It’s become an almost ubiquitous and unquestioned truth that the holidays are a stressful time of year. Especially where I live—in New York City—it seems that there’s a Fast Forward button that we all press as the holidays round the corner. Generally rushed New Yorkers become frantic, their interactions even more brusque. The already busy streets are filled with perpetually in the way out-of-towners rushing to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, or standing in line at Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes. And this general anesthetization during the holidays—which usually happens through mindless commercialization, a grin and bear it attitude during familial obligations, all to block out the acerbic loneliness eating a hole through our collective stomach lining—well, it seems that it’s really overpowered the spirit of the holidays.
Or is that the script we’ve been writing?
I came across a study published by Take 5 Media Company the other day that polled 1200 people throughout the United States to find out where they stand on the holidays. It confirmed the general storyline: that about 64% of the people polled were stressed about the holidays for financial reasons—“the holidays remind me of how broke I am”; over-commercialization came in second (42%) and loneliness, third (30%).
And what do people do to relax when they’re stressed? You guessed it: in every age category except for 45-54 (exercising) and 65-74 (petting animals), the #1 preferred method of relaxation is to check out on the couch and watch Netflix. In fact, only one age category (55-64) chose anon-solitary, interactive way of unwinding—by calling a friend—and they ranked it last. While we’re on the topic of friends, however, I thought it important to note that—well, it seems Americans aren’t huge fans of their families: people in twice as many states said they’d rather spend the holidays with their friends.
This doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture: stressed out people who’d rather be someplace else, crammed on the couch, watching Netflix and thinking about the amount of credit card debt they accrued in a Sisyphean attempt to make everyone happy. Call me an optimist, but I’d like to think that we haven’t all become impervious to the holiday charm—to the lovely tree markets perfuming the sidewalks, the blanket of snow adding a sparkle to the air, an opportunity to catch up with the people we love, and the chance for a fresh start to the New Year.
Since my job for the last three years has been to talk to strangers and listen to things they’ve never told anyone else, it felt like a good idea to extend Craigslist Confessional to the streets of New York City and get the details straight from the horse’s mouth: do people really hate the holidays? Are they as stressed out as myriad studies would have us believe? And if they are—well, why? Seriously. Be honest. It’s anonymous.
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