The Holiday Hangover 

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We all know the feeling.

In the weeks (sometimes months – looking at you, people who play Christmas music in September) before the holiday season, we are inundated with the message that this is undoubtedly the most wonderful time of the year. There are celebratory lights lining every street, photos of laughing families sent on Christmas cards and highlighted on storefronts, and the word “JOY” literally plastered everywhere. We are fed the message, implicitly and explicitly, that this season will bring us peace and happiness. I know that I can’t help but get swept up in the excitement and anticipation of the holidays and the joy that I’m promised.

And then, before I’ve caught my breath, it’s over.

The end of the season has always brought with it a strange feeling. Personally, I experience this most strongly after New Year’s Eve celebrations. Every year, my expectations of this single night have risen and I have felt acute pressure to make decisions which will guarantee that this will be the most incredible night of my life. I have purchased outfits for this oh-so-magical night, have strategized with friends to ensure that the parties we attended would maximize our fun, and have manufactured an internal image of what the night should look like.

Yet every single year, no matter the length of planning or diversity in decision from the year prior, I wake the following morning feeling let down. Without fail, my reality never meets my expectations, and I feel a loss. Cue: the holiday hangover.

This feeling of confusion and disappointment after the holiday seemed only to be exacerbated in the coming hours. A quick scroll of social media instantly revealed that I was the only one feeling this way: according to Instagram, 73 of my friends had the best night of their lives bringing in the New Year. But after sharing my feelings of disappointment with those close to me, it became obvious that I was not alone.

The reason that I have been feeling let down was obvious, had I taken a step back from my immediate reality. I had been buying into the idea that Christmas and New Year’s would be the answer to my problems. Everywhere I looked, I was fed the line that this season would bring true joy to my life. I was putting my faith in the Christmas season instead of putting my faith in the one person who will never let me down: Jesus.

Jesus is the only thing in in this world who will promise eternal joy and actually deliver on that promise. We were created to seek joy; we were born with an innate sense that things are not as they should be, and we desire to find the solution. We seek after worldly things with the genuine belief that our lives will be made better by them. We do this with all sorts of things: relationships, money, fame, success… and perhaps also holidays.

Thankfully, this idolatry is not a surprise to God! He knew that we would turn to temporary, worldly things even though we were created to seek the eternal. He sent His only son to the world so that we could run after a better hope, a promise which is guaranteed.

Of course, it is absolutely acceptable to engage in and, quite frankly, adore the Christmas season. I have a roommate who loves Christmas so much that it looks like an elf vomited Christmas in our living room. The problem arises when we place our hope in this season as the solution to our problems and the source of our happiness. The problem arises when we expect New Year’s Eve to be the pinnacle of our existence, the way that I did.


How to cure the holiday hangover

We can treat it the same way that we treat other sources of idolatry: flee from it, and ruminate on truth. We can prepare ourselves in advance by acknowledging that the glitz and the glamour are temporary. When we compare the holidays to the promises of God, they inevitably shrink at even the slightest comparison. We were not created to dwell on these worldly things, but on eternal things. Turn your face to God and praise Him that the gospel is objectively the most wonderful news we will ever receive. Its brightness will not fade, and the hope it promises will never disappoint. For “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” (Ps 147:11). Scripture is clear: we were created to put our hope in the Lord, so when we place our hopes elsewhere, we set ourselves up for failure.

The holiday hangover is not inevitable, and has a foolproof cure found in the gospel. Therefore, friends, let’s break the pattern of holiday idolatry this season together and place our hopes instead in the good gifts offered to us freely by the Lord, gifts which will always exceed our expectations.

Brit , University of Illinois Cru Staff