The phrase “Happy Holidays” doesn’t ring true for many people, and the pressure to feel nothing but sheer joy as the calendar year winds down is intense. Besides the crushing capitalist fervor of gift-buying, one of the most common sources of holiday stress is the prospect of having to see family.
Everyone has a family member that they are thankful lives far enough away to only justify seeing them for the holidays. What could be merrier than a visit from Aunt Sasha, who literally only talks about her ex-husband’s many failures even though they’ve been separated for almost 12 years?
Or your cousin who forces you to make embarrassing TikToks with them? How about your grandparents, who once again, unannounced, brought their completely incontinent dog?
While some beloved family members are nuisances at their worst, some take things to another level. Some might refer to such people as “toxic.” They could be any combination of racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic or other forms of ignorant. Others have created “elephants in the room” by doing something unthinkable.
But because they’re your relatives, and therefore you’re supposed to love them, an obligation exists to include them in your festivities.
This idea is so sacrosanct that for generations, countless people have come to dread the time of year that is supposed to bring them joy. Thanks to unwritten societal rules and the pressure to follow tradition, it’s largely unthinkable to even entertain the idea of excluding anyone from holiday celebrations, no matter how awful they may be.
Imagine sitting next to someone in class who started exhibiting the same behavior as that one family member you can’t stand. You would probably be inclined to move away from them and try to forget their existence because no one wants to be around someone who makes them anxious or uncomfortable.
Somehow this practice of setting healthy boundaries in daily life is rude or unacceptable when it comes to family. Thankfully, in recent years people collectively have become more aware of the importance of ending unhealthy relationships, no matter what form they come in.
The concept of “chosen families” is not a new one. It has origins in the…