BLUE CHRISTMAS: observance of the holiday by people who have experienced the death of a loved one over the past year

blue christmas 3

“Ho, Ho, Ho!”

“Merry Christmas”

“Happy Holidays”

“Joy and Peace to you”


Each of these greetings seems appropriate at this time of the year.

Or, maybe not.

In spite of the joy related to the celebration  of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and the traditions (some religious, some secular) which have come down to us over the centuries, Christmas is not always a happy, joyous time.  Sometimes it is generic, having to do with a particular family or community mind-set.

But the other factor that occurs to make Christmas less than joyous is the death of a loved one, particularly when it is close to the holidays.   But if a loved one was particularly involved in the corporate life of a family or a community it may be absolutely devastating to hold that first Christmas observance after their death.   There is an empty seat at the table, a voice missing in the singing of the carols, gifts which don’t appear under the Christmas tree, or a specific poem or reading that the person always recited when the family gathered for the holiday.

This year, for the first time, it won’t happen.  It’s just not the same without that person present.

Elvis Presley picked up on that theme when he crooned “Blue Christmas” in 1957.

Blue Christmas” is a Christmas song written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson and most famously performed by Elvis Presley. It is a tale of unrequited love during the holidays and is a longstanding staple of Christmas music.”(Wikipedia)

For many, the song expresses the sadness and joylessness that one feels when the death of a loved one occurs. It’s just not possible to generate those good feelings that all the other songs seem to believe to be in the hearts of all people.  Even the most devout Christians may find their observance of Christmas to be dampened.  Well-meaning people will tell you to “shake it off” or “get over it.”   But it’s not that easy.   And, therapists will tell you, it’s not healthy to deny the feelings that are real for you.

Blue Christmas has become a tradition in many places, where churches and bereavement communities host events to acknowledge the absence of joy.  It may not be a death of a loved one.  There are many reasons why some people don’t feel happy and bubbly while the rest of the world seems to be gushing good will.

Blue Christmas observances give a voice to those feelings, and reaffirm your right to feel them.  It doesn’t mean that you have to be deeply depressed or despondent.  But it is kind of wonderful to have someone tell you that it’s okay to be missing the traditional joy of Christmas.   The greatest gift a family or friends can give you is a hug and a sense of it being okay and understandable to be down in the mouth this year.

It doesn’t mean that you don’t attend traditional rites or observances.  But maybe you don’t want to go to the secular gatherings afterward.   That’s okay, and…hopefully…well-meaning people won’t pressure you and make you feel awkward because you choose not to attend.  To be “blue” is not to be permanently damaged.   But maybe for now…just now…it’s important to be real, not phony.

It’s okay.


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