Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

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.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Troy Beans

    I love Christmas with family, I love life! Life outside of heaven will never be enough!

  • Diana Nesbitt

    The day after Christmas is one of my favorite. It’s the one lazy day I take a year without guilt, enjoying the quiet after the season of hubbub. Knowing that I have already received the greatest gift of all in Christ and that I have His second coming to look forward to helps me not to hang my hopes for a good Christmas on the day itself.

  • Lucie Lemire

    The day after Christmas is the same as the day before Christmas, Christ is in my heart not the tree, or after mat of the party. or those who went home.. Fusion with Christ, the King takes the confusion out and leaves the Peace Giver in. Lucie Lemire

  • Mike C

    The day after Christmas found me looking forward to the New year. Both are family days for all my folks, and we don’t burden ourselves with too much materialism, imbibition, or trying to cram a year’s worth of activity into one day.

    I think the whole question of day-after letdown is a matter of trying to fill a God-sized hole with anything but God. A vital relationship with God in Christ produces godliness, and godliness with contentment and gratitude makes for a blessed existence; holidays or otherwise.

  • Brigette Brugada

    Usually, the day after Christmas–for me–is ultra quiet, as I am single and enjoy a zen-like living space. This year was very different, though. I emptied out my home in Phoenix in early December as I prepare to move to L.A. in January. But I decided to spend the holidays in Phoenix with family before I move. For the past month, I’ve been living with family. It’s been hectic (with little ones running around), full of down-home meals, and great to spend 24 hour quality time with my family before I leave the state. We get on each others’ nerves at times, but we always come back to fun and laughter. The day after Christmas was filled with R&R, Christmas dinner leftovers, and movies. It was one of the best holidays I’ve had in many years. So much love.

  • Cherry Odelberg

    “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.

  • Mary

    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.

  • 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.

  • jill britz

    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.

  • Misty

    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.

  • maxwell ivey

    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

    • Thanks, Max. Love your attitude!

      • maxwell ivey

        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

  • Amy D Frier

    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

  • Mary Adrienne

    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, http://www.walkingwithmybrother.net, where I flesh this whole issue out in a bit more detail.

  • Chris Dao-anis

    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, chrisdaoanis.com

  • Sue Neal

    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.

    • Lori Buckle

      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. 🙂

      • Sue Neal

        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 🙂

  • jeff

    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!

  • Melinda K. Taylor

    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.