some of my friends went outside. Strolling up a nearby hill, we suddenly noticed a fire in the dark. We approached it, and saw it was a large cardboard rocket container. Some nearby grass was beginning to catch fire, so we urinated on it, one after another; one of them even poured his fake Coke on it; we might have prevented a forest fire that day. The madness doesn’t end. I remember a headline about how someone launched a rocket into his neighbour’s attic window and burned down the house. I remember observing a family outside, parents with two very young kids failing launch after launch, endangering themselves and their children. One rocket blew up on the ground, one slid down the street and exploded near a parked car, one spun in a circle and didn’t go off.
In my country there’s a holiday that I particularly loathe: Remembrance Day. It’s not like in some other countries, where it’s mostly about fallen soldiers, here it’s about every single dead human. On this day nearly every goddamn person frantically drives around, visiting every gravesite of every one of their goddamn relatives, leaving literal mountains of those massive plastic cemetery candles everywhere they possibly can. I’m not exaggerating, on one occasion I walked through a local graveyard and had to open my jacket because of the heat emitted by an ocean of little flames around me. The candles last a day or two before they get put out by rain or wind, and find their way to a landfill soon after — out of sight, out of mind. I guess people would rather have microplastics in their food or water, and consequently in their blood and organs, than not compete who can drag more trash onto their relatives’ graves.
Every holiday activity seems to be an ecological catastrophe in one way or the other. Gifts and decor are so obvious pollutants that I don’t even feel like going in depth on this topic. It’s not just their production; while doing some research I learnt that “up to 80 percent of items [purchased on Black Friday] — and any plastic packaging they are wrapped in — will end up either in landfill, incineration or — at best — low quality recycling.” The Grinch (I promise this is the last time I mention him) from Ron Howard’s 2000 comedic live-action film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, really wasn’t wrong when he shouted at the crowd that “[the gifts] all come to me. In your garbage. You see what I’m saying? In your garbage. I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump [on a mountain, by the way].” Call me a ̶G̶r̶i̶n̶c̶h̶ Greench all you want, but I’ll always prefer clean, non-poisoned wilderness over holiday vanities.
Something more sinister lies beneath the surface of holidays though. That something is time.
You might think of time as something objective, something out there that exists independently of you or anyone else. This notion is wrong. John Zerzan writes thoroughly on the topic in his book, Running on Emptiness:
Time necessarily flows; without its passage there would be no sense of time. Whatever flows, though, flows with respect to time. Time therefore flows with respect to itself, which is meaningless owing to the fact that nothing can flow with respect to itself. No vocabulary is available for the abstract explication of time apart from a vocabulary in which time is already presupposed. (p. 20)
In the same chapter he takes a look at the presence of time as a concept in historical accounts from different fields to conclude it’s in fact a self-justifying structure that alienates us further through symbolic abstraction of experience, and is ultimately used to control us, make us more domesticated, docile, obedient, drone-like. Our preoccupation with the future, something that literally does not exist outside linguistics, despite our certainty of it, causes us to mortgage the present to it; we don’t make use of time, time makes use of us.
Through this system of ever-more punctual measurement what Zerzan described as a “capatious present” of the uncivilised is ruined, and a new, mathematical present emerges (p. 24), universalising what used to be subjective, and binding the clock-watcher to time’s ‘flow.’ With appearance of strict numerical division every last bit of someone’s existence can be coordinated, arranged into serving the Machine of civilisation to the fullest.
Not only does imposition of time structure on the here-and-now turn it into a quantifiable currency to be traded for money — “time is money,” they say, which means it can be wasted — but it also substitutes a part of subject’s very subjectivity, as the rhythm of its surroundings is no longer something for it to interpret freely; a day is no longer long or short, it’s 24 hours; we no longer rely on our preferred anchor-points to attune our actions to the surroundings, that is now done for us in advance by external forces; our internal activity wanes. Time is made into a kind of metaphysical personal property, and like any possession, it possesses us in turn.
There’s a general propensity in humans to blindly follow suggestions from automated decision-making systems, called automation bias. It can be seen e.g. when ‘drivers’ of self-driving cars fail to react when their vehicle makes a mistake. Like we quasi-willingly surrender ourselves to automated metal death-boxes, we also thoughtlessly surrender active participation in our lives to oppressive structures, and even naturalise their existence. As more of us is instructed or substituted by the system, we gradually cease to be autonomous living beings, slowly being integrated into Leviathan to the point where we, in our sedated complacency, merge with it as nothing more than its zombified cogs.
The wild in us, of course, is not content with such an impoverished existence, and we seek to return to the timelessness of childhood, of dreams. According to Zerzan we seek it in ritual; he explains:
All ritual is an attempt, through symbolism, to return to the timeless state. Ritual is a gesture of abstraction from the state, however, a false step that only leads further away. (p. 23)
Holidays are exactly that, a supposed retreat from our heavily regimented workdays, from the stress of ever-accelerating technological society; they’re used as a kind of carrot on a stick to pacify the immiserated masses. We don’t question why we toil every day, why most of our life is thrown away, as we always see weekends and holidays on the horizon. Italian anarchist thinker, Alfredo M. Bonanno had this to say on the topic:
“We work all the year round to have the ‘joy’ of holidays. When these come round we feel ‘obliged’ to ‘enjoy’ the fact that we are on holiday. A form of torture like any other. The same goes for Sundays. A dreadful day. The rarefaction of the illusion of free time shows us the emptiness of the mercantile spectacle we are living in.”
We’d love to feel joy, and we love to be merry, sure, but feelings and emotions generally come about as a spontaneous reaction to our surroundings; they can’t be planned in advance, put on schedule like nearly every other thing in ‘our’ lives. We can’t always be in love on Valentine’s Day, be joyous on Christmas, etc. No special time can really exist on its own, like we imagine holidays to. If we could just summon whatever feeling on command like holidays expect us to, would these feelings still hold any meaning whatsoever? My answer is a decisive no. When feelings and emotions cease to be a mechanism of feedback, all grip on reality will be lost to us.
In their ritualistic, scheduled nature holidays do nothing but alienate further, all while gaslighting us into believing we’re enjoying them; they’re like an abusive spouse, like a Machiavellian cult leader, like drugs that make us feel bad, yet we still seek them out to escape a different everyday horror. Our present desires in the here-and-now are thoroughly suppressed and exchanged for crumbs of make-believe happiness some other time. Through this the system gains a rather firm hold of us internally. When time-controlling institutions decide what time it is, and what days are work-free, and what these days are meant for they consequentially gain control over our inner nature.
Santa Claus is, in the West, perhaps the first inner cop we develop to watch us when alone. Young children are often mischevious or stubborn, so they’re told Santa’s watching their every move, and they’ll only get gifts if they’re “good.” The craving they have for gifts is, of course, hammered into their minds by the culture, so it can then blackmail them. Alternatively there’s also the threat of Krampus kidnapping them if they’ve been too “bad.” This is “silver or lead,” this is child abuse, and a necessary step in producing domesticated, unwilded, exploitable humans.
As we’re subjugated by the repetitive structure of relentless planning, dragged around, organised by seemingly omnipotent forces of civilised order, civilisation appears as far more stable and entrenched than it really is. We get overwhelmed and learn to be helpless.
Breaking these cuffs necessarily entails the destruction of time measurement, and a disobedience towards the tyranny of holidays, and rituals. Though as much as I enjoy listening to Christmas music in the middle of July, and snacking on a heart-shaped box of chocolate that mysteriously appeared in my drawer on Valentine’s Day, after it sat there for months, I’m not gonna pretend that’s what’s gonna make meaningful change. The last thing I want someone to take away from this is to make minor changes to their own life in this one area; lifestyle-ism will never bring about meaningful change, and neither will fixating on microscopic issues like holidays; in order for change to arrive we need to change the things outside us that shape us i.e., we need to bring civilisation down in the fullest sense of the word.
But until then, I’d like the reader to consider the words of an old man: “When I was young I was poor. But after decades of hard work, I’m no longer young.” When you’re enjoying yourself you’re not losing precious time, time is losing precious you, so don’t make your joy come on time, just let it happen.
 “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.
 Allegan, Mitch. “Season of Joy? Actually, Season of Stress for 88 Percent of Americans.” PR Newswire, 3 Dec. 2018, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/season-of-joy-actually-season-of-stress-for-88-percent-of-americans-300758622.html.
 “Christmas is the loneliest time of the year for over 1.5 million older people, with those who have lost a loved one struggling the most.” Age UK, 3 Dec. 2019, https://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-press/articles/2019/december/christmas-is-the-loneliest-time.
 Nabbout, Mariam. “Emergency Cases in UAE Have Spiked During Ramadan Due to ‘Overeating’” StepFeed, 30 May 2018, https://stepfeed.com/emergency-cases-in-uae-have-spiked-during-ramadan-due-to-overeating-5414.
 Peterson, Jordan B. “Wicked Globalists Are Causing Starvation and Poverty Under the Guise of Environmentalism.” YouTube, 28 Oct. 2022, https://youtube.com/watch?v=tF5spyudTYA.
 “Are Fireworks Bad for Air Quality?” IQAir, 14 Nov. 2022, https://www.iqair.com/newsroom/are-fireworks-bad-for-air-quality. Accessed 3 Dec. 2022.
 University of Leeds. “Most Black Friday Purchases Soon End up as Waste.” Phys.org, 29 Nov. 2019, https://phys.org/news/2019–11-black-friday.html.
 Zerzan, John. Running on Emptiness. First Edition, Feral House, 2008.
 Bonanno, Alfredo M. “Armed Joy.” The Anarchist Library, 1977, https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/alfredo-m-bonanno-armed-joy.
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