The Day After Christmas: A Lament

The day after Christmas is cold. Bitterly cold. And unseasonably cruel. It haunts you like an apparition that never comes.

The Day After Christmas

It teases: Next year will be better. 

It lies: If you had only gotten what you wanted.

The crumpled paper and candy wrappers litter the floor like confetti. The living room looks like a circus. If you’re honest, it kind of was.

By mid-day, the house is clean and empty. Sterile, even. The tree, though still up, lacks its luster. Family has long since gone home, and we are left only with our trinkets.

The loneliness sets in.

The mixed emotions collide and cloud our vision. Was it the best day of the year, or the worst? Did we find the true spirit of Christmas and recapture child-like wonder? Or did we lose another piece of our innocence to the cynicism of adulthood?

We think back to the day that now seems so far away, so unapproachable. We sang, we danced, but still wished for more. We feasted and napped, but found no rest.

We waited and waited. And still, we waited more. For Christmas morning — when a child comes into the world and we become children again. But when it came in all its glory, it still felt like we were waiting.

Maybe we were.

Was this how the shepherds felt, after the angel songs ceased and they returned to their flocks? Was this the same let-down the magi experienced, when they began the long trek home and Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt?

Did they wonder, like I do: Was this it? All we had been waiting for? A baby in a manger? A gift card and a food hangover?

Every glory fades, and every coming goes.

There are no words to honor this, only tears. And maybe the hope that there is still more waiting to do.

What does the day after Christmas look like for you? Share in the comments.

174 thoughts on “The Day After Christmas: A Lament

  1. “If I had only gotten what I wanted.” I solved that by determining not to want anything. Oh wait, is that cynical? Well, sometimes it alleviates the endless waiting. You expressed it well.

  2. The day after Christmas was filled with fun in the snow as family shared an extra day before we headed back to work. It also held moments of panic at the thought of not being prepared for work on the road already. Time went to fast. But the road, it gave me time to sit and read while hubby napped. Time to meditate on what Christmas meant, means, and will continue to mean if I apply it to my life. Life like so much else will find its balance in God alone.

  3. Your writing reaches me. The mixture of beauty and sorrow in your words, reminds me of the way I think and write. There is something in me that fears this much honesty in my writing. Reading your words gives me a bit of courage to just write.

  4. yes, a bit of sadness in the relationships not deepened, the toy closet added to to overflowing. yes, a bit of wanting, if we are honest, because, really. we are not there yet. thanks for laying it out honest. my heart hears.

  5. A lot of cooking, baking, a little shopping, more, cleaning, decorating, phone conversations, card writing, entertaing and being entertained. Cultivating new friends, and honoring the old, while sharing pleasantries with those we’ve chosen to forgive, which seems easier at this time.
    Adrenal overload, cortisol maxed and the immune system pays the price. A few down days resting, eating nourishing soups and juices to re energizes my batteries.
    More phone calls, thank yous, email sharing of photos and experiences on the 26th.
    The 27th was for recycling the aftermath and down time to read the new ebook. The 28th
    Is for more normalcy, grocery shopping, and preparing a dinner without leftovers.
    When I sat to write I realized that in all of the above I spent no time to write apart from making lists and answering or sending email, until now. This is way not the norm.
    Now I will write and write inspired by the holidays experiences. Probably no time for sadness or loneliness but definitely room for reflection.

  6. Hello jef; when i was reading this, i was wondering if your christmas was that bad or if you were overstating it to make a point. If we look outside ourselves for happiness we will never find it. and it seems to me you had a pretty good christmas. You had friends and family who stopped by. you had a good meal and presents to unwrap. and to me a gift card is a gift of possibilities regardless of what store it came from. I mean it may be a chance to try a store or product you never would have without the prod of a gift card you have to spend there. as far as the hangover I have never been a big drinker. most people get nervous when a 6 ft 5 300 plus pounder starts bellying up to their bar. truth is i used to be over 500. this year i am down to 260. I am healthy and hope you are too. I know it is trite but it sounds like you need to decide to be happy or you are trying to remind us we need to do so in our own lives. yes i am disgustingly upbeat and considering how long it took me to get here I aint going back. merry christmas and have an awesome new year, max

      1. hi jeff; glad, thought i might have gone a little too far. smile but whether its christmas new years or an average monday morning you have to decide to be happy. sometimes its harder than others. sometimes you really have to look to find the abundance in your life. i wish you a much happier 2014 my new friend. take care, max

  7. This Christmas 2013 came with a shock of a lifetime, my inlays, who drove 14 hrs straight to get to our home, left on Christmas Eve. What caused these two 67 year old adults to leave just two days after they had arrived? Their expectations of my children. They felt disrespected by a 6 and 2 1/2 year old. I am still in shock, was the term terrible two’s just coined yesterday? Was anyone else experiencing unruly children out of their usual routine? I made the call yesterday that ironed it all out, but it still angers and confuses me. No way to you leave at 1pm to drive another 14 hours. Leaving us all in tears and uncertain. Now, I like what Max has had to say, but you are more realistic We can wish in one hand and poop in another and we’ll still just have poop. Faith is there, important, but happiness as an inside job from the heart can seem impossible when your family continues to run away from you and disown you. Talk about being left unfulfilled. There’s nothing like that. Although, getting up and seeing it. Getting up and noticing the people still there, the love available to be had, now that is a Christmas miracle. “Christmas is about REDEMPTION”, I screamed at her as she still packed the trunk of her 2005 buick, it didn’t help. Morale of the story, emotions are real, but they are in essence a simple result of your perception. My husband and I have made the leap into owning a business. It sucks the constant worry, about money and our future. I hope that one day we make into entrepreneurship. Thanks for reading

  8. This entry made me sad for you…I’ve become so accustomed to your optimism and enthusiasm.

    It made me want to share a bit of my own post-Christmas wonderings.

    “…Amongst all the merriment and the bounty of this season, where were You, Lord?
    Did I ever take the time, make the effort to feel Your gifts of joy and truth and love? Did I allow my senses to soar? To be overwhelmed by Your love? I know it is always flowing forth for me, if only I pay attention. Yet, can I be overwhelmed now, after the fact? Can one’s spirit soar in retrospect?

    So often we see Your footprints, understand Your lessons, only after our time with You has passed. Where were You this Christmas, Father? How did You bless me in Your passage, for I know with certainty that You have done so. And did I greet You during this time? Was I hospitable? Or did I shut You out, not wanting to take the time to pause from the flurry of my ‘keeping up.’ …”

    I get to an answer eventually…for myself, anyway…I think spirits can soar in retrospect, if we let them. Consider this an invitation to my fledgling blog,, where I flesh this whole issue out in a bit more detail.

  9. Hi Jeff,

    I have my Christmas lament as well. I’m unwell and feeling disconnected.

    Days after Christmas this 2013 was something like, I don’t know…

    The night passed. And the next day passed. Mostly spent in bed.

    For the past three nights, I had bad dreams. I was feeling down. Somewhat disconnected…

    …sometimes, we feel disconnected. We feel sick physically,
    emotionally, or spiritually. Or unsure what it is.

    But whatever that is – let us strive…

    To reconnect to our Source.

    To encourage ourselves.

    To hope.

    To expect.

    To act.

    To believe.

    To stay in faith.

    As the Christmas season concludes in a couple of weeks and
    as the New Year comes in a couple of hours, let us continue to stay in faith,
    hope, and love – amidst what seems to be mundane.

    In Jesus’ name, we shall seize the gift. Amen.

    [The entire article is in my blog…]

    Chris Dao-anis,

  10. Hi Jeff – for me, the day after Christmas is usually tinged with relief that it’s all over and I’ve survived it for another year – also guilt that, despite trying to be abstemious, we’ve STILL bought far too much food, and wondering how we’re going to get through it all before the “best before” dates expire. This year I was also full of gratitude that we’d escaped some of the miseries many people in our country have suffered – we’ve had storms and floods and in some parts of the country people were flooded out of their homes or left without power for days. We’ve been very lucky. The day after Christmas is just another day to be thankful for, and to live to the full.

    1. I hear you, Sue! My husband and I are still working on finishing our Christmas dinner leftovers. Just a few more slices of ham left…and then oh my goodness, I am definitely eating lighter for a while.

      And I feel so guilty when I turn on the news and see all those poor people suffering around the country. I live in a Southern state, where we rarely get bad weather. We did have a winter storm come through in early December, but even that wasn’t so bad for hubby and I. We simply enjoyed having the day off from our respective jobs while watching the snow fall. It was more like something out of a Christmas song than a disaster.

      So all in all, I enjoyed the holiday season and I’m looking forward to a new year of blessings. However, I just have to add that it really makes me sad when Jeff puts up these posts about feeling depressed after the holiday. I’ll try not to jump on my religious soap box too hard, but honestly…

      The world teaches that it’s all about stuff. Buy this, buy that, and it will make you happy. All that frenzy before Christmas, so that people can try and distract themselves from how unhappy they are. Once the glitter and false cheer are over, no wonder they feel depressed. But that’s not what life, or Christmas, is about at all.

      What’s it all about? Watch “The Charlie Brown Christmas Special.” And then enjoy caroling with your friends around a half-dead tree. 🙂

      1. Hi Lori – I really appreciate your response. I share your frustration with the increasingly materialistic message that gets pumped out every year, which is a complete perversion of the real meaning of Christmas.

        I hope you and your husband have finished all those leftovers and wish you a joyful New Year 🙂

    2. Because of a rare, difficult-to-diagnose illness, I had to spend Christmases 2015 and 2016 in a nursing home, at the rather unlikely age of 53.
      BUT I got to spend Christmas 2017 at HOME, and I relished every second of it.
      Now that it’s over, I feel both let down and vaguely guilty, because I know that I should still be treasuring every moment at home, holiday or not.
      Toward that end, I actually bought some gorgeous Winter-but-not-Christmas dinnerware, so that all meals in the bleak midwinter still feel celebratory.
      It’s a mind game I’m playing with myself, but it honestly prompts me to feel grateful.

  11. The glory faded from the face of Moses. Every year the same sacrifices had to be made. Every day we live through Romans 7. We experience what Paul called “the body of this death.. But the glory of Christ never fades. The after Christmas blues will come and go this side of heaven but we live by faith not by sight. Happy Easter!

  12. I wrote this little letter to my grandchildren on Christmas. Your thought

    My Dear Grandchildren,

    You probably never have heard about the most memorable Christmas of my childhood. I was eight years old and Auntie Donna was four.

    That was a very hard year for my family. My grandfather had a heart attack that summer and my mother had an appendicitis operation that fall. Back in those days when you had an operation you could not work for six months so we did not have much money.

    Christmas was coming and Donna and I were told that we would be not be getting any gifts because there was not any money. Donna and I realized that so we were not expecting anything.

    On Christmas Eve we were sitting in the living room looking at our Christmas tree and Mom was playing her guitar and we were singing Christmas Carols. My grandma was from Norway and she would love to sing the Christmas Carols in Norwegian. Grandma always sang the Norwegian National Anthem on Christmas Eve also. Right now I can hear the words and her voice singing that song.

    All of the sudden there were lights coming down our driveway. Out of the car jumped two men and they were saying “Merry Christmas from the Little Red Stocking Fund”. They pulled out a big box, brought it in the house and they got in their car and drove away.

    We opened the box and in the box was toys and they included two dolls one that was mine and I named her Sally Ann and Donna got a little boy doll which she named Tommy. We played with those dolls for years. Also inside were the makings for a big Christmas dinner.

    I have contributed to the Little Red Stocking Fund for years. This year I gave a little extra money. I will be able to give you less but I gave the money in your names.

    I love you all very much.

    Grandma T.

  13. This year, Christmas day was unexpectedly difficult for me. My wonderful dad passed away in March. We were extremely close. My mom was depressed and decided not to do anything for Christmas. So this was to be the first Christmas in my whole life without my mom or my dad. I am 56. Also, my younger brother died in July. So my family of origin went from 5 to 3, My sister and I aren’t close at all and didn’t even speak on Christmas. We have 5 kids between my husband and I and one child came, and he came to get money and gifts. It was good to see my toddler grandson and my daughter in law also, but she is 8 months pregnant and was wiped out from driving and visiting her side of the family. They were only here for an hour or so at 5 on Christmas day and very tired. I was overcome with grief on Christmas morning. I cried for my dad mostly. and all the wonderful Christmas’s we share in the past. The realization that those days are gone forever. But mostly for the loss of my dad. I cried hard for 2 or 3 hours, I just couldn’t get it together. So I called mom and she came over right away. We just visited and watched you tube videos. We didn’t talk about dad. We didn’t exchange gifts. We spent time together. She is 80. We haven’t been close lately, I have felt left out because my sister lives with her and I’m grateful that she does, but there is a sting to it. My husband cooked literally all day. He made Julia Child’s Beef Boulion, and it was a delicious meal. He chatted with his daughter and grand-daughter and she is so cute. She is 6. But her mom won’t let me be in their life. My daughter won’t either and my stepson hates Christmas and is mentally ill and we never see him. I ate too much. I didn’t go to church. I spent too much money but didn’t go into debt, which is good. For the first time my husband and I exchanged gifts. We never did before because we were in so much credit card debt, we couldn’t. Yes, I felt down all day the day after Christmas. But after writing this, I feel like moving on. Thanking my mom again for coming over. The past is over. And hopefully after more that 8 years, my daughter will come back into my life. I wrote last night and I thought what did I do to alienate my kids, that they will not even speak to me. I know it has to be me. I think I people please instead of being myself and that they don’t respect me. and then when i finally let loose with my opinions or feelings it is so much, that they need to love me but out of their lives. Anyway. I’m going to write a little more. Anyway this is day 2 after Christmas and I am aking down the Christmas tree and decorations that have been up for a month. And move on with my life. Yesterday, I didn’t even take a bath because I was so down. And I’m going to call mom because she made my Christmas day shinier and I have thanked my husband over and over for the wonder meal. I will focus on those and be grateful.

Comments are closed.