Dear Margo: Season's Greetings!

Margo Howard’s advice

Season’s Greetings!

Dear Margo: I hate Christmas. I mean, I really hate Christmas. It is all false bonhomie, buying, spending, too much drinking, uncomfortable family gatherings (for many), phony sentiment and a general pain. I find the whole deal an imposition. So I guess my question is: Is there anything I can do to opt out? — Scrooge

Dear Scroo: You clearly suffer from an advanced case of bah humbug. Of course, you are not the only one with unkind feelings about what has moved from an intended holy birthday party to a giftapalooza accompanied by turkey, ham and bourbon-spiked eggnog. To wit: Noel Coward’s annual greeting card always said the same thing: “Christmas is at our throats again.” And a woman I was very fond of never stopped referring to the weeks preceding Christmas as “all that ho-ho-ho crap.”

I would remind you, however, that for many it is a genuine time of reverence, good feelings and good cheer. To directly answer your question, you might lie low during the run-up to the actual day, make a date with a bunch of atheists for Christmas Day, or take a trip. Happy New Year. — Margo, pragmatically

Death and Disagreement

Dear Margo: From the date my sister “Helen” fell ill, in October 2011, until she died in January 2012, she had her family’s support with visits, calls and cards — with the exception of our father and half-brother. The whole family attended her funeral — with the exception again of our father and half-brother. They offered no explanation.

Five months later, our sister “Elaine” died of natural causes. She lived in the South and was not married, so by law our father was next of kin and responsible for arrangements. He refused to allow anyone else in the family to have a say. “She’s my daughter, and I’ll take care of it,” he stated. Then he denied the family any information, with the exception of his stepson, our half-brother. My father had our sister cremated and had her ashes mailed to his stepson, who then dumped them in his backyard. We learned of this after the fact, and our father denied knowing what happened to the ashes.

Why did this happen? We suspect it was a collaborative effort between our father’s third wife (20 years his junior) and our half-brother’s wife. They are only a few years apart in age and good friends, but they’re also controlling and spiteful. There are different theories as to what they were trying to achieve and whom they were trying to hurt, but we really don’t know. Why would our father turn his back on his own flesh and blood and allow his stepson to perform such a vile and hateful act? Is there a way to get answers and closure? — Gloomy

Dear Gloom: The situation you describe sounds like the Hatfields and the McCoys — only in this case you are all Hatfields. If you don’t know now, there is little hope of finding out what’s behind your father’s actions, so accept the fact that there will be no answers. Because the sisters are gone, I suggest you and the family members with whom you remain close simply write off your father and half-brother and stop torturing yourselves. I hope this will give you the small comfort of knowing that you pulled the plug on a destructive, dysfunctional relationship. — Margo, forwardly

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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90 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Toni Jean says:

    LW2 – if you haven’t already, please make a will so this doesn’t happen if you pass. Same for any other living siblings. You can’t control the past but you can decide your future. So sorry for your losses.

    • avatar BeanCounter says:

      LW#2:   PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE have a separate service for her.    Take a nice picture of her.   invite the people that missed out and cater some lunch or dinner.   inform the father and step-brother that your’e doing this, and tell them they’re NOT invited.  If they show up, escort them out.  

      And then get together and tell stories about her life and share your love of her!  Just because a couple of jerks tried to ruin this for you does NOT mean you can’t get together and mourn someone.   please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      And an Advanced Directive with a Living will & appoint a Health Care Rep, if you are not married or have adult children.

  2. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  I do suggest you *make other plans* for the holiday.  Perhaps you can find kindred scrooges and set up an *anti-Christmas* celebration.  But then you would eat too much, drink too much, and be around people so better to just go sit on a hill on your own.  No one is forcing you to participate and perhaps those you know who do love the spirit and celebration of the day will be grateful for your absence.  Or, you can volunteer for some organization that provides meals or gifts to the needy.

    LW#2:  I doubt you will ever get the closure you want from your jerk relations.  I can only agree with Toni Jean’s response and extend my sympathies or your losses. 


  3. avatar LuckySeven says:

    I don’t like all the commercial hoopla over Christmas, either, but I also don’t feel the need to be a jerk about it. If you don’t like the way your Christmases are going, stop complaining and give them a makeover. Stop hanging out with people who drink too much (we do exist, I swear); stop eating things you don’t want to eat; pare down your gift list (mine includes immediate family and two very close friends only; that’s six people). find things to do that make you happy. I love getting an extra couple of days off–it gives me time to stay home and work on my hobbies (none of which have anything to do with Christmas).

    If you’re not part of your own solution, then you’re part of your own problem. Stop kvetching and find your own joy in the season.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Well put. Some people make lemonade out of lemons and others forget to add any sugar. Christmas is what you make of it—whether it’s a special occasion or just another day. I get the feeling that the “false bonhomie” is directed at others and LW1 is feeling a little out of sorts and jealous.

      And with that, I’m going shopping. I don’t have a tree, just moved to a big city and don’t know anyone. I’ll be alone most likely during Christmas Day. But I have Netflix, and I like looking at the lights and decorations and being around the crowds of people.

      LW2: Forget these guys and move on. And make sure the rest of you have advance directives so you avoid scenarios like these in the future. While you have my empathy (because something similar happened to my grandmother), this is what’s known as “poor planning.”

      • avatar lebucher says:

        Well put, David!  And in spite of being alone in a big city, I hope you enjoy your holidays.

      • avatar R Scott says:

        Excellent comment David and I hope you enjoy your holiday as much as I enjoy your comments. Cheers!

      • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

        We take trips. But I do love the lights and decorations, just not the family drama. This year I got a delightfully kitschy prelit palm tree, it doesn’t even try to be real. Everyone thinks it awesome. And I found a blue poinsettia :-O

  4. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: You could check yourself into a hospital. Blood draws and vital signs checks at all hours of the night might be your thing instead? ;-p And screaming kids/grandkids of the person next-bed-over. And if anyone tries “the holiday spirit” on you, ask for an enema?
    L #2:  I agree wholeheartedly with Margo. Sad to say, it seems your father is pu**y-struck with the younger miss (Little Ms. Spiteful is going to get her way); he’s controlled by her and lust. I’d keep them as far distant as possible. And you’ve every right to grieve over how your sisters were treated in death. Inexcusable. :-(

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Sadly, as a health care professional, I can tell you many lonely souls present to the hospital with some illness so they can spend the holidays with someone rather than alone. Then there are those who get admitted Christmas Day because their family finally made it over to see what poor shape they are in.

  5. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2 – Funerals are for the living, not the dead.

    No truer words were ever spoken. This letter writer may (in how they give their take of events) be accurate. The actions of this dad and son are disturbing, but as Margo pointed out, there comes a time when you need to – with surgical precision – cut and slice these people from your life and just move on. The sisters are dead, and someday the letter writer will be as well. And when this happens no matter how much we try to prepare for it with wills, insurance and detailed notes for what you want after your death, people tend to ignore all of that. It’s easier to fuss and fight about WHAT to do with a loved one’s dead body than it is to deal with the fact that THEY are gone.

    Letter #1 – I’m going to go out on a limb and say this person is not a Christian. So this must be a non-believer complaining about the swirl of Christmas activity around her/him. Well, lets get political and blunt for a moment….shall we?

    I am constantly debating with people that claim America IS NOT a Christian nation. I offer up the proof that In God We Trust is on the money we carry in our pockets. There are references to God and Christ on almost every state and federal building in America. Commercials, marketing and a flurry abounds over the Easter and Christmas holidays. All across the nation people put up decorations, plan parties and buy and give presents with those holidays in mind. Do we collectively as a nation celebrate and speak of ALL the other religions out there? No, we do not. So that should tell you something about Christianity. Because there are more people in America that are Christians AND we are predominantly a Christian nation, what annoys you now – takes place.

    So now for the blunt part. To this letter writer I would say……deal with it. There will always be holidays that take over our American lives that some are not going to agree with, and that falls under the category of “Oh well” True Christians, even in the midst of all the superficial aspects of shopping, eating, socializing and such….true Christians always remember “The reason for the season” and it is NOT rooted in all those things. It is about the celebration of Christ. It is our religious beliefs and anyone that is like you that finds the aspects of that celebration annoying needs to simply deal with it.

    I know people that hate war and therefore despise Memorial Day. I know people that are anti-government and therefore hate the 4th of July. I know people that view Halloween as being a holiday that celebrates evil and demonic beliefs.

    So I say to this letter writer continue to be a Scrooge. Be annoyed by the pervasive celebration of one of America’s most popular and sacred holidays. Short of going into hiding, unplugging the TV, radio and avoiding all newspapers and magazines, you will have to have your senses overwhelmed by a religion that is at the core of a nation YOU CHOOSE to live in. Deal with it.

    • avatar tj goldstein says:

      Just because he doesn’t like Xmas doesn’t mean he isn’t a ‘Christian’? He could be like me and just hate all the commercialism of the so called holiday? Personally, I think Xmas is a disgusting time of the year.. the sheer amount of money spent on useless crap makes me sick to the stomach, not to mention pressure to succumb to what is portrayed as being a perfect day with the family.


      As for it being Christs birthday? Sure. Right. Osiris.

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:

        “As for it being Christs birthday? Sure. Right. Osiris.”

        Well NEWSFLASH, Christmas IS a religious holiday and based on what you have posted I can tell you didn’t read what I posted. You skimmed through it.

        • avatar tj goldstein says:

          Supposedly religious.

          • avatar Belinda Joy says:

            tj “goldstein” – Do your homework, Christmas is indeed a religious holiday.

          • avatar tj goldstein says:

            Wow! I’m not actually Jewish… i just chose this username for my favorite actress – jeanette Goldstein from aliens fame. Nice to see your so called Christian morals are working :-)

        • avatar Hellster says:

          Belinda Joy, I suggest that if you want people to read your posts that you should make them more succinct.

          • avatar Belinda Joy says:

            Hellster, Whether my post is long or short, before anyone responds to what someone has written, it is customary to READ what is written first. What part of that don’t you understand?

        • avatar R Scott says:

          Well ANOTHER NEWSFLASH – Christmas is a religious holiday only if you decide it is. I love Christmas and put no religious meaning to it at all and only call it “Christmas” becuase it’s just easier. And by the way, we all just skim through your posts. Maybe you could bullet point them or something.

          • avatar Belinda Joy says:

            R Scott, I suggest you and any others that have a problem with the length of my post, simply avoid reading them. It is very simple, you see Belinda Joy and scroll past it. Why is that so difficult for you?

          • avatar R Scott says:

            Oh not a problem. I usually do. This one just caught my eye as I was skimming over it. Then your NEWSFLASH in all caps was, of course an eye catcher. Carry on.

        • avatar Miss Macy says:

          Walk into any church on Christmas Day and you won’t recognized 95% of the people sitting in the pews because they only show up for the annual pageantry. Christmas as a “sacred” holiday is a joke. Jesus wasn’t born at the winter solstice; he was born in the spring.

          • avatar Belinda Joy says:

            Miss Macy, There was a time when the people that blogged on WOWOWOW were savvy, educated and informed about subjects discussed. I see those days are gone. Your post (IMO) sounds ignorant. Do some research before you post comments. You have NO understanding of Christmas and its origin.

          • avatar blueelm says:

            You mean it’s origin in Greek mythology and the placement of Jesus’s birthday inaccurately during the winter solstice just when the Roman’s happened to already have a slot for it?

            Actually, there’s no good evidence for the existence of Jesus at all but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and all that.

            Macy doesn’t sound any more ignorant than you do.

          • avatar R Scott says:

            Belinda – You may want to do some research around the origins of Yule and how it was usurped to celebrate the birth or your Christ. Of course you’ll have to get yourself out of your sanctimonious head space and maybe do some secular reading. Give it a shot. It won’t hurt you and you may learn something. Miss Macy’s post was not ignorant at all. Yours however opens the door for discussion of blind ignorance.

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            Miss Macy is correct. Christmas has become a bunch of hooey. I was despairing today at the fact the the whole Santa thing is a slam on Christianity. We teach our children to believe & have faith that there is this man who is immortal, watches us for good & bad deeds, is never seen & can perform miracles. Wait, read that again. Am I talking about Jesus or Santa!?! Then they discover they were being duped. Parents & other grown up were exploiting their child like imagination or lack of knowledge. Then Christians expect that these same children will continue to believe in & have faith in Christ. Once bitten, twice shy, my friend. It’s almost as if this whole Santa thing is a evil plot to discredit Christianity. While we know that St. Nicholas’ story has simply has spun out of control & been capitalized by merchants, it will continue down this path until when…
            Miss Macy, in some churches have dubbed these members CEOs (Christmas, Easter & Other big events like baptisms, weddings & funeral).

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      Where are the references to Christ on almost every federal and state building? I would be interested to know since that would violate the Establishment clause. Don’t you remember the big hullaballoo about the Ten Commandments at a state Supreme Court house that was ordered to be removed by a federal judge with the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court refusing.

      Also, in God we Trust does not necessarily refer to a Christian God. I think you have many of your facts wrong.

      • avatar R Scott says:

        “I think you have many of your facts wrong.” Shocking isn’t it?   :-)

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:

        OMG this is scary! Seriously?

        What is with you people! For the love of God people, move away from the WOWOWOW site for a few minutes, look up some of our federal government sites and educate yourselves about our currency, the origin of In God We Trust, and all of the other aspects of why God appears on our buildings, courthouses, currency AND why every president ends a national speech with “And May God Bless the United States.

        There is a reason they don’t say Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu, Allah etc. etc. etc. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          “In God We Trust”

          …the 84th Congress (1956) passed a joint resolution to replace the existing motto with “In God we trust”. The change was partly motivated by a desire to differentiate between communism, which promotes atheism, and Western capitalistic democracies, which were at least nominally Christian.

          “…under God”

          The phrase “under God” was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance June 14, 1954, by a Joint Resolution of Congress amending §7 of the Flag Code enacted in 1942.

          “May God bless the United States of America.”

          On April 30, 1973, Richard Nixon addressed the nation from the Oval Office to try to manage the growing Watergate scandal. It was a difficult speech for Nixon, not only because of the times, but also because he had to announce the resignation of his Attorney General. He tried to make his words as uplifting as possible:

          Towards the end Nixon noted that he had 1,361 days remaining in his term and wanted them to be the best days in America’s history. “Tonight,” he said, “I ask for your prayers to help me in everything that I do throughout the days of my presidency.”

          Then he added “God bless America and God bless each and every one of you.”

          But it ended there. Neither Gerald Ford nor Jimmy Carter continued the practice. However Ronald Reagan, for eight years, ended all his speeches with “God Bless America” and every president since has followed suit.

          “Freedom of Religion in the United States”

          In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is also closely associated with separation of church and state, a concept advocated by Thomas Jefferson.

          So basically, everything you’ve referenced has had roots in politics. And most of it has only happened in the latter half of the 20th century. Again—the US is not a Christian nation, nor has it ever been a Christian nation. It is a nation that allows for freedom of religion, including Christianity—which happens to be the religion of most of its citizens. That said, there are many, many divergent “flavors” of Christianity—to the point where reaching a consensus and adopting a state religion, such as the Church of England, would be a virtual impossibility in the US.

    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      While it is true that the nation in 75% Christian, it is also 75% white.

      Does that make it a white nation with white laws for white people only and the rest of you just deal with it?

      I’d like to think not….