Andy Williams once called the Christmas season, in song, "the most wonderful time of the year." He cannot speak for every human being who celebrates the holiday, however. Not every holiday memory is one we come to cherish. In fact, some holiday memories we wish to forget.
Victims of a not-so-joyful Christmas took to Reddit to share their darkest memories. These are their stories. Have yourself a Merry Christmas, better than these people did, at least. Content has been edited for clarity and readability.
"When I was 10 and my sister was 12, my mom spent Christmas Eve at the bar with her friends. There was no Christmas Eve celebration for us. We were just two lonely kids, alone in an apartment without anyone looking out for them. But we were used to that. We had not had a sitter since my older sister was about 9.
But, Christmas still meant waking up to presents under the tree, right?
My sister and I woke up and ran downstairs to the living room and what did we see? Not a single darn present under the tree. Mom had been too wasted and came home too late, so she passed out without putting out presents for us. We trooped upstairs to wake up our mom. She was not at all happy to be woken up and yelled at us. She felt she was the victim here. She then threw our presents in black garbage bags and gave them to us. There was no wrapping to unwrap, just a garbage bag to open.
I think that might have been the first time that I was truly angry because I knew my mom had done wrong. She had been a poor and neglectful mom since my parents' divorce when I was six, but I had always thought the neglect was normal and the abuse (emotional and physical) was my fault because I was a bad kid, as she said. But, that year, I knew my mom was a flawed mom.
It was scary to have that knowledge, to know at a young age that you could not count on the only 'present' adult in your life to actually take care of you and look out for you."
"My cat Sneakers was 20 and was really started to slow down a few days before the holidays. We made a family decision that, after Christmas, she would be put to sleep to prevent her from suffering, as we knew her kidneys were starting to fail.
Around lunchtime on Christmas Eve, my mom called and said that the kitty was not doing well. She asked my sister and I to come over. She was laying on the couch, breathing heavily and hadn't been eating. We cried and petted her for a while until my father got home. Then, my dad, sister, and I took Sneakers to the vet. Sneakers was an indoor cat all her life so, going in the carrier was always distressing for the poor thing.
We arrived at the vet. In the waiting room, I opened the carrier to hold her and comfort her. Suddenly, she bit my hand, sinking her teeth into my finger. Then, she passed away right there. She was most certainly frightened and confused, as she had never done anything like that before. I suppose she wanted to go out on her own terms and gave me a scar to remember her by. After the vet examined her, we took her home and buried her in the yard.
My hand had bled profusely. I was able to stop the bleeding, but my whole hand swelled up. Being Christmas Eve, we were on our way to dinner with my family, so I stopped at the pharmacy to ask if they could recommend anything to help. They said I should really go in to see a doctor.
Luckily, at 5 pm on Christmas Eve, the emergency room at our local hospital was pretty quiet. After waiting a little while, I was seen by a doctor. He gave me a shot of painkillers, a tetanus booster, and wrapped me up. He also gave me a week off work because, in his words, 'It's going to hurt like heck for a few days.' It did.
It was so hard saying goodbye to my kitty, whom I had since I was 5. It was also hard sitting in the ER while my family were having dinner. I tried to keep in good spirits during the hospital visit because I know what a bummer working Christmas is."
"In 2006, my mom woke me up Christmas morning.
'Pack some clothes and grab your stuff,' she said. 'We have to go.'
I packed my stuff up and we headed to my grandmother's. It turned out that my then step-dad got angry at my mom and basically kicked us out of the house because she couldn't afford her half of the mortgage. A year later, I was 18 and had been living with my grandma. I went back to the house to find it abandoned. Most of my stuff was gone, seemingly thrown away."
"One year, my parents decided we should do Christmas in Hawaii. We never ever went away for Christmas. I was in my mid-20s and an only child. It was just us three - no extended family. I was told the trip was my Christmas gift, which was very generous when I was told.
My poor mom had just had a full hysterectomy a few months earlier and was still working on balancing her very messed up hormones. My dad has always been a jerk but, somehow, this trip just really brought the absolute worst out in him. He and my mom fought the entire time. He basically refused to do anything with us as a family.
By the end of the trip, they both said they wanted a divorce. My dad actually changed his flight so he could fly home separately from us. He also tried to turn me against my mom by lying to me about a number of things. It was the sickest, most twisted week and the absolute worst Christmas ever. It still makes me cringe.
To make matters worse, my parents ended up staying in a miserable marriage for another five years before he finally walked out on her. It was actually the best thing that could have ever happened to her."
"I was coming home on Christmas Eve when I saw flashing lights up ahead. The police were detouring us around an accident on the next street over. I saw a life flight come in for a landing. They put a spotlight right on the scene. A pickup truck had T-Boned a silver Trans Am right in the driver's door.
I recognized the Trans Am. It was my assistant manager's car: a 22-year-old girl working her way through college.
Her family lived about a half a mile away. I drove straight over there and told them what I saw. Her parents took off straight to the hospital. The doctors basically took one look at her and pronounced that she died instantly on impact.
It turned out the guy in the truck was fine. Of course, he was wasted off his rear end and ran a stop sign at close to 60 mph, killing her. She was just one of 10 people I have known killed by inebriated drivers in my life."
"I was woken up in Christmas morning by my mom. She told me to bring some books and some snacks and to get ready to spend the day in the ER. My dad was usually the first one to wake up, so it wasn't out of sorts to see him up in the morning. However, when my mom woke up, he kept on asking her what day it was. It was kind of odd, considering it was Christmas.
He spent a long time looking at himself in the mirror, just kind of... staring. He seemed really out of sorts and much slower than usual. My mom thought he had a heart attack and called 911. They figured that it was more likely he had a stroke in the middle of the night. We called my aunt, who is a doctor, and she sent over my uncle to bring us to the hospital. In the car, he kept on asking where we were going, why we were going there, and what day it was. I was shaking in the backseat, but my mom told me to try and stay calm, since crying would only worry my dad more. As a result, I wasn't allowed to go into the hospital room to see him until I calmed down and they had a better idea about what was going on since I might just make things worse.
We had no idea what was wrong with my dad. We knew that he seemed to have lost his short term memory, though he was still aware of who he was and who everyone else was. He knew that my mom was his wife, that my uncle was his brother, and that I was his daughter. If he saw me upset, he would get upset too. When I did go in to see him, however, he did tell me off for touching the dirty hospital bed, which was very 'Dad' of him. I have never been so happy to be scolded, as we knew that the Dad I knew was still inside, just confused.
I spent most of Christmas crying in the waiting room, playing Animal Crossing, and praying that everything would be okay. Whilst there were a few decorations around, the hospital we went to was quite small and, other than the streamers, there was no indication it was Christmas. We went to McDonalds to get lunch for my uncle, my mom, and I, seeing as it was the only place open, but I was too sad to eat much of anything.
Since the hospital didn't have as good of a neurological team as the bigger general hospital, we drove over there to get him transferred. My uncle and I drove to my house to pick up some items for the night to stay over at their house and we went to Christmas dinner. The funniest part was trying to figure out where my dad had ordered sushi for dinner, since we obviously could not ask him. We called every sushi place in the area.
We tried to keep the news from my grandma, only telling her that he was sick and that my mom was with him. Everyone else in the family knew. We didn't want to worry her too much. I think it was because my grandfather passed away from brain cancer and her son also potentially suffering some kind of brain damage might have been a lot to take in on Christmas. It was hard to be happy knowing that we had no idea what was going on with my dad and when (or if) he would recover.
Thankfully, he was discharged the next day. Although he was groggy and tired with no recollection of the previous day, his short term memories had returned slowly over the course of the night. The doctors figured it was a case of global transient amnesia caused by a mild stroke or aneurysm. We opened presents that next day, but it was a rather muted affair as we were too worried about my dad.
If anything happy came out of the experience, it was the importance of family. My uncle gave up his Christmas to spend it with us at the hospital. While he and my dad are not the closest, it meant a lot to me that he would do that. Every Christmas after, I have been thankful that my family is with me and healthy, especially since the Christmas Eve before that, my grandmother was admitted to the hospital for extremely low blood pressure. Those two Christmases were not kind to us."
"My mom gets depressed whenever Christmas is around the corner. Whenever we pass by a house with Christmas lights and decorations, she gets in a really sour mood and says she hates Christmas under her breath. One day, I finally asked her why she hated Christmas so much.
She told me a story about how, when she was little, her family was very poor and could barely afford rent and food. She and her family would walk by displays of baby Jesus and look at trees filled to the brim with lights, stockings, and ornaments. Since her family couldn't afford to buy a tree, my mom would grab a tree branch, grab some dirt and a trash can, and that would be the family Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve, my mom and her sisters would ask for dolls and money. On Christmas Day, there would be cookies underneath their pillows instead.
She said that Christmas time just reminds her of her days living in extreme poverty. She gets mad at people overspending on decorations and buying kids expensive toys that they'll probably just end up tossing in a corner, never to play with it again. It may not be my personal depressing memory, but it's my mom's."
"About five years ago, our dog was looking really bad. My mom was convinced he would make it through Christmas. I, on the other hand, would have been impressed if he made it through the week. On, Christmas Eve, we were all bundled up and ready to head to my uncle's place. My little sister looked up and realized the dog was not in the house.
'Where's the dog?' she asked.
All conversation stopped. My mom and sisters ran outside. My dad and I looked at each other and muttered, 'Oh no.'
Our dog was dead in the middle of the backyard. My dad threw a tarp down. We dragged him out of sight because he was a huge bull mastiff and the ground was frozen, so there could be no burial. Then, we had to break the news to the rest of the family.
The next day, I remembered all too late that we had gotten my dad hockey tickets for Christmas. From the dog. The already muted holiday joy wilted with Blackhawks tickets in a card from our then deceased dog."
"When I was 19, I decided that my gift to my parents would be a reservation for a fancy dinner once things died down. It's hard to buy for your parents when one says that she doesn't want anything and the other says that there's nothing that he needs, so I thought that spending an evening with them and being able to talk and have fun together sounded amazing. It was really important to me because I had to scrape the money together for that, having worked for Pennsylvanian minimum wage ($7.25 an hour), but living in New York.
On Christmas, I told my mother about the gift, apologizing for not having anything physical to give, and she went ballistic. She went on and on about how she and my father deserved physical gifts and just yelled at me for a good two hours while I tried to get her to calm down. I cried, she yelled, I pleaded, she yelled more. My girlfriend just sat there, awkwardly, not knowing what to do. My mother repeated the same thing over and over as she found fit.
'We at least deserved a card,' she kept repeating between finding things to insult my then girlfriend on.
I blew up. I told her how abusive she was, how she treated everyone like crap, that she was a heavy drinker (she was wasted through the whole thing), how she drove away my two older siblings, and that I was sick of her. I had never been so angry in my entire life and I had never stood up for myself until then. She went speechless and locked herself in the bathroom, refusing to come out.
I apologized to my dad for how Christmas ended. He is a more understanding person and apologized for how things unfolded that night. He would have liked to go to dinner, but my mom made a fuss about it so the dinner never happened. He's a really big enabler of my mother's behavior and is generally aloof. I'd say that opposites attract, but they seem repulsed to be in the same room as one another most of the time.
I grabbed my clothes and the stuff that I was afraid they would sell, and left. I moved out that night and in with my girlfriend and didn't return for a long time after. On my drive away from home that night, the highway was nearly empty and I didn't have my high beams on, so I didn't notice the group of deer standing in the middle of the road until I almost crashed into them. I did not know what to do, so I swerved and lost control of my vehicle while it spun out. Luckily, my car wasn't damaged and I was able to regain control of my vehicle, but that felt like the only logical way a crappy night like that would end.
I really haven't liked the holiday since. Thinking about that night still annoys me to this day. It's like an even more aggressive version of when someone says that they don't want help around the house and then complains that nobody ever helps.
As for my girlfriend whom I had at the time, I ended up breaking up with that girl two years later. It was an unhealthy relationship, and growing up seeing one all of my life made me realize how it would not work. She is a lovely person and we still keep in touch, but we didn't work as a couple.
My relationship with my parents now is... strange. They treat me differently now that I come over and help out with things. My mom had an accident and really messed up her arm and my dad works all the time. I go over and help her out with things like driving, cooking, and cleaning. They gossip and complain about one another with me, which is not something that I enjoy. There are just some things that a person should not know about their parents, and I know too much for my own comfort.
They, as we all are, are flawed in their own ways and I cannot fault them for that. I love them dearly, but I always keep in mind how they treated me when I was younger. I guess my take away from all of my experiences with them is that people are complicated and in gray areas as opposed to black and white. I have had awful experiences with them, but at the same time many lovely ones."
"I was around 22, or so. My mother had gotten a settlement recently over some pretty gross negligence that caused a permanent injury to her. She was very involved with her church and had a guy whom she spent a lot of time with who she met there. She spent several hundred dollars to buy him some very nice things that were relevant to his interests, which I thought was nice of her.
On Christmas we opened gifts. The first gift from my mother to me was weird cosmic dolphin stationary - the sort of stuff I would have liked when I was 10.
OK. That's pretty funny.
The only other gift was this weird, dollar store cheap, black, faux velvet shirt and skirt ensemble that was about three sizes too small for me. I tried it on to humor her and informed her politely that it didn't fit right and asked if it could be exchanged. I was gracious about it. My mom lost her mind. She started screaming about how I was ungrateful and if I didn't want the gift I could just give it to a friend or something.
She continued to scream about it for the next five minutes or so while the rest of the family sat in stunned silence. During her tirade, she revealed that it was given to her by someone else as a gift and she hadn't liked it, so she gave it to me. Needless to say, I never went to another Christmas while she was alive and I am now completely estranged from the rest of my family as well.
I think her negative feelings regarding me stem from her hatred of my father as well as the hatred one of her boyfriends had for me. He influenced my mother to abandon me at my aunt's house when I was eight. She had another kid with him and was barely involved in my life outside of holidays. There was a lot of other poor treatment by her, although I know that a lot of it was her being manipulated and not understanding that her hatred of my father was being pushed on to me.
At her funeral, people from her life and close friends had no idea I was her daughter. They had no inkling of who I was. I left the funeral mid-way through and never looked back. In retrospect, I don't hate her or anything. I feel bad that she was used, mistreated, and manipulated by so many people. Nobody ever gave her the proper help she needed."
"It was Christmas Eve, 2012. I, very inebriated at the moment, started an argument with my brother at our parents' house. I said some not so nice things and basically told him he wasn't my brother. In the morning, I was awakened to the haunting screams of my mother as she found him hanging from a tree by the shed when she went to feed the cats."
"Every Christmas after I had a termination of pregnancy for medical reasons has been difficult. When I hang my kids' stockings, I always know one is missing. I always think of what she might have had on her Christmas list based on how old she would've been.
It has been five years now for me. The hardest day was what should have been her first day of kindergarten. As I watched my other children board the bus, I thought about how they would've been so proud to make sure their little sister made it to her classroom. Each year that passes gets a little easier. I have found my new normal as I carry my grief."
"My parents, grandmother, and myself were all supposed to go to Hong Kong for a vacation trip early December in 1975. We went to the airport and discovered Mom had forgotten their passports at home. Just as well, she had actually gone to the family doctor the day of the flight, who had inserted a catheter into her and told her she'd have to go to a hospital in Hong Kong upon arrival. I guess she didn't want to ruin the trip for everyone else. She went into the hospital for a week at home instead.
Dad was able to reschedule my trip, so I went a week or so later by myself. He called me in Hong Kong at my hotel and said she had gotten worse and we were going to lose her. He arranged for an early flight home for me.
My mother passed away December 21, 1975. She was buried on Christmas Eve. It was an awful Christmas."
"When I was a freshman in high school, my grandma and grandpa insisted we have Christmas Eve dinner out at a Chinese restaurant. Many stupid, racially insensitive jokes were made about the name of dishes because my family is pretty stupidly racist. Overall, it wasn't amusing to me in the least. We all ordered and the big platter for appetizers came out first. Then, two kettles of still boiling green tea.
The waitress was balancing the platter with all of them on her hand. She chose to put down the appetizer platter first. This unbalanced the kettles and both came crashing down, dumping all their contents onto my back. I was wearing flannel.
I, of course, said, 'Ouch,' not feeling it immediately. I got up for a moment saying I was OK, only for the pain to hit like a bus. Instead of screaming, I apparently said, 'Owwie!' loudly and a lot, as my skin immediately started blistering, sticking to the flannel shirt I had on. My mom, concerned, ran me to the bathroom and took off my shirt to see how bad it was. I had blisters about the size of my fist by that time that just started pouring out their oozing, watery goo as she got my shirt off.
The restaurant staff knocked at the door and offered some weird looking salve. Instead, my mom piled me into the van with the seats down so I could lay down and drove me immediately to the hospital. When we got there, I barely draped my back with my flannel shirt, and we walked in and waited in line while I was shaking and in a ton of pain. It was a freaking long line, so I eventually got tired and screamed at them telling them that I was burned and needed to be seen immediately. So, they did that - got me a bed pronto, pumped me full of painkillers, and I passed out as they took care of my burns. They sent me home a few hours later.
When we got home, my dad and siblings were laughing about it, especially about me and how I didn't scream in pain. To make it worse, they ate both mine and my mom's food. We didn't get anything for dinner that night.
This, of course, led into further complications while healing, a bad Christmas while burned, and a PE teacher who wouldn't take my note and thought I was trying to just get out of stuff. He made me do exercises and activities until he could actually see blood coming through my gym clothes. I scarred heavily from some of the burns around my waist because of him. That was my most depressing Christmas."
"Last Christmas, my brother, who is in mid-transition from female to male, found out he was pregnant and miscarrying. He never wanted a child and didn't know he was pregnant until he went to the ER because of the effects of the pregnancy. Since we live in the Bible-belt, the doctors basically were going to hold him to term and try to save the malformed and doomed child at the expense of my brother.
He was stuck in the hospital for days, waiting and hoping that the miscarriage would just happen so the trauma could end. When my mom found out, she began freaking out because she is grandchild crazy and wanted the thing to be born and live. Against my brother's wishes, my mom rushed across the state to see him and sent me in first to explain.
This just stressed him out more and made him mad, as I knew it would. Then, I had to go out and tell my mom that she wasn't allowed in and that she was just making things worse. If I weren't there, she would have drive into oncoming traffic. She has a history of reacting this way.
A few days later, the miscarriage happened and my brother was able to go home just in time for Christmas. He still is traumatized. Now, every Christmas seems to be tainted."