Cowan Palace: Five Festive Factors and How To Survive this Season

In honor of “Crappy Holidays”, Ashley Cowan explores the holiday season divide.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, for like half of us.

I, for one, bust out the holiday music as soon as I put my Halloween costume away and begin openly singing my praises. Though honestly, I watch Love Actually and sing “All I Want for Christmas” all year round. But even Mariah’s sweet jam can’t help that the holidays are also notoriously linked to the highest number of reported incidences of depression. Whether it’s the darker weather conditions, the excessive commercialism, or just the Grinch getting his Grinch on, it can be a hard time of year. The National Institute of Health sadly states that this is the season when suicides and attempted suicides skyrocket and one American survey found that 45% of those they interviewed claimed to dread and despise the holidays all together.


Following that sentiment, Theater Pub is preparing for its November offering with Nick and Lisa Gentile’s “Crappy Holidays”. An evening showcasing three new plays taking place during the fall and winter festivities. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas will each take their turn exploring some dark comedic colors in the rainbow that is the holiday season. And considering the mixed reviews that this time of year can bring in from the general public, Saturday’s show may be a perfect way to both celebrate and commiserate over them.

But why is there such a divide? These next few months present an array of challenges some seem to revel in and others yearn to avoid. From my research and understanding, I found the reasoning to surround five major factors. Consider me your Rudolf and I’ll guide this sleigh through them:

1.) The Food!

It starts during Halloween. And then it’s a few solid months of delicious edible opportunities. 90 million pounds of chocolate are sold during Halloween week and nearly $2 billion dollars is spent each year preparing for an evening of candy sharing. Next it’s November when we set aside a day to stay inside and eat a whopping 535 million pounds of turkey. Followed by trays of December holiday cookies and endless pumpkin inspired delicacies. For some it’s the excuse to overindulge (that’s what resolutions are for, am I right?) while the other half tries to slam the door and stay away from the temptation. My advice? Don’t let it overwhelm you! Rest assured that the latest studies show that in reality, people don’t tend to gain all the weight they fear they will; the average is only one pound! If you allow yourself to sample a few of your favorite treats in moderation, you should be just fine. Why not consider walking to get your next peppermint mocha and taking the long way home?

2.) The Family!

Whether it’s the trick-or-treaters, the guests sitting around your dining table, or the expecting recipients of a wrapped gift, chances are, you’ll find yourself faced with families. Be it your own or the crowds of others. And it can be overwhelming for anyone. If you spend these next few months surrounded by close loved ones or hiding from them, this time of year encourages the examination of family relationships. Try being patient with those you come in contact with and be gentle with yourself regarding your feelings. Families have the power to both push every button until you want to burst into flames and keep you warm on those chilly winter nights. You’re allowed to take a moment for yourself if you need it and return to the family festivities at your own pace.

3.) The Money!

Businesses can expect to see a rise of 25-40% in their sales during the holiday season. Last year alone, consumers spent $579.8 billion dollars! And to prepare for 2013, $9.6 billion dollars worth of toys have already been shipped from China to the United States. That’s a lot of money, y’all! It’s easy to get caught up in the commercials, online ads, or your own finances and wake up in January with a huge credit card balance. Take it easy. Consider organizing your shopping needs early and slowly checking them off your list. Pay attention to your buying habits and it may not seem so bad. If you can avoid the waves of endless shoppers it may help to make it all a bit more manageable.

4.) The Entertainment!

The music, the movies, the games, the parades, the decorations – you get it. There’s no lack of stimuli during the holidays. If you’re like me, you love dancing along to it all but so many people out there just hate it. You’re not alone! If you don’t like the music, put your headphones on and drown it out. If you can’t stand another Hallmark made-for-TV-movie, re-watch Breaking Bad. Yes, the entertainment may feel like it’s all around you but you can avoid it. That’s the beauty of DVR or a non-holiday themed book.

5.) The Reflection!

It’s hard to escape the mirror following you like a shadow during this time. It’s everywhere. You can’t help but reflect back on your year and compare yourself to those around you. It can be a painful reminder of challenges you faced or the sweet song of treasured memories. My suggestion is to treat yourself and each other with a little extra kindness and keep some reasonable expectations. 2013 wasn’t an easy year for a lot of us; why not use these remaining days to pat ourselves on the back for surviving it. Yes, there’s always room for improvement and maybe 2014 will help inspire that but you got through this year, kid, and that’s something! So try and let that mirror show you some of the good things as well.


The holiday season may have only just begun but as I’m sure you can see, it’s everywhere. And this week, it’s taking over Theater Pub with plays that are both naughty and nice. So before you get taken over by these five major powers of the season, come join the fun on Saturday at 8:30pm at the Exit Theatre’s Cafe (156 Eddy Street, San Francisco).

You can come listen to more of Ashley’s work tonight (November 13) at the Olympian Festival’s evening of plays surrounding the Trojan Women, see her perform in “Crappy Holidays” on November 16, or in a reading of SEE ALSO ALL on November 23rd. All of which will be happening by the Exit Theatre. See you there!