Photo taken by Rachel Bernstein
Palisades Charter High School

How happy are the holidays?

Flashing lights, incessant music, and family get-togethers are all hallmarks of the average holiday season, however, what lies not too far beyond the surface of dazzling decorations on the front lawn is the stress caused when the holiday season strikes back.


Most faiths have a meaningful holiday within the last two months of the calendar year often accompanied by religious services and rituals, however, in many cases, it is known by children as the time for presents which is often one of the crowning causes of stress during the happy season. Gift lists that could circle the earth numerous times appear on bedside tables, constant asking for the can’t-keep-it-on-the-shelf gift, and the “did you get XYZ for (insert great-uncle’s name here)?”

While gift-giving for Christmas has a religious significance, gift-giving for the Jewish tradition of Hanukkah did not actually begin to become popularized until the 1950s and thus created the frenzy that now accompanies shopping during the November and December months. It was when the good deals became too good and people began to shop as though the store was closing the next day followed by an exhaustion of the sort that only occurs when you know the numbers on your bank account will not be the best.


Once the gifts are all wrapped and there is a cozy feeling deep in the stomachs of all that are in the house, the doorbell rings and then there is a knock on the door, and then you realize that you forgot that you were hosting the family for dinner tonight. Needless to say, there is a reason that airports are so packed and that there are numerous television episodes and films about the misadventure brought on by packed airports and freeways: all the family wants to come out for the holidays! When there are songs that croon that there is “no place like home for the holidays”, it fills people with the urge to hop on an airplane and go where you know where you find the tree with a little less bark on it due to a calamity brought on by your little knowledge of riding bicycles. Perhaps it is the other way around and family is coming over towards you and you need to cook 5678 dishes and wrap even more gifts because the whole family from the Northeast is coming over to Los Angeles and they want to see Hollywood Boulevard at rush hour on a Thursday. The cooking, the visiting, and the gifting are all great sources of stress during the holiday season and if the family ends up causing a bit too much stress, we’ll find you eating obscene amounts of cookies in a closet as you wait for the relatives to leave.


The holidays while they often are accompanied by some range of happiness, are perhaps one of the greatest sources of stress during the year. Which leads to the joy when the Christmas music stops and the flowering on the trees signal the arrival of spring.