Christmas is a month-long state of mind for me. This festive time of loved ones, parties, gifts, and religious celebrations is so special.
What Is Christmas Day Letdown?
For some people, the frenzy leading up to Christmas Day results in feelings of disappointment when the big occasion finally arrives. Perhaps our expectations are so high that we've set ourselves up for a letdown. Does this sound familiar? According to psychologists, this phenomenon is actually fairly common.
Does your mental picture of the holiday include your children behaving well and loving and appreciating each gift you carefully selected for them? Does your vision feature your family in a picture-perfect gathering around a festive meal worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting? Do you place great value on receiving a meaningful gift that your significant other spent hours researching and selecting? In reality, our families and partners don't always live up to our imagined expectations, and in practice, holiday celebrations aren't always the idealized gatherings we build them up to be.
When I first got married, my early Christmas experiences with my in-laws disappointed me. It took me a few years to realize they weren't going to celebrate the holiday in the same ways that my family did. Once I accepted that and let myself go with the flow, I began to enjoy their style of Christmas just fine.
Is it our unrealistic expectations that lead us to feel let down on Christmas? Or is it just the realization that the festive season is coming to an end? What do you think leads to this phenomenon of Christmas Day disappointment?
Friends Share Their Experiences With Christmas Letdown
After experiencing holiday letdown myself and learning how common it is, I wanted to find out why others felt this way. I decided to reach out to my friends and ask them about their thoughts on the matter. Here's what they said:
- "I don't think Christmas is ever as magical when you are an adult as it was when you were a child. You can get a bit of that magic back if you spend Christmas with young children, but an adults-only Christmas is always going to be less exciting. That's what I think." —Stazjia
- "After all the hype, it's very easy to feel let down." —Kayjay
- "When my children were young, I was let down that I would spend so much time on their presents and preparing for Christmas only to find that all the excitement was over so soon. And then all the cooking would begin. It's too much work. Now I just enjoy the day—I'm very relaxed. I just do my best and try to make the day as easy as possible. This took a long time to realize. Some good things come with age." —Lucia
- "My mother-in-law always feels down after Christmas. I'm not quite sure what she expects from her five kids, their spouses, and her grandkids. I think it's just her personality." —CatJB
- "We've always had a low-key Christmas. This year we're spending it with another family. I can't help wondering what to expect." —Valmnz
- "It's pretty much always anticlimactic for everyone in some way or another. It's better to put in the effort without getting attached to outcomes." —DarcieFrench
- "Hubby and I went years without giving each other gifts—after the tornado, we had a rough time getting back on our feet. Still, Christmas was never a letdown. It was what it was. My only letdown this year will be if my siblings do not find it their hearts to get past the animosity and sibling rivalry and mend the fence. All I really want for Christmas is peace in my family." —Sgolis
- "It's easy to romanticize Christmases, especially those in the past. It is worth making the effort to relax and "let it be" to have a better day, as you say!" —Kimbesa
Causes and Solutions: A Psychologist's Perspective
Can't Have the Christmas You Want Anymore?
For some people with chronic illness or a disability, it's much harder to participate in the December activities that they used to enjoy and take for granted. Perhaps the decorating is just too difficult now. Maybe they need to ask for a ride to attend family holiday gatherings.
For many, it can be a financial issue. When the budget is already tight, spending lavishly on gifts and activities just isn't possible. They have to look for free events, create homemade gifts, shop second-hand, and otherwise scale back on Christmas expectations.
As people get older, they find it a struggle to put up a Christmas tree and other decorations. Getting gifts for family and friends is a challenge when living on a Social Security budget. If they no longer drive, participation in holiday activities and entertainment can be limited.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Virginia Allain
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on December 25, 2019:
NT - thanks for your thoughtful input.
nt on December 24, 2019:
People feel let down because a lot of them have been separated from their heritage and ancestral cultures involving Christmas, Yule, and related observances this time of year. Especially those of European ancestry.
The substitute, especially as Christmas has become far more commercial even compared to a little over a decade ago, fails to live up to expectations. Certainly some of it is based in nostalgia but it's based more on cultural changes, the dilution of tradition.
Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 01, 2019:
Very thought provoking. I'm so disappointed most Christmases because of financial situations that I'm relieved when it is all over and I can get things back to normal. I don't want to be like that but many times that is how I feel. The struggle is to make things nice for my family and friends and forget that I'm not getting anything for Christmas.