The Airing of Grievances

On December 23rd, many Americans celebrated the made up holiday of Festivus, from the show Seinfeld. The most important ritual in the celebration of Festivus is the “Airing of Grievances,” where each person goes around the room and lets their family and friends know the various ways they’ve let them down in the last year. As Frank Costanza, George’s father, famously kicks it off,

“I’ve got a lot of problems with you people. And now you’re gonna hear about it.”

It’s obviously absurd, but at the same time, not that far from how many of us actually celebrate the holidays, at least inside our own heads. We carry around slights and disappointments from the year, from our childhoods, which we save up in order to leak out passive aggressively or later to our spouses when we have a moment of privacy. We collect them even during the holidays themselves: I can’t believe she brought her obnoxious boyfriend. Why am I the one doing all the dishes? Is no one going to say anything about my new job?

C’mon. This is no recipe for happiness. No way to treat this fleeting existence of ours, nor these few days we have away from work and normal life. Remember Marcus Aurelius‘s line:

“Another has done me wrong? Let him see to it. He has his own tendencies, and his own affairs. What I have now is what the common nature has willed, and what I endeavor to accomplish now is what my nature wills.”

Practice kindness instead. Forgiveness. Forgetfulness even. Most of the frustration that family causes comes from their own pain, and very little of it is intentional. The same goes for friends. And for the world at large. There’s no need to borrow trouble or carry it around with you. Just let it go. No need for confrontation or some cathartic feats of strength at the end of the evening—to show who is boss.

Just enjoy the moment. And start the new year with a clean slate.

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