JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The holiday season is widely regarded as a time meant to be spent with family. While many people book flights or go on road trips to get all their loved ones under one roof, there are people like me who chose not to spend the holidays with family this year.
While it can be a tough decision to make, here's why you shouldn't feel bad about choosing to sit out the annual holiday family gathering.
Too much drama -- maybe even from your mama.
Not all families are like the Tanners or the Huxtables. Sometimes the private turmoil of family members boils to the surface in the worst possible ways during the holidays. Abuse, affairs, old grudges, spiteful relatives and so much more can make the holidays awkward at best, traumatizing at worst.
No matter the reason for avoiding family celebrations, there are other options.
In my case, I decided to forgo both this year's Thanksgiving family dinner and Christmas gathering, instead opting for a Friendsgiving at my apartment.
I felt a bit guilty at first, but then I thought back to Thanksgiving 2018 when the kitchen wasn't the only thing that got heated. That year, dinner was tense, to say the least.
In contrast, for Friendsgiving, my roommates and I ordered a turkey, made our own favorite dishes and drinks, invited our closest friends and the celebration ended up being perfect. There were none of the tense shoulders, sideways glances or shady Thanksgiving clap-backs that some families experience at the table.
Though nothing beats a home cooked holiday meal from mom, it can be nice to sit down with a group of friends sharing laughter, food and Yuletide cheer.
The cost of traveling is too darn high.
Maybe it's not a matter of wanting to see family but a matter of being able to afford to see family. Booking plane tickets, spending money on gas or booking hotels can all add up to a very expensive holiday season. Some people also have to consider lost wages from taking days off work, since not all employees are salaried, have paid vacation days or can afford to skip out on a holiday surge in customers.
In fact, a lot of your favorite journalists have no choice but to work this holiday season -- after all, news never really takes a vacation.
And don't get me started on the costs of Christmas gifts.
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In 2017, a poll of more than 1,000 adults by the Principal Financial Group — a global investment company — "found that 53 percent of people experience financial stress due to holiday spending, despite the fact more than half set budgets for their holiday spending," according to a report by Psychology Today.
Skipping a holiday trip home because of a lack of funds can make for a lonely season, but it doesn't have to. You can host holiday parties with your friends or go to your office's annual Christmas party for some company -- maybe you'll even witness an office scandal or two.
If those options aren't appealing, then try spreading holiday cheer to those in need within your community. A report released in September by the Council of Economic Advisers shows more than 500,000 people are homeless in America, with about 200,000 of them living without shelter on the streets. Reach out to your local homeless shelter, soup kitchen or food pantry and see if you can lend a hand. 'Tis the season for giving, right?
Bottom line -- you're grown, do what you want.
Whether you're trying to save money or you want to avoid being cast in the annual family soap opera, not going to see your relatives for the holidays is your prerogative.
A holiday spent with friends or spent helping your community can be just as valuable as a holiday spent with family. Whether you're trying to protect your peace or your wallet (or both), just make sure you're as kind to yourself as you are to everyone else this holiday season.
Erica Santiago is a digital journalist at First Coast News.