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Chandler: Anyways, I was just thinking, if you had gone to Vail, or if you guys had been with your family, or if you didn't have syphilis and stuff, we wouldn't be all together, you know? So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm very thankful that all of your Thanksgivings sucked. [...]
Ross: And hey, here's to a lousy Christmas.
Rachel: And a crappy New Year!
Friends, "The One Where Underdog Gets Away"
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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, grief for a lost loved one or lost relationship felt that much more keenly, or bad memories associated with the holiday, 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 or customs, someone coming out of the closet, etc.

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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, Valentine's Day Vitriol for the Valentine's Day version, 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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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • 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).

    Anime and Manga 
  • Kirakira★PreCure a la Mode: It seems to be a nice Christmas party at the Kira Kira Patisserie until Yukari announces that she's going to leave the patisserie to study abroad. Even though Ichika doesn't hold Yukari back on her decision, she, Himari, Aoi and Pekorin all cry at the end of the episode.note 
  • Toradora!: Which was supposed to be a good Christmas for Taiga Aisaka and Ryuuji Takasu ended badly for both of them. After surprising a sad and lonely Taiga with a giant teddy bear being Santa Claus, both Taiga and Ryuuji went happy. Then Ryuuji leaves to talk Minori Kushieda to declare his feelings for her. Once he left, Taiga realized she loved Ryuuji all the time and runs crying and screaming his name just to find he's already gone. And Ryuuji? He was rejected by Minori before he said a word, getting sat in the middle of the night until dawn (IN WINTER) and being hospitalized for the rest of the year.note 

    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.
  • 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 of Leo's solitary training are interspersed 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 April's window. The next issue is spent trying desperately to flee the Foot as April's store burns down, and the Turtles spend the following year in exile trying to heal from the brutal defeat.
  • The Snowman: The boy was having a great adventure with his living snowman friend. So what happens to the snowman at the end? He melted.
  • A MAD Magazine satire of "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" showed that if modern Christmases have become crappy for the people, it's become even worse for Santa: no reindeer for his sleigh, no elves to make the toys, no workshop to make the toys due to a lack of insurance and a tax audit, people shooting at him with their guns, irradiation from nuclear plants, among other things. At the end of the satire, Santa decides that he's going to retire and is seen riding off on his rocket-powered sleigh, kicking the sack of toys off it in disgust.

    Comic Strips 
  • While any holiday has the potential to be this in Peanuts, Valentine's Day in particular tends to be a miserable occasion for Charlie Brown each year. As he memorably puts it in one strip, "I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a Valentine's Day to emphasize it?"
  • 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, and the Christmas items are pushed out earlier and earlier. (Case in point, a customer is horrified that the Halloween stuff is next to the Christmas stuff.) A Running Gag also has Stuart, who practically worships corporate, try to think of ways to make other holidays (e.g. Easter) into Christmas, to boost sales; these plans are alternately dreaded and laughed at by all. Thanksgiving also gets particular ire by the employees, since now Grumbel's insists on being open that day, keeping them away from their families, and they still have the dreaded Black Friday to look forward to. And even after Christmas is over with, they don't get much of a reprieve, as by New Year's the Valentine's Day stuff is out, and then Easter.

    Fan Works 
  • In My Huntsman Academia, New Years has never been a particularly festive time for Izuku. He usually spent it nursing the injuries he got at combat school while trying to overcome his Brokenness and never had friends to hang out with prior to coming to Beacon. As a result, the day used to just pass him by uneventfully aside from watching the countdown on TV with his mother. Yang is appalled by this and immediately ropes him and their friends into a friendly game of bowling to give him something to do.

    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, 'Christmas 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.
  • The Santa Clause starts off with some tension; Laura and Neal go to drop Charlie off at Scott's house, but Scott isn't there, so the three of them have to wait for him. Scott and Laura argue when he does show up, and Charlie complains about having to stay. After Scott burns their turkey, he and Charlie go to Denny's, they and don't get their first choice in anything to eat, because the restaurant is nearly out of food. Once Santa falls off their roof, things look up for Charlie, but stress compounds for Scott.
  • Subverted in Nothing like the Holidays. Yes, the father's looking-at-women causes some strife and threatens the family's holiday season, but for the most part, they manage to hold through. Of course through shootings too.

    Literature 
  • 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 
  • British soap operas can often be expected to have their worst tragedies happen on holidays. Christmas especially.

  • 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.
  • 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 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".
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "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:
    • 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", with the most comic being "The Next Doctor" (GIANT STEAMPUNK CYBERMAN IN 1851 LONDON).
    • "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.
    • By "Voyage of the Damned," Christmas became so notorious for bad things happening — invasions, killer robot Santas and so on — that the populace of Central London have wisened up and fled to the country, 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:
    The Doctor: [to Mr. Copper] Look, I don't know where you're getting your information, but you're completely wrong. Christmas isn't a barbaric festival of blood. It's about love and thanksgiving and generosity and... who am I kidding, all of my Christmases are like this.
  • EastEnders is so notable for this that it's actually lampshaded by the Doctor in "The Impossible Planet" when he and Ida are exploring below the surface of Krop Tor:
    The Doctor: Oh, did you have to? "No turning back"? That's almost as bad as "nothing can possibly go wrong" or "this is gonna be the best Christmas Walford's ever had."
  • 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 how his parents told him they were divorcing over Thanksgiving dinner and how they screwed up his childhood. It gets so bad that the other friends have to prepare non-Thanksgiving food for him.
  • London's Burning:
    • Like most firefighters, Station Officer Tate is not a fan of Guy Fawkes Night. The Very Special Episode set on that particular holiday thoroughly demonstrates why, as Blue Watch have to break up a couple of bonfire parties whose pyres are in danger of taking nearby buildings with them (one of which turns out to have had a teenage boy accidentally burned alive in it) and deal with a house fire caused by some genius inadvertently shooting a bottle rocket through the kitchen window on top of all the stuff they have to deal with on a regular shift.
    • Downplayed by the Christmas Episode, surprisingly: Almost everyone in the cast is clearly under considerable stress at various points, and the people whose Christmas Eve dinner was interrupted by a restaurant flooding and catching fire both at once certainly must have found it a straight example, but the episode ultimately ends on a surprisingly high note.
  • Any holiday episode of Malcolm in the Middle, pretty much without fail.
  • 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.
  • Most holiday episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch involve some kind of holiday-specific disaster occurring. 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 inadvertently summoned to Westbridge.
  • 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.
  • 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. Solving a murder is an improvement for him.
  • The Christmas special from Pretty Little Liars was rather relaxed compared to most episodes of the show, as the characters attempted to get over what happened in the previous one and celebrate the holiday, as even A was, apparently, doing the same. However, it was still pretty serious, especially at the end. Alison spent the entire episode having dreams about her past and ended up alone while everyone else was celebrating together, and A still stopped by to visit the protagonists, decorating their tree outside while they had dinner.
  • Seinfeld: George's father made up a holiday of his own, Festivus, specifically to be this.
  • On Scrubs, JD explains that one of the worst nights of the year to be "on call" is Christmas Eve. Turk starts out all excited about being on call, but then he has to deal with the aftermath of drunk drivers, drug overdoses, Domestic Abuse against both women and children, crazed shoppers, drive-by shootings, burns and amputations. By the end of the night, he is exhausted and burned out. Helping a teenage girl with a high-risk delivery in a nearby park helps him get back in the Christmas spirit.
  • 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.
  • 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!

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    Video Games 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • On one episode of Hey Arnold!, both Helga and Arnold complain about 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 town's 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! All he wants for Christmas is the ability to hate Christmas, and thanks to an elaborate Batman Gambit on the part of Santa Claus, this wish is granted.
    Doofenshmirtz: Argh, I hate Christmas. (Beat, realization) Yes! I hate Christmas! Woohoo! This is the best Christmas ever!
  • 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.
  • In Moral Orel pretty much everyone had a crappy Easter weekend, to the point Rev. Putty nearly renamed his sermon 'Hopeless'. It'd take too long to explain what happened to everyone, so just for an idea, here's what happened to the title character, Orel. He got shot by his own father, who was drunk, and then didn't get it treated for two days, leaving an injured Orel alone in the woods. To top it off, Clay denied doing it, since he was drunk and couldn't remember. That event ends up shaping much of Season 3.
    • Christmas isn't much better for Orel either. The details are better suited for Twisted Christmas, but the gist is one year he faced the possibility that his parents might divorce, and the next year he learns he'll be limping the rest of his life because of his father shooting him. That Christmas wasn't much better for Clay either.
  • The Simpsons rarely ever have a Christmas that goes smoothly, but "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" shows without a doubt their worst one ever. First Bart accidentally sets the tree on fire, destroys it and all the presents, and buries it under the snow to hide what he did from the rest of the family. Then he spins a lie that a robber stole everything. The story gets out on the news, prompting the whole town to come forward to their aid, gifting the family $15,000. They blow it all on a new car that they lose immediately to a frozen lake. Then word gets out that the whole thing was a lie, and Springfield as a whole starts to treat the Simpsons as pariahs. By the end of the episode, the family have lost all their possessions, save for a single washcloth that they fight over.

And God damn us, every one!

 
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Christmas Shopping Gone Wrong

In this opening credits sequence, Christmas goes slightly awry upon first contact with the holiday retail experience: stampedes, brawls over potential gifts, shoppers getting tasered, long queues, financial woes, and a fist-fight in the middle of the Nativity play.

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