Dear Auntie Alfajor,

I have to confess something: the holidays are putting me on edge. Rather than experiencing some kind of fabled Christmas cheer, this year I feel an overwhelming sense of dread and anxiety. Presents (especially for my romantic partner), parties, dinner with the new in-laws, the inescapable pressure to be merry at all times… it’s the stuff of nightmares. What do you do to navigate the holidays? How can I avoid being a grinch to my loved ones, both new and old? 


Sometimes Scrooge


Dear Sometimes,

Ouch, it sounds like you’re in a rough spot right now — but you’re not alone. Sometimes the hustle and bustle of the holidays can magnify existing anxieties that we avoid in day-to-day life. At the same time, for those who suffer from depression or anxiety, any feelings of loneliness or depression can make us feel especially guilty: why are we sad when we have all these happy, shiny people around us? How can we prevent ourselves from bringing others down with us? But more on that later.

First, let’s stick to the practical. Auntie Alfawhore is amazing at presents…and parties…and in-laws! So I’ll tackle these one at a time. Think of the following as a survival guide to the holidays, so you’re not an asshole to your friends and family. It truly is the gift that keeps giving. 

Presents: Whether for your partner(s), friends, family, or pet, repeat after me: It’s the thought that counts. Please, gift-givers of the world, stop throwing money at your problem! Not only is this mindless consumerism bad for our planet, it’s not what your loved ones actually want. What do they want? Your time. Your attention. Your thoughtful consideration. Write them a letter. Send them a hand-written invitation to a homemade meal. Do you really want to give them a physical present? Well, that’s ok. Think long and hard about their favorite activities, and buy or make them something that will help them. Are they into gardening? Try giving them a sexy new hoe (sorry, couldn’t resist). Do they love cooking? Compile a book of your favorite recipes, or maybe get them a new spatula. Whenever possible, look for ways to support local artisans and businesses over the big guys. DO NOT GIVE AMAZON YOUR MONEY. Thank you.

Parties: While I love parties in general, holiday parties are a special animal. Holiday music can be hit or miss, as can the food — especially if they’re doing traditional Argie Christmas fare (That’s a Pio-NO-NO for me, dawg). Other times you’re trapped in small talk with your new boss at the holiday party while your coworkers ogle you in a swimsuit, and all you can do is try not to let your inner scream reach your eyeballs. In any case, let me give you a few words of advice: 1) Drink heavily, alternating with water. 2) Keep your clothes on. 3) Stay home if you’re really not feeling it. Nobody will miss you.  

Dinner with in-laws: First things first: show up on time, and never empty-handed. Nobody likes waiting to eat, and whether you bring food or drink, the thought is always appreciated. For bonus points, bring a fun new board or card game that you’ve learned. Not only will this keep you and Tia Olga away from discussing politics, but it’ll also make the sobremesa go faster. And last but not least, get off your butt and offer to help with the dishes, washing up, running to grab more ice, whatever. It will be super appreciated, I promise.

The holiday blues. There are no tried and true fixes to the general malaise that can seem to strike us harder during the holidays. I know, because I’ve tried all of them. Maybe you’ve had a hard few months, with lots of challenges. Maybe you didn’t see the success you wanted to see this year, and the holidays and new year put an extra level of pressure on your life that you don’t need. Well my friend, no amount of false holiday cheer is going to fix that. But you know what might? Taking a little time out from the things you’re “supposed” to do, and dedicating that time to cultivating a bit of compassion for yourself, and gratitude for the good things and people that you can count as blessings in your life. I’m not being pithy here. Sometimes we just need some space to truly reflect on what we have, or a helpful friend to remind us when we forget. That’s what the holidays are really about.