Charlie Warzel:

But this isn’t about Christmas or Hanukkah or any specific celebration. It’s about finding ways to make it through the winter doldrums.

Right now, that’s more challenging than ever. The holiday comedown was hard enough before COVID stresses, variant surges, and school closures. And while plenty of people out there are embracing normalcy, millions more with lower risk tolerance are hunkering down to protect themselves or loved ones or to keep the hospital system from straining. It is, for many, a lonely time.

“It’s been such a difficult few years for everyone,” Jami Warner, the executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association, told me. She said that the Christmas-tree industry has seen a substantial uptick in sales during the pandemic years, even despite supply-chain challenges. Warner also assured me that I was not alone and that people are leaving their artificial trees up longer and longer—sometimes year-round. “We so desperately need that light in our lives these days,” she said. “And people are realizing that having them around is a wonderful, uplifting thing.”

The Lady of the House passed this on as a trollish joke. And given that this is the Atlantic — someone recently (and accurately) described it as the magazine of choice for neurotic progressives in New York and D.C. — I’m happy to treat it in that spirit. But as near as I can tell, the self-pity and therapeutic mawkishness are in earnest. You know what’s worse than all good things coming to an end? Retreating to a fantasy world in order to cope with it. How have so many people made it to quasi-adulthood without learning such a basic lesson? Why are so many people so unembarrassed to present themselves as weak and broken, in constant need of comforting reassurance?