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The Post-Holiday Slump: The Presence Of An Absence

The Post-Holiday Slump: The Presence Of An AbsenceSome people find the holidays to be depressing. And I can easily see why — there’s plenty of “family” this, “family” that, and if you’ve lost a loved one recently, the holidays can sting.

I, on the other hand, fall into the post-holiday slump.

I mean, let’s face it: the Christmas season is the most exciting part of winter, no? There are decorations and family and trees, and ornaments and lights and cookies —  and it’s early enough in the winter that people are still excited about snow.

Snow! Snow. It’s like this novel thing in December. All the kids are collectively hopeful for a white Christmas, and I don’t think most adults would mind (too) much.

You put up the tree, you put up the lights. You get single lines of Christmas songs stuck in your head for days (“…from Atlantic to Pacific; gee, the traffic is terrific…“)

You wrap the presents, perhaps in a single marathon-style sitting, bitching about the stupid Scotch tape getting stuck to the carpet or about how the paper is so damn thin that you can practically see the title of the book you’ve just wrapped right through the paper.

But still, you don’t mind. Something about life feels warm even though the world outdoors is bitter and cold.

Then, the 25th rolls around. And in the wink of Santa’s eye, it’s suddenly December 26th — just another day.


And then what? Yeah, New Year’s Eve is sort of exciting, maybe. I like framing the midnight countdown as a page flip in my life’s book, you could say. My husband gets a kiss, I wave some streamers in the air and I blow an obnoxiously-toned plastic horn. Weee.

What happens in January? Nothing much. What happens in February? Nothing but Valentine’s Day, which might also be depressing for some. Not until March — where I live, at least — are there even any tiny hints that the world is alive.

January and February are full of snow, dark, and mental yuck.


As I type, I am on “vacation” (see those quotes?) at my dad’s house. My butt is parked on the floor — he has plenty of chairs and couches, I promise you, so I can’t quite explain my seating choice — and there’s a distant, comforting hum coming from the refrigerator over in the kitchen.

I am right next to the tree — the same wiry artificial evergreen my family has had since I was born. It’s held up well and probably is full of lead or something, but no one pays any mind here. My dad and his fiancee decorated it with colored lights, white and silver garland, and an amazing mishmash of ornaments: a stained-glass “Merry Christmas 1979”, a tiny crocheted stocking, those silk-wound spheres from the ’80’s, and a tiny plastic Cabbage Patch doll.

When I return home, I’ll return to my own Christmas tree, which is also artificial and was gifted to me by a neighbor at a yard sale this last summer. It’s wrapped with colored lights and a few ornaments that I found on clearance over the past couple of years during the post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s Eve week.

It’s also got an awesome plastic star on top that glows in multiple colors — thanks, Sal-Val. It was well worth the $2.


And soon, I’ll face the depressing task of un-doing the holidays. Physically unwinding the lights from the tree. Finding a home in my home for the presents I received. Putting the ornaments in the attic. Un-stringing the colorful lights that line my from porch.

I’ll put everything away, and then it will reveal itself to me: The Great Christmas Void. The presence of an absence. A blank wall where the tree had been. A drab porch.

A blue stumble into a cold January.

Photo: Sharyn Morrow (Flickr)

The Post-Holiday Slump: The Presence Of An Absence

Summer Beretsky

Summer Beretsky enjoys writing about her experiences with anxiety, panic, and Paxil. She had her first panic attack as an undergrad at Lycoming College and plenty more while she worked toward her M.A. in Communication from the University of Delaware. She contributes to the World of Psychology blog here on PsychCentral and has written for the Los Angeles Times. You can follow her on Twitter @summerberetsky.

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APA Reference
Beretsky, S. (2013). The Post-Holiday Slump: The Presence Of An Absence. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Dec 2013
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