At this time of year with the almost constant bombardment of festive merriment, Christmas can seem pretty impossible to avoid.
But for many who are perhaps dealing with grief, loneliness, mental health problems, relationship troubles or a host of other issues, they might not feel like celebrating at all.
Now HuffPost UK has spoken to three families, who have chosen to cancel Christmas to explain why they’ve given themselves a Santa sabbatical for 2017.
Faye from Burnley, Lancashire, has decided to cancel Christmas for the first time ever this year after becoming disillusioned by the commercialised nature of the holiday and watching it moving away from its religious roots.
Although the 25-year-old was raised as a Pagan, not a Christian, so never attended church for Christmas, she objects to how the season has become “more about money and presents than anything remotely Christian”.
She doesn’t want to be setting this as an example for her daughter Alyssa, 5.
Instead of celebrating with gifts, turkey, and watching the Queen’s speech on the sofa, Faye and Alyssa will be spending a week handing out shoe boxes and volunteering in soup kitchens for the homeless.
There are hundreds of children who don’t have families, who don’t get presents, who are alone this time of year…”
The single mum says that her daughter does not object to this decision to cancel Christmas, because she doesn’t believe in Father Christmas anyway. “We have had fallings out in the past with regards to Santa,” explains Faye.
“She gets spoiled all year round so theres no big desire for Christmas presents,” as long as she gets to spend time with her mother, she is happy.
“My daughter doesn’t need toys and there are hundreds of children who don’t have families, who don’t get presents, who are alone this time of year.”
She also believes that other parents, who use things like SantaCam or Elf on the Shelf to ‘monitor’ their children in return for rewards, are “bribing” them with presents: “There is no other time of year people bully their children.”
While the pair will not see extended family over the Christmas period, Faye maintains that she is choosing an alternative Christmas for good reasons: “I think more people should be teaching their children the spirit of Christmas instead of putting such weight on competing with other parents and what people will think.”
Laura Barnes, 37, from Glasgow decided to cancel her Christmas this year after she discovered her husband had been having an affair.
The discovery only happened last month, and he has since moved out of the family home, but Laura says it has thrown her world into “utter chaos” and “the pain and humiliation” is currently overwhelming.
The couple and their two young daughters normally spend the festive period abroad with friends and extended family, and had spent most of 2017 making plans for their annual holiday trip.
But Laura says she couldn’t face it after the breakdown of her relationship: “I can’t physically go through that, with everyone else there together, it would have broken me.”
This time of the year forces you to reflect on what isn’t working…”
“Christmas to me is about family and love, and the strange thing is if I hadn’t found out, we would still have been spending Christmas together as if we were a couple,” said Laura.
Aside from the emotional trauma that has left her feeling like she has been “in a car accident”, Laura could also no longer financially afford to take the break anyway.
Rather than force a social celebration with lots of other people, instead, she and her daughters will spend the day together: “I am lucky I have my children, others without them must feel so alone.”
Laura hopes that having a low-key approach to the season will give her the space and time to come to terms what has happened to her family unit.
*Names have been changed to protect identities where requested.
Louise Dodds, 31, from South Shields, is not celebrating Christmas for the third year in a row, after she was widowed at 29 years old when her partner Andy, 32, died in a cycling accident in France.
The first Christmas after Andy died in July 2015, Louise says she “didn’t know what to do” as it had only been a matter of months (not to mention his birthday falls in the week before Christmas) and she was still in the early stages of grief.
Spending the holiday at her mum’s, she says her relatives wanted everything to be “fine” for her, but she couldn’t cope. “I just cried. It was so hard.”
Writing [cards] without his name was horrendous. I cried all the way through…”
In 2016, she divided the festive period between New York and Holland with friends, but again struggled to not just drift off to “sleep, cry and be alone”.
This year, Louise has decided to “do it her own way” and is flying to Mexico for several weeks until Boxing Day, she says: “I’m hoping trying to ignore it will help and the lack of forced festivities and merriment will make the time easier,”
Although she will be alone, she will be taking some stuffed penguin toys with her, because they were her ‘thing’ with her late husband.
“My mum in particular I think was a bit concerned, she just doesn’t want me to be on my own. [But] overall everyone understands that I’m doing what I feel I need to in order to cope with a difficult time of year,” said Louise.
Part of the problem is that Andy was such a lover of Christmas: “It was always such an amazing time for us and we would normally be totally involved with family, friends, everything,” says Louise.
Since he passed, she has not wanted to receive or give gifts, and even cards have been a wrench, because she cannot write his name: “It breaks my heart.”
Louise says: “To me now I don’t see Christmas as a positive thing, I see it as something that brings back too many memories. Although they are all good, I find that harder, because I know how much he would be loving it.”
For other people grieving at Christmas, Louise, who is part of the WAY [Widowed And Young] support group for those widowed at a young age, recommends doing what you feel you need in order to get through the season.
She concludes: “We all need to remember to practice self-care, it’s so important.”