MINNEAPOLIS — Wade Holcomb has a lot to be grateful for this year. In addition to graduating college and getting a job, he also has a beautiful 4-month-old girl — who will be celebrating her first Christmas with her dad clearly wrapped around her tiny fingers.
“It’s different, having a baby. It’s something to be really grateful for and she just makes me the happiest person in the world,” said Holcomb, 22, of Swainsboro, Georgia. “She’s literally the best thing ever.”
Holcomb is among the 7 of 10 Americans who say “grateful” describes them extremely well or very well over the holidays, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Roughly another 2 in 10 said it describes them moderately well.
While positive feelings are dominant, feelings of festivity and gratitude are accompanied by stress or sadness for many Americans. About 3 in 10 say “stressed” describes them extremely well or very well in December, and about another 4 in 10 say it describes them moderately well.
About 2 in 10 say they feel very lonely or sad during the holidays, with about another 2 in 10 saying they feel moderately lonely or sad.
For those who feel grateful, being in good health and being surrounded by loving family members are top of mind. While Holcomb is thankful for the new life in his family, 76-year-old Steve Tutunjian of San Diego is grateful to be alive at all.
Tutunjian has been hospitalized three times in recent months for breathing issues, including an emergency trip to intensive care in recent weeks. That’s where he was when he responded to the AP-NORC poll.
“For some godly reason, I am still here,” he said. “Just recognizing you are alive, healthy and on the mend as I am — you can’t help but be grateful.”
Tutunjian also described himself as moderately stressed — because he’s fallen behind in holiday planning — and sad. Like others who spoke to the AP, he’s missing a loved one around the holidays. Tutunjian, a retired Naval commander, lost a son in 2009 to a combination of a prescription overdose and a bad reaction to multiple medications after outpatient eye surgery.
“You never forget that loss and emptiness in your heart, particularly during those times you previously celebrated with your loved ones. So it adds some sadness to it,” he said of his son, who was also in the Navy. “On the other side, we reflect on the many good times we’ve had together ... It doesn’t destroy the holiday spirit for us. It brings it home.”
The poll also found that about 6 in 10 Americans say they have family traditions they are looking forward to this year, while just about 1 in 10 say they have some they are dreading.
Rocio Acosta, 31, of Lincoln, Nebraska, doesn’t celebrate Christmas because she is a Seventh Day Adventist. But she still feels festive this time of year, because “everyone just seems to be a little bit nicer.” Because she doesn’t rush around buying gifts, she said she’s able to just enjoy the atmosphere, pretty decorations and festivities.