The Holiday Season...  It's everywhere. At work, in social gatherings and at the malls. The media-- replete with colorful and euphonic offerings-- generally announce the arrival of the season. It's a "tab-set" on the keyboard of the year; an "anchor", or event that triggers a particular state of consciousness in which information is stored. Such as a song that can recall one summer in your life; or a picture that has you reviewing the day you graduated.
If the state of consciousness was associated with pleasant feelings, then they will return as the anchor is "fired."  To many, the holiday season is anchored as a time for giving; a time for sharing fond memories with family and friends. Or even after all these years, the wonder and excitement we create by the illusions of "surprise"; and witnessing the same among our children. It's the proverbial opportunity for change and self-improvement ---the relinquishing of the old and the ringing in of the new.
However, there are other anchors in the sea.  Events can also be occasions that are associated with unpleasant feelings that will also return if such an anchor is fired. Some individuals experience this time of year as an occasion for remembering the worst of times-- not the best of times. The ghosts of Christmas Past bring memories of pain, loneliness, loss of loved ones, and depression. These negative experiences are heightened by exposure to stressors such as news in which the threatened (or real) loss of employment is in the offing.
Not exactly a "Currier and Ives" picture for this time of year!  Not when, despite the emptiness, pain and pressure, there are expectations to remember others by purchasing seemingly unaffordable gifts; or simply by joining family and friends to celebrate. All of these stressors become "stacked" in the original bad anchor making it an even more powerful harbinger of gloom and doom. As a result, everything that is remotely associated with the "red and green" of the year, can truly become "blue".  Some typical comments that often result:
"I'm not looking forward to the holidays-- I know there will be tension with my in-laws."
"Why shop? I could lose my job in three months, and I'm sure everything will be too expensive."
"This will be the first Christmas without my mother. I'm dreading it already."
"I'm so depressed, I can't imagine seeing myself enjoying the holidays."
In these illustrations, an event such as a song, advertisement, decoration, or discussion about Christmas, Chanukah, or the New Year becomes an occasion to feel bad. Moreover,  being harbingers of things to come, they not only allow you to experience this unpleasantness; they allow you to do so ahead of time!  Many people use their imaginations to discover all the things that could make them feel bad, so they can feel bad about them now!
Why wait for Chanukah, Christmas or New Year's Eve? Right now, you can see yourself arguing over dinner with relatives, or window shopping without a dime in your pocket (vintage O'Henry), or picturing yourself some place, alone, with a "sinking" feeling, passing couples strolling merrily by, their wide-eyed children at their side; or, perhaps, bearing the heaviness wrought by the absence of a loved one who has passed and will not be at the holiday dinner table this year.
People unwittingly create unpleasant experiences that would otherwise not be there had those anchors not fired. The result is an aura of "blue" that seems to run throughout the season. This review of bad memories may become an annual event leading to holiday depression. It is expected and seems to occur automatically. Since we are not able to edit the holidays from the pages of our lives, it would seem more useful to learn how to make peace with them. How can this cycle be altered?
Most people want to have only pleasant memories, and will do anything to avoid the unpleasant ones. Can you imagine what it would be like if all your memories were pleasant? If you never had any bad experiences!  Do you think you would be happier? What of dealing with adversity; or the development of self-esteem that follows the successful resolution of past conflicts and stress? 
The difficulty arises from the meaning assigned to negative experiences because of the behaviors and feelings which result. For example, if an unpleasant experience becomes associated with failure or rejection at holiday time, a bad anchor is formed. In contrast, the resolution of conflict arising from a particular experience, may teach us to cope and develop "resources" that can help us in our future endeavors. And therein lies the way through the holiday "looking glass."
Imagine seeing yourself differently! Change the internal pictures you make until they contain people, places and events that at some time in your recent past have been associated with feeling "calm", or "lucky", or "enjoyment." Take a moment. By now you may have noticed that you need to borrow an experience from beyond the realm of holiday fanfare. Now while engaging in that experience, tune into a "holiday" song you hear frequently. Then step into the experience and enjoy it. Some people might say, "...but I can't enjoy the holidays, because financial pressures are weighing me down." Float up! See yourself shedding a burden from your shoulders.
Imagine shopping for what you can afford and making other gifts. How does that (and only that) feel? Could you get in touch with feeling "fortunate" and helping others whom you perceive are even more needy? How about volunteering some time to an agency to help decorate or serve meals? Losing loved ones at any time is followed by incredible sadness. Its part of the "mourning process", and knowing this may not make it any more bearable. But intensifying it during the holidays will not help either. Imagine seeing this individual, while taking along feelings of comfort and strength you needed to develop at some other important time in your life. "Tell" that person how much you have missed him (or her) and that to best honor his memory, you are going to make this a more pleasant and rewarding time for the others he has left behind... and that he will know you have done so when you "change."
Once you create these differences, the sights and sounds of the holidays can become more positively associated. And these new "meanings", and the freedom from suffering that results, can be your holiday gift to you.