Holiday Fizzle: When The Big Day Doesn't Match Up To Your Expectations

By Joanne Engel

I don’t know about your reality, but when I tell you the holidays are nothing like I imagined they would be that is not an exaggeration. In the fifty-plus years I have been alive, my holidays have undergone a series of  huge transformations.



I’ve experienced everything from family-filled feasts to holidays spent hoping someone would invite me over to theirs. My first Thanksgiving someone thought it was cute to pretend I was the turkey and place me in a baby chair in the middle of a table surrounded by about ten adults.  Today, I celebrate with four males ranging in age from 7-75. There were a few decades in between when I was single and never knew where I would be until someone realized I would be alone and extended an invitation.


So if you are faced with a holiday reality that you didn’t expect here are some tips:


  1. Celebrate who IS around your table. It doesn’t matter where that table may be, what food does or doesn’t make it there or how few people there are...Be grateful. If you are in a restaurant be thankful you have no dishes to do (and know your servers are thankful for the tips-they’ve told me). If you are celebrating with someone else’s family because you don’t have relatives nearby, be grateful for the bonds that you share that encouraged them to invite you.

  2. If your family is small, keep it simple. Fewer people around the table means less variety is needed. In our home we serve one main dish (Turkey, Ham, Roast Beef, etc) a few “wow” sides and some simple vegetables. There is much less stress and more time for enjoyment.


  1. Consider alternatives. Invite those you love who may have plans on the real holiday to gather for a “Friends-giving” on a different date. Try traveling and enjoy the reduced crowds at many destinations. One of the best ways to celebrate may be to find a place to serve others. Many churches and other social agencies provide holiday meals and can use the help.


  1. Realize life flows in seasons. Whether you are single, have an empty nest or children spending time with an ex-spouse for the holidays, recognize this may just be a season and let God show you how he is using these experiences to grow you. If you will be alone, don’t hide that fact, there are often friends or coworkers who would be more than happy to make extra room at their table. If you are now the one hosting, look for those you can invite.

  2. Remember it is only 24 hours. Sometimes with all the hype that can surround a holiday it is easy to forget it is only 24 hours. If all else fails and you find yourself disappointed remind yourself you will wake up tomorrow and life will return to normal. Remember you are a child of the KIng and He promises to never leave you or forsake you. Thankfully, His mercies ARE new EVERY morning.


Joanne Engel is a licensed clinical social worker, a wife and a mom from New Jersey.