Crappy Holidays

It's the least wonderful time of the year!
Jen, 6teen, "Deck the Mall"

Holidays are a time of happiness, togetherness, and fun, right? Wrong! They are an awful time of the year that drains your money, time, and patience.

Whether it be because you are trying to make everything perfect for the family, or family just came to you to ruin your day, to braving the long, savage lines in stores and still not getting the perfect gift, to just never having the time to rest, the difficulty of keeping things in control as the chaos of the holidays approach makes you think they'd be more aptly named "Hellidays". Often, to add insult to injury, freak weather or other acts of "God" will compound the hardship.

This could also be reminiscence, a frequent subversion of the supposedly joyful holiday atmosphere, when characters reflect on how crappy their holidays are. While Christmas is, naturally, the most common venue for this trope, Thanksgiving is also a frequent target in the US. This may be because the latter brings families together but is also completely secular, which is perfect for the mood to be ruined by some argument between people who don't share the same beliefs, someone coming out of the closet, etc.

It is this whenever a certain holiday causes, directly or indirectly, conflict. Can be Truth in Television.

Related (often extreme) tropes are Twisted Christmas, Soapland Christmas (a subtrope specifying both Christmas and Soap Opera), and Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday, all for unusually sinister experiences. See also The Grinch for characters who openly hate Christmas in particular, and Anti-Christmas Song for an entire musical genre built around the Yuletide form of this.

For the other definition of "holiday", compare Busman's Holiday or Horrible Camping Trip.


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  • There's a Target commercial wherein a cheerful hausfrau type is decorating cakes, and describing how much she looks forward to the Black Friday sale, and then she goes on to describe her other holiday preparations, culminating in declaring, "I haven't slept for THREE DAYS!" (cue insane laughter)

    Comic Books 
  • A memorable issue of The Flash has Wally West suffering a horrible Christmas that has him missing his own party due to being delayed capturing some criminals, and then to top it all off discover he's being sued.

    Comic Strips 
  • Every year in Retail, the Grumbel's employees dread the "holiday" season, as that is when the stupidest customers come to the store in the largest numbers, and corporate doesn't help by insisting on better results than are possible. A Running Gag also has Stuart, who practically worships corporate, try to think of ways to make other holidays (e.g. Easter) Christmas, to boost sales; these plans are alternately dreaded and laughed at by all.

    Films — Animation 
  • A Shrek Christmas special had him looking forward to a quiet holiday with his family, ruined when he has a meltdown over it becoming a big impromptu free-for-all party. Donkey later reassures him that this kind of tension is standard holiday fare, telling him "Like my momma always said, 'It ain't Christmas 'till somebody cries!'"

    Films — Live-Action 

  • There's a scene in Hogfather where the wizards at Unseen University start thinking back on all the things that bug them about Hogswatch, including disappointing presents, family feuds cropping up, and flaming rows over board games.
  • The Dresden Files short story "Harry's Day Off" features more things going wrong in Harry's life than a regular novel does.
  • Lori's husband Bill expresses this sentiment at the beginning of Aunt Dimity's Christmas. He points out that he's had to attend fifteen parties in ten days, as well as multiple crowded shopping trips and an expedition the woods for greenery and a tree—and Christmas is still two weeks away.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. The main character hates Christmas so much he decides to ruin it for everyone else. He fails, and in that failure he finds the true meaning of the holiday.
  • Robert Benchley's essay "Christmas in the Afternoon (Done in the Manner, If Not the Spirit, of Dickens)" is a fine example of the trope.
  • One Nation Under Jupiter: Diagoras' run-in with his parents during the feast of Parentalia doesn't go well.

    Live-Action TV 
  • NCIS: Almost without fail, the team is working straight through whatever holiday comes up, usually at Gibbs' insistence. Topped by the time that Ziva and Gibbs are trapped in a gas station, during a blizzard, on Christmas Eve/Christmas Morning, hunted by mercenaries, outnumbered, and delivering a freaking baby.
  • Bones: The main characters are not happy to be trapped in the lab in quarantine over Christmas.
  • The Closer: They get dragged into working through work more than once. Special props for Raydor, who's only still at work because a little brat pulled a see-through Police Brutality Gambit.
  • Any holiday episode of Malcolm in the Middle, pretty much without fail.
  • Most holiday episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch involve some kind of holiday-specific disaster occuring. Sabrina spent most major holidays fixing the holiday related problems she had created. Notable examples include taking over delivery of Christmas presents after injuring Santa Claus, trying to prevent Christmas from being erased as a holiday, rounding up a bunch of monsters she'd recruited for a Halloween party, and dealing with a bunch of zombies she had inadvertantly summoned to Westbridge.
  • Tommy Solomon, 3rd Rock from the Sun, about their first Thanksgiving on Earth:
    Sorry I left like that. I found out something pretty cool. You know how you try to make this a special day, but all the resentment I have for you came spewing out and we ended up spending the whole day avoiding each other? It's normal.
  • Thanksgiving is a frequent target of Friends episodes, including one in which they all shared their worst Thanksgiving memories. Some of these include losing body parts. Chandler in particular hates Thanksgiving because they remind him of his divorced parents and how they screwed up his childhood. It gets so bad that they have to prepare non-Thanksgiving food for him.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Christmas had become so notorious for bad things happening — invasions, killer robot santas and so on — that London is eventually evacuated beforehand (save for the queen). Good thing too, because the Titanic is almost dropped from orbit onto the city.
    • From the viewer's perspective, most of the Christmas specials are pretty grim, in general, even if they do have sillier premises than the usual episode. The grimmest of the lot would likely tie between "Voyage of the Damned" and "The End of Time Part 1", with the most comic being "The Next Doctor" (GIANT STEAMPUNK CYBERMAN).
    • "The Runaway Bride", although a lighthearted romp with a stupidly hammy villain, is considered one of the darkest episodes because it shows the Doctor going over the edge.
  • Tinsel:
    • Christmas and New Year are particularly bad holidays for Amaka Okoh. When she's not being held hostage by a lunatic, she's in jail for murder.
    • Angela Dede doesn't fare any better.
  • Adam-12 has an episode where the officers were trying to help a poor family by getting them some Christmas gifts after theirs were stolen-only to have the gifts stolen when the car they were in was swiped. There's also a drunk driving incident.
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show:
    • An episode has Mary get stuck working (alone, no less) on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
    • Another episode has the whole WJM gang Snowed-In at the studio and trying to feign holiday cheer at a dinner prepared for Sue Ann's already-taped Christmas special.
  • The Bob Newhart Show Christmas episodes tended to feature this. Which makes sense; the main character is a psychologist, after all, so it only stands to reason that the holidays would be (as one such episode's title puts it) "His Busiest Season".
  • Seinfeld: George's father made up a holiday of his own, Festivus, specifically to be this.
  • Poirot:
    • Poor Hercule Poirot can't even celebrate Christmas without having to solve a murder mystery ("Hercule Poirot's Christmas").
    • His friend and confidante, Inspector Japp, spends the holiday with his family, which he dreads.
  • On The Tonight Show, the Mighty Carson Art Players performed a send-up of bright and family-oriented Christmas specials. Everyone was downright miserable and dysfunctional, except for Johnny Carson's character.
    Husband: Christmas sucks!
    Wife: Aw, shut up and drink your eggnog!
    Husband: This eggnog sucks!
  • London's Burning: Like most firefighters, Station Officer Tate is not a fan of Guy Fawkes Night.


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    Western Animation 
  • On one episode of Hey Arnold!, both Helga and Arnold complain on how their families ruin the Thanksgiving Day, and decide to leave their homes and go to Mr. Simmons' house expecting him to have a perfect celebration. It turns out his Thanksgiving Day is even worse.
  • Averted in South Park, in which Christmas in Fire and Brimstone Hell is actually really enjoyable.
  • Ironically subverted in the Phineas and Ferb Christmas Episode. Given Dr. Doofenshmirtz's Affably Evil nature and his history of sadistically tragicomic and consistently crappy childhood experiences, everyone expects him to hate Christmas. It turns out he honestly has no problem with it and was one of the few times in his childhood that "was always fine. It wasn't great but it wasn't terrible either." Turns out that he hates every other holiday, too. Every one, including Flag Day and Mardi Gras. Explained in song!
  • Ironically, one of the most beloved Christmas Specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas, is mostly about how the main character is depressed during the holidays. "I know everyone doesn't like me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"
  • In the first Family Guy Christmas special, Lois is constantly bombarded by one disaster after another. She takes them all in stride until, when trying to clean up after coming home, she freaks out after being told that they're out of paper towels (they actually weren't).
  • The Nickelodeon Doug Christmas episode, "Doug's Christmas Story". Right near Christmas, Porkchop bites Beebe's leg (In order to get her away from thin ice when they were ice skating), injuring her. So Bill Bluff begins pressing charges against Porkchop for injuring his daughter, and he's taken to the pound, with a possible chance of being put to sleep. Interestingly, it's the darkest episode of the Nickelodeon series.
  • Danny Phantom: The Fenton family has a long history of these, most as a result of Jack and Maddie's ongoing argument over the existence of Santa Claus. Highlights include Danny getting peed on by a dog as a baby and the Christmas turkey getting possessed. To top it all off, the special where we find this out involves a giant killer nutcracker, evil Christmas trees, and compulsive rhyming.
  • In The Life and Times of Juniper Lee episode "Magic Takes a Holiday", it seems June might get a short vacation due to Edipan, a week-long holiday where all supernatural beings are supposed to take the week off. As fate would have it, however, she has to deal with a grouchy frost giant who doesn't observe Edipan (and he really doesn't like Labor Day much either).

And God damn us, every one!