It's the least wonderful time of the year!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 due to trying to make everything perfect for the family, or family just coming to you to ruin your day, or braving the long, savage lines in stores and still not getting the perfect gift, or 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 (enough to qualify as a subtrope), Thanksgiving is also a frequent target in the U.S. 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. Sometimes associated with Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday. 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.
"I HATE WORKING CHRISTMAS! I HATE WORKING CHRISTMAS! STUPID, ANNOYING, PUSHY, LAST-MINUTE CUSTOMERS! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!"
"I HATE WORKING CHRISTMAS! I HATE WORKING CHRISTMAS! STUPID, ANNOYING, PUSHY, LAST-MINUTE CUSTOMERS! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!"
— Jen, 6teen, "Deck the Mall"
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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)
- 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.
- Taken to a massive extreme in Leonardo #1 of the original Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and its followup issue. The Turtles are preparing for Christmas at April's while Leonardo is out training by himself. Shots are interpsersed with Leo's solitary training with Mikey, Raph and Don decorating, wrapping gifts and cooking. Unbeknownst to them, Leonardo is ambushed by the Foot, and gets a very nasty Christmas surprise; The Shredder is ALIVE, and beats him half to death, before throwing him through Aprils window. The next issue is spent trying desperatly to flee the Foot as Aprils store burns down, and the Turtles spend the following year in exile trying to heal from the brutal defeat.
- 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
- The basic plot of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Then things get really ugly.
- Home for the Holidays has Holly Hunter going home to spend Thanksgiving with her dysfunctional family. After getting fired from her job.
- One Magic Christmas begins with the heroine's husband out of work and out of money with their house about to be foreclosed on. Then it goes From Bad to Worse when her husband gets killed in a bank robbery that goes bad, her children get kidnapped, and she is told that they drowned in a car that fell into a frozen river. All this is meant to teach her An Aesop about being content with what you have. Somewhat averted though, since when things magically get put right at the end (by Santa Claus no less!), it's considered a happy ending.
- The film Krampus has this spark the plot of the family being attacked by the titular monster.
- Subverted in Nothing like the Holidays. Yes the father's looking-at-women causes some strive, and threatens the family's holiday season, but for the most part, they manage to hold through. Of course through shootings too.
- 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.
- 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:
Who am I kidding? My Christmases are always like this.
- 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 and Wilfred Mott). Good thing too, because the Titanic is almost dropped from orbit onto the city. Also, in the same episode, the Doctor lampshades this trope:
- 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.
- "The Feast of Steven", which aired at Christmas 1965, averts this trope. At the time, the series was mid-way through the twelve-part epic "The Daleks' Master Plan", but the ongoing storyline was put on hold for a week (though it is mentioned in passing) in favour of a light-hearted romp, which involves the Doctor, Steven and Sara becoming caught up in a series of misunderstandings in both contemporary England and 1920s Hollywood. The scenes set in England take place at Christmas and the episode ends with the Doctor saying:
- 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.
- 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.
- British soap operas can often be expected to have their worst tragedies happen on holidays. Christmas especially.
- The Arrogant Worms song "The Christmas Song". And some of the other songs on their "Christmas Turkey" CD, which is basically a collection of Anti-Christmas Songs.
- The song "The 12 Pains of Christmas"
- "Holidays in the Sun" by The Sex Pistols, from Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols — "A cheap holiday in other people's misery."
- "Thanksgiving", by Loudon Wainwright III.
- The Radiators (US): Their anti-Mardis-Gras song "Ain't Ready for It" looks at Mardis Gras from the perspective of someone living in New Orleans.
"I'd fly to Colorado, but I ain't got the cash. Who's going to pick up all the goddamn trash?"
- Referenced a few times in Kingdom of Loathing. The description of the spiced rum item reads "The stench of it reminds you of traffic, crowded stores, and fighting with your family. Oh, I mean, the smell of it reminds you of the holidays. In a good way." Not to mention every year since 2005 it seems adventurers have to bail Uncle Crimbo out of whatever mess he's gotten into.
- Happens in Persona 5. How does the protagonist spend his Christmas? Turning himself in for being the leader of the Phantom Thieves and beginning a month-and-a-half stay in the slammer.
- 5 Everyday Things That Can Literally Drive You Crazy links seasonal affective disorder in part to "three straight months of Christmas music."
- A Running Gag in several articles is the racist uncle who gets sloshed and starts spouting his opinions about everything wrong with the country these days.
- That Guy with the Glasses: "It's the Holiday Clusterfuck, Holiday Clusterfuck / Citizens gathered together to run amok..."
- 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.
- Played with in the episode "A Very Crappy Christmas", which switches around the normal cliches of this trope (the importance of togetherness VS holiday commercialism), where people, fed up with stress and credit card bills, are abandoning the commercial trappings of Christmas in favor of just spending time with family. However, this is disastrous for both the towns economy and for the kids, who look forward to getting christmas gifts all year.
- 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).
- Pretty much the point of the Dilbert episode "Holiday", where all major holidays are merged into the massive "Dogbert Day". The story pretty much revolves around how stressful and unpleasant most holiday traditions are, how people use ANY excuse to blow off work, and how terrible it is dealing with other people during holidays. The only positive aspects that are played up is how important it is to spend time with your family and disregard all the unnecessary crap.
- Parodied in American Dad!. Stan and Francine have a huge argument about how to redecorate the kitchen, and end up separating. They also split the whole house down the middle with a brick wall. The rest of the family alternates between them like a divorced couple. This leads to one character having a loving, warm holiday, while the other has a lonely, sad holiday. It then turns out they just did the whole thing in a week to make each other jealous.
- Christmas in Metalocalypse is this for Dethklok. Let's go down the list: first off, Christmas just isn't brutal. Then they're forced to spend time with their mothers, and keep said mothers from getting drunk. Murderface is trying to put on a Christmas Special but no one will do it because the rest of Dethklok isn't on board, leaving his only sponsor the Christian Church. Toki tries to celebrate Christmas but gets his Christmas presents hocked by Dr. Rockzo to fuel his cocaine habit. The mothers end up finding the booze and crashing Murderface's Christmas special, leading to Rockzo getting a handjob from Serveta, traumatizing Skwisgaar, and Toki unable to exact revenge on Rockzo because a drunk Stella knocked a cross into him, pinning him to the floor. Murderface ends up punched by Nathan for being sponsored by the church, then beaten up by the preacher for the ruined special.
And God damn us, every one!