It’s old news that the holiday season can run a person ragged, and underscore loneliness in the face of the merry and bright brigade. It can be grating to weather a barrage of religious beliefs you don’t share, and the collective shopping frenzy is draining for all. I wrote up a Holiday Survival tarot spread to sort through those mixed seasonal feelings that mess with our comfort and joy.
I based this spread around the three biggest holiday stressors I could think of: family drama, dissonance between personal values and the societal beliefs and values that surround us, and Charlie Brown’s pet peeve, the timeless clash between materialism and spirituality.
1. My Family What is my family bringing to the table this holiday season? What’s the state of my family’s energy?
2. My Boundaries What am I bringing to the table? How is my energy, and how are my boundaries with my family?
4. My Society Society here can refer either to a broad, national or religious culture, or to a closer society of family, coworkers, and social circles. Given that, what societal influences and values are most affecting me this holiday season? What affects me that I can’t get away from? How does my outer culture approach the season?
5. My Personality What personal beliefs and values do I hold? How do I like to approach the holidays, and how does that compare and contrast to the culture I’m steeped in?
Materialism Vs. Spirituality
7. My Materialism How do I engage with the materialism and commercialism of the holidays? How do I express materialism, myself?
8. My Spirit What shape is my spirit in? How is the season engaging my spirituality?
It’s important to remember that none of these categories are inherently good or bad, and our columns of outer and inner influences don’t have to be antagonistic. For example, I don’t believe for a second that materialism and spirituality are mutually exclusive. You can love to shop and love to pray, and there’s nothing wrong with either. I set those categories in opposition because we often lose balance between matter and spirit during the holidays, with one eclipsing the other.
My own holiday season is going pretty well this year. My only stressors are a lingering cold and the fact that I haven’t made any presents yet, but that’s my own lazy-ass fault. I don’t have enough personal drama this year to fuel a sample reading, so I drew up a reading for an imaginary client. I’ll call them Q for querent. I drew cards from the Victorian Romantic Tarot deck.
1. My Family - Three of Pentacles
This card shows two children putting together Christmas decorations with an older gentleman, perhaps their grandfather or a toymaker. The tone is merry and bright. This suggests that Q’s family is cheerful, festive, well meaning, bustling, full of holiday spirit, probably Christian (what are the odds of drawing a tarot card covered in Christmas decorations?), and probably on the traditional side.
2. My Boundaries - The Moon
Q might as well be on a different planet from their family. The moon is a beautiful card, but it doesn’t share much common ground with the earthy, industrious Three of Pentacles. It suggests the intuition, the subconscious, and a cool, dreamy, perhaps melancholic and enigmatic disposition. (Many people read themes of addiction and fear into the Moon, but I associate those aspects with the card’s reversal.) In terms of overall energy, I don’t think Christmas is this person’s scene. Based on the illustrations, these cards could indicate a religious difference, with a Christian family and a Pagan, Wiccan, or New Age Q. Boundaries are likely fluid, waxing and waning with changes in mood and situation, and communications may be troubled.
3. Balancing Energies - Justice
In the first two cards, we see two different camps operating from very different places. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with either side. It’s fine to be traditional, cheery, and all about Christmas. It’s fine to not feel that at all. Since there’s not a lot of common ground, both sides need to draw on fairness, and a degree of detachment from their own views, in relating to one another. Justice points from Q to their family, suggesting that they could try to view their family more impartially and more fairly, while remaining true to their own spirit and interests. Q may need to work on accepting their family, and be careful not to take the family’s activities or attempts to include Q as personal slights. This family could certainly wax annoying, but from here they look well meaning.
4. My Society - Eight of Wands Reversed
Overreaching, misdirected energies, and burnout. Q may live in a community or work in an environment that does the holidays on overdrive. They’ve got some overexposure to the season’s dark side. Even though I love celebrating Christmas with my own family, when I worked in retail I loathed the entire months of November and December, being constantly surrounded by angry, frantic, petulant, and burnt out shoppers. I’m reminded of that dynamic here.
5. My Personality - The Fool
Q would rather have fun through spontaneity and going with the flow. They know how to have a great time, and they know what fanatical shoppers miss: the quickest way to kill your joy is by getting too serious, too precious, too competitive, and attaching high stakes to it. If it’s too much work, it’s not a celebration.
6. Balancing Energies - Eight of Cups
Once again, the balance flows from Q to the problem card. The Eight of Cups spells emotional detachment, cutting losses, and leaving it all behind you. The best strategy here is to know when to disengage and walk away. This doesn’t have to be an extreme disengagement. For instance, if Q is burning out from working in service over the holidays, they don’t have to quit their job to handle the holiday crush. They can choose their battles and keep their distance from the fray emotionally. They can opt out of potentially draining events like the company party or the secret santa, and they can choose to kick back with good friends at the end of the day instead of staying out to do more shopping. They don’t have to do Christmas at all in their personal life. Just because your family and coworkers love it, doesn’t mean you’re obligated to play along if it doesn’t bring you joy.
7. My Materialism - Four of Cups Reversed
A shift in energy where things start to pick back up after a lull or a period of stagnancy. Q might have more money coming in than usual, and/or be spending, partying, and enjoying creature comforts more than they have in a while. Good things.
8. My Spirit - Ten of Swords
A wounded spirit. Q may have experienced a recent loss, trauma, or setback that hit them hard. Either that, or the holiday season stirs up painful memories of past traumas. The Ten of Swords indicates that the worst has happened, and healing can begin. It’s difficult to do healing work, including grieving, when you feel like everyone else around you is celebrating, or that you should be in some different, better state than you actually are.
The Ten of Swords in this position points to issues outside the scope of this spread. If I pulled this card for myself or an actual client, I might follow up with a couple more cards to clarify what’s going on here.
9. Balancing Energies - Ten of Pentacles
This time our balancing card points from outer to inner, and from matter to spirit. The Ten of Pentacles speaks of prosperity, fulfillment, stability, foundation, home, and community.
Between the card’s keywords and position, Q might seek pleasure and consolation in the little things, and in good times with good friends and chosen family. I’d also recommend grounding and cultivating a sense of home and stability as a foundation for healing the spirit. This can be easier said than done; we don’t all have the same resources, but even little material things like cleaning house, taking care of whatever space you have, taking care of your body, and savoring every comfort and resource you do have, can improve your day and bolster your spirits immeasurably.
I adore tarot, but I’m an artist, not a healer. Tarot is great for personal introspection, spiritual, and creative exercises. It pairs well with journaling and shooting the shit with friends. Tarot does not and cannot substitute for therapy, professional counseling, or medicine.
This time of year can intensify our lives, magnifying the good and the bad. If you find yourself overwhelmed, struggling with more than you can manage, or feeling depressed, there is nothing wrong with seeking help.
How to Find a Therapist - WebMD
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255
It Gets Better - Resources & Hotlines
10 Tips For Surviving Your First Family Holiday After Coming Out - Autostraddle
8 Queer Tips to Get Through the Holidays - Queer Theology