3 Ways To Apologize For Holiday F*ck-Ups

Don’t worry — you can still make things right.

This is Day 10 of The Establishment’s 12 Days of Holiday Self Care series. You can read Day 1 here, Day 2 here, Day 3 here, Day 4 here, Day 5 here, Day 6 here, Day 7 here, Day 8 here, and Day 9 here.

The holidays may be ending, but the holiday drama can certainly linger. Do you find yourself wishing for a do-over? Fear not: I’m here to help with a few tips for making things right!

Sorry I got you a horrible gift/didn’t get you a gift at all.


Did you somehow manage to insult someone with your gift? Did you forget to get a gift for someone important while they got you the perfect present? When this happens, it’s important to remember that it’s not about the gift. It’s about what the gift/lack of gift says about your relationship with that person.

I was in a relationship with someone who wanted to buy me flowers in the beginning of our courtship. He called my brother and asked what to get me. “Don’t get her roses,” my brother advised. So what did the boyfriend get me? Roses. What did he get me for every holiday and anniversary after that? Roses. I dropped hints. I pointed out my favorite flower (peonies, btw). Nothing worked. Even after we broke up, he tried to win me back by showing up at my door with roses.

Finally I yelled, “I FUCKING HATE ROSES!”

He stared at me for a minute and then said, “All girls love roses.”

This was not someone who cared about me as a person.

But sometimes, you really do care and try your best and you still fuck it up. You don’t necessarily need to buy a new gift to fix it, you just need to find out what this person thought your gift was saying about them and then let them know your true feelings.

Did your gift make the person think that you don’t listen? That you don’t think they are worth careful consideration? That you don’t understand them? A handwritten note, a nice talk over lunch — any sincere gesture to communicate that you really do care and really do listen (or that you care enough to start listening better) can fix this.

Unless it’s a gift for a kid. If you forgot a gift for a kid, it really is all about the gift. Then you just need to buy a gift. All will be forgiven.

Sorry we got in that screaming match over politics at the dinner table.


This one can be complicated, and in order to know how to fix it, you need to ask yourself some questions first.

Are you sorry to the person you were arguing with? If so, why? Did you lose your temper and hurl insults? Yes, you should apologize for that if you are sorry. If you aren’t sorry, and just think you should feel sorry, skip to the next question.

Are you sorry to the rest of the people who had to witness your fight? Does the sight of your angry shouting distress your grandma? Did your argument upset a lot of people that you didn’t intend to? You can apologize about this. A simple, “I’m sorry that this fight happened in front of you and I’m sorry that it upset you,” should do. You don’t have to apologize for standing up for yourself or for your words, if you meant them, but if other people were impacted and you want to patch things up with them, you can apologize for the collateral damage.

Did you mean what you said? If you meant what you said, and still do, you don’t have to apologize for it. Family does not get a free pass for their harmful behavior or bigoted beliefs.

Could you have handled it better? Reflect for a minute. Did you really need to call your uncle those names? Did you need to scream while your mother was trying to pass the turkey? If you feel like you could have handled the situation better (even if your actions still feel justifiable given the circumstances), explain what you could have done differently and apologize for how you didn’t.

I’m sorry I got really drunk at Christmas dinner and wouldn’t stop singing Britney Spears songs at the table.


When you combine a festive holiday with large amounts of wine and then toss in a dash of family tension, you have a perfect recipe for making a drunk ass of yourself. This can happen to the best of us, and while getting drunk at a party with friends might make for funny stories, getting drunk at family gatherings can lead to embarrassment, concern, and ruined relationships. If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing you want to do is ask yourself honestly, has this happened before? If this isn’t the first time you’ve found yourself fall-down drunk at the dinner table, you may want to consider talking to a professional about it.

These things do happen to everyone — once. If it happens more than once, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a drinking problem or you are an alcoholic — it may mean that you need better ways of coping with family stress and anxiety, or it may mean that you don’t feel like family gatherings are a safe space. And if it does mean that you have a drinking problem, you are still a valuable person worthy of love, support, and help.

If you feel like you do have a problem that could use some help, work with a counselor and let your family know that you understand their concern and you are reaching out to appropriate people to work on it. You don’t have to say any more than that if you don’t want to.

If this is the first time that you’ve found yourself trying to remember what embarrassing statements you drunkenly shouted while opening presents, try a simple, “Hey, I was not being responsible with my alcohol consumption and I apologize. If I did anything that hurt or offended you or made you uncomfortable I’m very sorry and I will try to make it right.” And then don’t get defensive if you do have some truly hurt, angry, or concerned relatives. Genuine conversation and apology will help, and your future behavior will set their minds at ease.

It’s important to remember that we all screw up sometimes and we don’t need to beat ourselves up about it. But part of being responsible adults is being able to apologize for things we’ve done that negatively impact others. Saying “sorry” sucks, but it only sucks for a few minutes — and it’s worth it to be able to make eye contact with your family at the next gathering.

Images: freeimages.com

Like what you read? Give Ijeoma Oluo a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.

The author has chosen not to show responses on this story. You can still respond by clicking the response bubble.