When I was a kid, or more specifically when I was a teenager, I used to hate the way older people would try to attach some seasonal significance to everything they did at this time of year--you know, everything was a christmas kiss, or a christmas hug, or a christmas drink, or a christmas nap. I could see even then the pathos of our attempts to match our mood to traditional expectations of the season.
I think a lot of the sadness that people feel at Christmas arises from the chasm that exists between their own emotional state and their sense of what they should be feeling. Their physical situation and their sense of what they should be doing. Someone who is alone for the other 364 days of the year (or however many there are these days), suddenly feels utterly bereft because they are alone on December 25th, and they don't think they should be. Someone else feels empty, scooped out of any emotion, but thinks they should be feeling love for their family, or the presence of a divine spirit. So they translate that into a rant about the lack of spirituality at Christmas.
We all know how it goes.
The thing I like about Zen Buddhism is that it teaches you to live in this moment precisely, and this, and this, and this, without intellectualising about the past or the future or even the nature of NOW. A Zenbo at Christmas wakes up and does his thing without considering what it was like last year or when he was a kid, or what the people across the street are doing. He breathes, he feels his heart beat, feels the cold kitchen tiles on the pads of his feet, feels the taste of coffee on his tongue, listens to the birdsong outside in the trees, notices the absence of cars out on the road today. His mind is still. He is, without connection to anything except what is in the present moment alongside him.
If more Westerners could learn the skill of just being, there would be so much less of this terrible sadness and stress that we seem to have accepted as part of twenty-first century life. And Christmas, which is currently unbearable for large swathes of the population, might become quite a pleasant experience again.