Home for the holidays

The importance of found family

With Christmas around the corner, I thought it was important to shed light on how depressing the holiday season can be for those who don’t have an amazing relationship with our family. 

Growing up, I was so excited the night of Christmas Eve; I spent the day with my extended family and then stayed up waiting for Santa to come. But what nobody warns you about is how this excitement starts to fade. When you’re in your early twenties and a college student with no children of your own, the excitement you had in your youth doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

The older I got, the worse Christmas seemed to become, with parents fighting the night before and more uncomfortable silences followed by fewer gifts and decorations around the house. So, when I left for college and started to come home for the holidays, I found myself wishing I was still at school. That feeling is hard to stomach. Your new friends that you spend every day with talk about how excited they are to open presents and spend time with family, but you don’t reciprocate that energy. All I wanted was to spend the holidays with my friends.

Now, why do I feel this way? A lot of it connects to my queer identity. I come from an extremely catholic family and I’ve listened to many people in my life excuse bigotry with bible verses. Once I came out to my family, it was difficult not to notice how taboo the topic had become. 

Now, being around them can be exhausting, as if I must put on a performance to be accepted. Coming home brings up old memories and dark feelings I abandoned once leaving for school, leaving Christmas morning to feel isolated. Through therapy and friendships, I realized that it was up to me to spark joy for myself.

So how do I please that inner child? I created a found family, one that consisted of friends who felt similar about the holidays, which made me realize I was not alone. I started to decorate on a budget with Dollar Tree decorations and would throw Christmas parties for my friends and me. 

The holidays are not about gifts but spending time with your loved ones, and for me, my friends are where I find that sense of community and joy. I still spend time with my family, it can be difficult to neglect those who I have spent the majority of my life with, however, I do it sparingly. I need to prioritize my feelings and recognize the traumas that can resurface while being at home. If you find yourself feeling the same during the holidays, make sure to spend time with those who you love, whether that’s friends or family.