"I'll be home for Christmas. You can count on me," go the words to a classic Christmas tune. For many, the holidays are a time of year where everyone is in a better mood. There is family time as well as parties, delicious treats and presents.
But this is not the case for everyone. Some face evil stepparents, judgmental family members and the dreaded small talk with the ones you are forced to spend your hard-earned holiday time with each year.
The US is set to have a record number of travelers during Christmas this year, according to a Reuters article. So, why are many people opting out of a holiday at home? With the holiday season drawing near and Chinese New Year just around the corner, Metropolitan spoke to Chinese and expats to find out if these feelings are shared when it comes to going home for the holidays.
Your compulsively judgmental family
"Oh, honey. Why did you wear that? You know red has never been your color?"
"Sweetie, your face is looking a little chubby; have you been eating fast food again? You really should get to the gym more."
Screaming internally, you nod your head and give your best fake smile.
This is one of the main reasons Emma Piper, a 25-year-old expat who has been working in Beijing for two years, dreads going home for the holidays.
"Something I fear about going home for Christmas is the comments I know I will receive from my mum and sister, who always make derogatory comments about my weight since the last time they saw me," she said.
"Since the comments come without invitation, I get even more upset. Christmas is a time when someone's appearance, especially a family member's, does not matter. It's their presence that matters, not how much weight they've put on since the last time they saw you."
For Sharon Zhang, a Chinese actress, these problems keep her from returning home during the holidays as well.
"I have little to nothing in common with my parents. I used to try to tell them about my life, but I was always judged and sometimes undermined. Now, I choose to spend vacation time with my 'chosen family,' my friends," said Zhang.
"Why did you and Jimmy break up again? He was such a good guy."
"Are you really changing your major? What are you going to do with that arts degree anyway?"
The "you can be anything you want when you grow up" encouragement goes right out the window when you actually grow up.
This resonates with Zhang who said her parents wanted her to be a lawyer. She got scholarships and went to all the best schools, but it was not what she wanted to do with her life.
"This lack of respect for my own decision-making is something I recently decided to no longer tolerate," she said. "I used to say I was busy or that I could not travel. Now, I am frank and honest because there's no other way to be."
Zhang said since Chinese culture is so family-oriented and she is an only child, she feels much more pressure.
"Why don't you come home more?"
"Don't you care about traditional family values?"
One thing that parents seem to be trained in is guilt trips.
Jenny Man Wu, 33, a Chinese filmmaker born in Beijing, echoes Zhang's feelings. For Wu, even though she is successful, she feels that she still has pressure to fit cultural norms from her family.
"I have a comparatively good job, maybe not as good as my cousins, but I feel that nobody really cares if your job is good or not if you are a woman. It is more important that you are married and have children," she said.
Wu said when she is home, she is always asked about her personal life. So, she chose not to go home for the last two years even though her parents also live in Beijing.
"I used to think it was my responsibility, and that I would seem ungrateful if I let my parents spend the holidays on their own," she said. "But I enjoy it on my own; I like it more this way."
She also had a huge fight with her father, which has kept her from wanting to go home even if she were to feel obligated.
"How could anyone vote for him?"
"If they pass that law, I swear I'm moving to Canada!"
Whether it is about the latest election or law being passed, just because you are in the same family does not mean you hold the same beliefs. One of the most dreaded parts of the holidays is the possibility of going head-to-head with your loved ones about political issues.
For David Collier, a white-collar worker in the US, political differences with his family are one of the driving forces that put a damper on his holiday cheer.
"I have a big family. We always get together for the holidays, and I love seeing them, but I know that at some point the conversation is going to go south," he said.
Collier's family has opposite political beliefs from him, and they vocalize them every time he is around.
"They say the two things you are not supposed to talk about are politics and religion, but I don't think my family got the memo," he joked.
The situation causes him a lot of stress and ruins the atmosphere around the holidays.
"I have to go home, or I would disappoint everyone, so I am forced to be there and have heated discussions with my family while we should be enjoying each other's company," he explained.
How to deal
Many Westerners and Chinese have similar issues that keep them from wanting to go home for the holidays, whether it is Thanksgiving, Christmas or Chinese New Year.
These issues and feelings of obligation can cause high levels of stress around the holidays.
For Piper, looking at the positives helps her get through her feelings of loneliness during the season.
"I must think about the bigger picture. I'm very privileged to have a home to go to at Christmas and to enjoy a Christmas dinner. One year, I went to a homeless shelter to donate some food, as some people spend the holidays on the streets or with nobody. Helping others at Christmas is important to me," she explained.
For Wu, going home is still not in her plans, but she advises that people should be more respectful of each other and their choices.
"Parents and relatives need to know how to respect others. People have the right to choose how their life should be. It's not caring or love if you tell them what to do or greet them with questions like 'When will you get married?'" she said.
Zhang said that it is up to us to be happy or not, and for her, not going home makes her happy.
"Often we do things because we feel we have an obligation and end up being resentful or in codependent cycles," she said.
When talking about spending time away from family during the holidays, she advised people to "enjoy the time to get grounded."
"I have realized that it is how people react to situations that ultimately affect them and their well-being. I used to get really frustrated with my parents about comments they make about my life, but I'm realizing more and more that it's my internalizing their expectations that causes me distress," she said.
To take control of her own happiness, Zhang has decided to celebrate Chinese New Year with friends.
Eithne Bacuzzi, a psychotherapist with 20 years' experience said that a dysfunctional family is like a pressure cooker, according to the Irish Examiner in 2015.
Bacuzzi added that a critical mother or father who always undermines their offspring when they are young will probably continue to do so when they are adults through subtle remarks about their weight, their grandchildren's academic performance or subtle questions about where their career is going.
If you cannot avoid the holidays at home, here are some tips on how to deal with the sticky situation.
"Mentally detach. You may have to be physically there, but no one says you have to listen to them," explains Karl Melvin, a psychotherapist in the article.
He added that when talking to your family, one should keep the conversation "basic and civil."
"Don't engage in difficult issues if it is not essential. Sometimes it is wiser to say nothing, get through the day and leave," Bacuzzi said. (news from the global times)