Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas? 14 Reasons Your Holiday Mood is Tanking

You’re probably thinking to yourself, what the heck is going on? Why doesn’t it feel like Christmas – what’s wrong with me??

When you were a kid, it was soooo easy to be in the Christmas spirit. Right after Halloween, you were all in (all of us had such simple little minds back then).

So why is it, that it doesn’t feel like Christmas? Admittedly, I’ve had the same feelings. I decided to sit down and really get to the bottom of this mystery. To my surprise, I came up with quite a few reason to not have the holiday spirit.

Don’t miss all of the articles in the Christmas Well-Being series:

1. Christmas is hard

The fact is, we all grew into adults with pessimistic attitudes, busy schedules, and adult responsibilities. Someone else was making Christmas magical when we were kids – who’s doing it for you now?

Getting into the Christmas spirit is called adulting (I gotta write a whole article about that some day). You basically have to put your big girl pants on (or big boy pants), suck it up, and start hanging up some Christmas ornaments.

Picture of cute asian toddler crying with santa hat on.
Christmas is hard for all of us – adults included!

The reason that Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas is because you are in charge of it. It really sucks the joy out of the holidays when so many duties are left on your plate. For example, the decisions that go into buying gifts, what food and recipes to make for holiday meals, deciding if you will send out Christmas cards.

It’s called decision fatigue, and it stinks. Other things that real adults do is working over the holidays. When you were a kid, you didn’t experience that, and now reality sets in. Christmas is not 24 days of 24 hours of fun and 3 weeks of Christmas vacation.

As a kid, you probably didn’t clean up the dishes either after the holiday meal. You were too busy playing with your Christmas toys. Now, you’re the adult and stuck with the dishes.

Christmas hurts

All joking aside, Christmas is hard for some folks because of bad Christmas memories. There could have been a death during fall or December, their parents divorced, or they experienced an unhappy childhood.

Christmas can trigger emotions like anger. These can result from past negative experiences, or due to the overwhelm and stress of the season. More social events with drinking occurs, being challenging with those who struggle with addictions like alcoholism.

The sad thing, is that many people think they can never have a happy Christmas again. Unfortunately, some parents communicate negative feelings about Christmas, and their kids absorb it. The Christmas spirit can come back, if you make room for it.

I’ll direct you to the short list of 100 Ways to Get into the Holiday Spirit and a deeper reflection on ways to get your Holiday spirit back.

2. Christmas sucks: there’s nothing to do

Wow. This sounds pretty sad, woe is me stuff. If there’s nothing to look forward to for Christmas, that tells me you need to fill up your calendar.

I’m a mom, so Christmas has been pretty much of a blur to me. I often forget that other people having nothing going on (I have too much going on).

Caucasion couple making exaggerated sad faces through a giant Christmas wreath.
Christmas sucks.

No one is saying to pack your social calendar, participate in movie marathon events, and take up Christmas yodeling, but there is room for improvement.

This one’s on you. If you like to sing, you can join a community chorus group. There are lots of Christmas theatre productions to visit. How about driving through a local holiday light display? Many people seek out holiday volunteer opportunities.

3. Christmas has become too familiar

Tired of the same old, same old? It shows. I know, it sounds weird to say that the reason you have no Christmas spirit is that it’s too familiar.

Of course you always know the ending to your favorite Christmas movies. Why don’t you change it up and watch something different. There is like a bazillion different versions of the Christmas story, according to the Hollywood Reporter. I see that they left Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol off the list (no one really knows the real number).

Adorable pug breed dog dressed in a Santa hat and sweater, looking sad.
Christmas is boring.

Find out about other culture’s way of celebrating Christmas for a wider holiday perspective. Try a new holiday recipe. Heck, try a meal foreign to you or try a new holiday drink.

There are plenty of ways to immerse yourself into the Christmas dunk tank, and come out feeling shiney and new.

4. Christmas just isn’t the same

There are loads of reasons why Christmas isn’t the same as in Christmases of the past. We set these great expectations up in our mind, or circumstances change, and we are not so quick to adapt.

Maybe a loved one passed away, or you broke up or got divorced. Maybe there’s a special holiday tradition you look forward to, and it can’t happen this year.

Vintage elf Christmas decoration.
Happy memories from Christmas past are part of Christmas present.

Circumstances like moving might mean that you can’t be home for Christmas – or your folks sold the house that you grew up in. The old reliable Christmas Eve event you’ve had for years changes, or the kids can’t be home for Christmas.

Improvise, adapt, and overcome.

The U.S. Marines

Besides family schedules, there could be other events. My husband has had two surgeries scheduled in December. Christmas expectations had to be lowered a bit. Is your holiday blues due to the fact that your local coffee shop isn’t offering your favorite holiday latte this year?

Some people consider Christmas Eve off limits. That is an unrealistic expectation. Your kids get married, and there is a whole other family to schedule around. Regardless of the reason, something is off and your holiday self doesn’t like it. What to do? Adapt and improvise, of course!

5. Family drama during the holidays

No one likes family drama. Combine that with the Christmas and you have… Christmas drama. Can’t we all just set it aside for the holidays and enjoy them? Ugh!

I don’t mean to over-simplify this, family drama can make things complicated. Take for example a gift exchange. Different family members have different ideas what the budget should be – and you don’t agree with them.

An odd collection of family members attending a family Christmas.
You can’t pick your relatives at Christmas.

I’ve witnessed otherwise rational people go haywire at a family Christmas. You can thank childhood baggage for that. Our old roles and relationships creep back in, often unknown to us. And then there are siblings that are just plain irritating.

Psychotherapist Linda Esposito, LCSW advises to know your triggers and have your coping strategies ready to get through family holiday gatherings.


6. Are you having bad dreams about Christmas?

I’m not talking about any visions of sugarplums dancing in my head or a white Christmas. For years, I had the Christmas nightmare that I missed Christmas *GASP!* It was awful. Why this lasted as an annual event and why it went away, I do not know.

The dream went like this: I dreamed I woke up, and Christmas was over. I had forgotten to put up decorations and buy gifts. Christmas had passed me by. Sometimes the dream was that I had woke up on Christmas day, and was completely not ready for Christmas. The dream left me feeling sick and nauseous.

Older caucasion couple snuggled together, taking a nap by the Christmas tree.
What are your Christmas dreams (or nightmares) telling you?

I’m guessing the annual nightmare is connected with trying to make Christmas perfect as a young wife and mother. Christmas anxiety and stress had gotten the better of me. Anyhow, that is my dream interpretation of Christmas.

Aunty Flo gets into the darker interpretations of dreaming about Christmas. If you want to find out the meaning of dreaming of a Santa in rags or an empty church, check it out.

For some of you folks out there dreaming of Christmas trees (yep, it’s a thing), here is what Aunty Flo has to say:

I appreciated Luciana’s Christmas spirit in this video. Spoiler alert, every Christmas dream in it is interpreted as being a sign of luck, joy, and happiness. No nightmares or bad luck here.

“Trees covered with snow flakes is a good omen. According to ancient dream lore the dreamer can expect something new will take place in life. This is good omen for lovers, as the branches embrace the snowflakes. This can represent the beloved (in spiritual terms) As the love and snow is always associated with the hopes of a new lover. A brighter tomorrow.”

It’s not exactly a Christmas tree good ol’ Aunty Flo is mentioning. Dreaming of a lighted Christmas tree could be more of a reference to dreaming about Christmas lights: a sign of happiness and wealth. Let’s all hope that Christmas lights are in our dreams tonight!

7. Fear of Christmas – is it stopping you from getting into the Christmas spirit?

Getting into the Christmas spirit is a double challenge if you have a Christmas phobia. Turns out, the list of Christmas fears is a long one:


  • Christougenniatikophobia (fear of everything Christmas –Health Central)
  • Santaphobia (fear of Santa Claus Health Central)
  • fear of Christmas trees
  • condition of chionophobia (an extreme fear of snow and snowy weather – Cleveland Clinic)
  • fear of nutcrackers
  • Meleagrisphobia (fear of turkeys – C.G. Harris)
  • Syngenesophobia, sometimes called familiaphobia (fear of relatives or family –Health Central)
  • phobia of red
  • fear of light bulbs
  • Selaphobia (fear of flashing lights –Dental Brothers)
  • fear of music
  • Ghabhphobia (fear of receiving gifts –Dental Brothers)
  • Doronophobia (fear of opening gifts –
  • Cyssanophobia (fear of kissing under the Mistletoe – Health Central)
  • Simbosiophobia (fear of parties – Health Central)
Man tangled up in Christmas lights.
Selaphobia: the fear of flashing lights. Just in time for the holiday season.

I have to say, I learned something after writing this. If you thought someone seemed a little “off” around the holidays, it could be an actual full-blown phobia.

Health Central offers that “various treatment options are available and these include medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, and counseling. There are self-help options available as well, but self-help is probably most effective when used alongside some form of talk therapy.”

8. Your parents ruined Christmas

Parents are famous for carrying on traditions that scar children for life. In the video below, Flula Borg, a German comedian, describes a German fear-based Christmas to Conan O’Brian, an American talk-show host.

Flula references “Krampas” – a frightening character that scares children into being good. According to Wellness Mama, “December 5th is known as Krampus Night, or Krampusnacht, where the hairy devil appears on the streets. Traditionally young men dress up as the Krampus on the night of December 5th. They’ll roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells.”

The Smithsonian Magazine goes further into detail. Krampus tags along with St. Nicholas on Krampus night. While St. Nick is on hand to put candy in the shoes of good kids and birch twigs in the shoes, the Krampus was there to punish the kids, even beating them with the birch branches!

Flula educates Conan about Krampus, the child-eating monster who parents dress up like to discipline their asshole children.

This tradition was brought over to the U.S. by German immigrants. I recently chatted with a relative who was sharing stories of my grandfather over 100 years ago. Back then, St. Nicholoas would visit the houses with a “black” St. Nicholas. Lousiana Folk Life has a thorough article explaining the disappearance of this German Christmas traditions in a German community in Lousiana – it’s a fascinating read.

9. Check your Christmas attitude

Life co-exists with the Christmas holidays. Problems don’t go away, although they may be put on hold.

Work-related problems, marriage issues, family issues, health problems, breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend, car problems – $hit happens. When nothing seems to be going your way, it’s hard to not let it impact your merry holiday.

Grumpy caucasion man with Santa hat on head.
A grumpy Christmas attitude.

Whatever you do, don’t kick your dog or cat. See your bad Christmas mood for what it is, and then make adjustments.


10. Too busy for Christmas?

I reveal in a post that I am a Christmas hater, I admit that I resent Christmas because I feel too busy to be bothered with it, that it steals my time. Besides the fact that I am a busy person in general, I don’t plan well.

I am famous for overestimating how much time I have for the holidays. I used to think that Black Friday shopping was silly, now I understand why prepared people do their shopping early.

You know what doesn’t go well together? Moms who are too busy, and a major national holiday of gift giving. Some how, some way, that needs to be reconciled. Rushing around doesn’t help your holiday mood. Secretly, you feel like a failure. It’s hard to get into the holiday spirit with that yoke is wrapped around your neck.

A photo blur of busy shoppers.
Can you relate to this image of busy holiday shoppers?

Christmas has become increasingly commercialized, and it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of gift-giving and holiday parties. There is only two ways to solve this: become less busy, and be more prepared.

Ever hear of “Christmas in July”? Yeah, I hate anyone who brings that concept up. Please ignore the marketing aspect of it, and just try to put some thought into shopping earlier.

Ultimately, spend time reflecting on what’s truly important to you. It may be spending time with loved ones, volunteering at a local charity, or simply enjoying a quiet evening at home. Remember that the holidays are about love, kindness, and generosity, not material possessions.

11. No Christmas surprises

Have you ever had a Christmas surprise and it was hard to keep? Christmas surprises are the BEST! Going back to the theme of your childhood, Christmas was all about surprises and big presents under the tree. As an adult, you may not have had Christmas surprises for years. After all, your needs are less as you are older.

I’m creative to the core of my soul, and I really strive to come up with clever Christmas gifts.

I am convinced that having Christmas surprises is one of the key factors in making it feel like Christmas.

It’s not about surprises for me, it’s about Christmas surprises for others that get my Christmas spark going. If I don’t have a little something special well-done for the season, I feel a bit down.

Mom and dad in fun opening a jumbo box with their daughter popping out by the Christmas tree.
Everyone should give (and get) a delightful Christmas surprise.

It’s not hard to whip up your own Christmas surprise magic. Leave a thank you bag out for the delivery guy – they work extra hard during the holidays.

Christmas military homecoming surprises are always good for a warm and fuzzy feeling. I was part of arranging a surprise for my family. It really is an off the charts way to get you out of your holiday funk.

Ever watch one of those Christmas flash mob videos? It usually happens in malls at Christmas. A group of singers conive to make a secret pop-up performance for unexpected shoppers. It’s so cool to see the look of confusion of people’s faces, and then genuine happiness. Definitely leaving the crowd feeling holiday goosebumps!

12. Christmas expectations too great

This reminds me of gingerbread house kits – your creation never looks like the picture on the box. How about the visions you had for an amazing Christmas dinner – only to have a recipe fail.

I remember mom having two Christmas trees. She had one for show that was coordinated and perfect. The second one was confined to our finished basement, where the family Christmas was held. The basement tree was not perfect, and had all of our hand-made Christmas ornaments. Of course I loved the basement tree more.

Maybe you have all of these holiday expectations of everything coming seamlessly together, and then it falls apart. A flight is delayed, the store is out of a toy you want for your kids, the budget doesn’t allow for something you would like.

African American family: dad, mom, son, and daughter having a picture perfect Christmas.
A picture perfect Christmas.

How many of you have bought a gift that you thought was perfect, only to discover the person didn’t like it? I don’t know about you, but I feel like a Christmas failure if a gift misses the mark.

At what point do you declare, “Christmas is ruined!”? I hope it doesn’t get that bad, and you find a way to turn it around. One Christmas, all of my family had the flu – the Christmas feast became hot dogs.

Being sick at Christmas is a perfect example that you don’t have control over the holiday, you can only make the best of it.

Remember, Christmas expectations vs reality can be a wide divide.

13. Is your house ready for Christmas?

My mom always insisted that the house be clean for Christmas before anything else happened. This included visiting Santa or unwrapping gifts. We couldn’t start any festivities or go anywhere until the house was clean.

I lived in one of those old farmhouses that had a parlor in the front – perfect to show off a lighted Christmas tree. Honestly, that was one of the few times of year our house was clean. Experts say that living in a messy house all the time causes anxiety.

A caucasion middle-aged woman touches a single ornament on her Christmas tree.
Making your home feel cozy and ready for Christmas is within your power.

I remember gazing at the lights on our Christmas tree and soaking up being in that perfect farmhouse parlor. It was magical. Later in life I discovered that I was an introvert, and preferred to migrate to quiet places. Living in a messy house isn’t “quiet” and can be reason why you’re feeling off.

Christmas decorating

My advice: get your home or apartment ready for the holidays. It can’t possibly feel like Christmas in the same environment that it is the rest of the year. This means putting up Christmas decorations, or shop for some new ones to have a change.

Take a stab at decorating the table if you’ve never done it before. It’s up to you to jingle up your home place!

Don’t feel like decorating your Christmas tree? Have someone else help who really loves decorating Christmas trees. It might not even be that you dislike decorating for Christmas, as much as it is decorating alone. I’ve found that many widowers have their grandkids come over to help with the Christmas decorating.

Speaking of kids, they’re always in the Christmas spirit. Borrow nieces and nephews, grandkids, or neighbor kids and they will happily get the Christmas decorating done for you.

And for pete’s sake, do something different for the Christmas holiday table. If you’re going to use paper plates – make them Christmas holiday plates. Take a stab at decorating the table if you’ve never done it before. It’s up to you to jingle up your home place!

14. Having the Christmas blues

Hey, we all get into a “funk” and just feel “off” or just can’t get into the holiday spirit. It can be hard to put our finger exactly on why this is.

Young caucasion man feeling depressed at Christmas.
Feelings sad during the Christmas holiday.

Maybe the Christmas blues come from being alone during the holidays. However, Christmas blues can be more than that, it can be due to depression or S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I address more of the mental health aspects and loneliness during the holidays in my Holiday Blues article. I encourage you to read it for more helpful information.

As always, if your sadness is overwhelming, or you are thinking about self harm. CALL IMMEDIATLY FOR HELP! The number below (dial 988 from a mobile phone) can get you talking to a trained counselor in minutes.

Number for suicide hotline - call 988.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours, seven days a week.

988 Lifeline Chat and Text is a service that has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

 By calling 988 you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

The gift wrap up

See? I told you that there were plenty of reasons why it doesn’t feel like Christmas. Luckily, there are plenty of actionable steps to stop feeling sorry for yourself, and start getting into the holiday spirit!

Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee brings over 30 years of gift giving experience to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, workplace and faith events. Every life moment is cause for celebration or those times in life when we need the "the gift of support". Her mission: Let's all be better in appreciating one another, put an end to meaningless gifts that clutter our lives, and give from a place of love and kindness. This midwest mom (and grandma) offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!