The scene has played out a thousand times in movies, books, and television: A family gathers for the winter holidays, cousins and siblings and children greeting one another with joyful hugs at the door of a twinkling house. Inside, a feast has been prepared, presents are exchanged, and the sound of happy music fills the air as snow falls gently outside.
It’s a lovely idea, but this scenario doesn’t match the experience of many people. In reality, the winter holidays may look quite different: perhaps there is no family gathering because a divorce has created a divide, or plane tickets are too expensive to afford. Maybe no gifts are exchanged because layoffs have left a devastating financial hardship in the family. Perhaps those who struggle with seasonal depression simply can’t muster the enthusiasm that feels mandatory this time of year.