Ah, the holidays! This annual two-month trek through a whirlwind of parties, hometowns, and celebrations can trigger a cascade of heavy emotions along with it — and, yes, lots of sex. So if you're feeling frisky right around now, you're in great company.
We asked a few renowned sex therapists for their take on why we all feel so eager to get it on during the holidays — and what to do if you feel like you're in the opposite camp.
Yep, holiday horniness is a thing.
So why are we so horny during the holidays? According to one study published in 2017, you can't blame the alcohol or the mistletoe. The study characterizes this spike in sexy times as a cultural phenomenon, connecting our collective holiday horniess to the fact that most of us are simultaneously experiencing the same things: time off of work (aka loads of free time) and a wave of celebrations.
The study also claims that higher birth rates in September, meaning an early-winter conception, is proof positive that we're having a side of sex with our eggnog. Unconvinced? Well, researchers dug into the trending online behavior of 129 countries around the holidays — Christmas for Christian-dominated countries as well as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha for Muslim-centric countries — to examine how often people searched for "sex" on Google and the number of tweets having to do with sex. Their findings suggest that when a majority of the population is collectively partying, they're also having sex, stating that "interest in sex peaks sharply online during major cultural and religious celebrations" regardless of hemisphere.
Psychologist, author, and professor of the University of Florida course, the Psychology of Human Sexuality, Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., believes that for some, holiday sex is similar to vacation sex. "I think there's something about, we're on holiday, we're celebrating, we're having time together, that evokes feelings of closeness and connection," she says. "It's kind of like the vacation sex idea. We know that people are hornier on vacation because you've taken away the stress of the daily grind."
Why are we hornier during the holidays?
There's way more to it than drinking a little too much at your best friend's Christmas party and going home with a cute new partner. (And, by the way, on the topic of booze: While some may feel that alcohol lowers their inhibitions and anxiety around sex, it often has the opposite effect — and can make it harder to orgasm.)
And don't underestimate the dark underbelly of holiday stressors to push you from being an anxious mess to DTF. "I think emotions of feeling out of control, overwhelmed, anxious or scared about the family interactions helps those who are more stirred emotionally during the holiday," says marriage and family therapist, Amanda Pasciucco.
But whether you experience a higher sex drive in December due to a rollercoaster of triggering emotions, or because you're someone who starts watching holiday movies on The Hallmark Channel in October and is hopped up on the Christmas spirit, holiday sex is all about connection.
"All of these emotions can lead to needs like wanting to connect, which then lead to the specific strategy of partnered sex," says Pasciucco, who adds that sex is, after all, excellent for sleep, headaches, and overall stress relief — something we all could use a little more of this holiday season.
Is it weird if the holidays make us feel the opposite of sexy?
Not at all, says psychotherapist Vanessa Marin, who specializes in sex therapy. "I'm pretty surprised by this research because what I've witnessed year after year in my private practice is completely different!" she says. "My couples clients always complain that their sex lives tank around the holidays."
Even on the single side of the spectrum, Marin finds her practice inundated every January with new patients "complaining that they haven't had sex in months" and want to get back on track.
"I don't think we can make generalizations or put all hookups in one basket," Mintz agrees. "I think it really depends on who you are, what you're doing for the holidays, what your stressors are and how you react to stress. Some people stress out and want to be left alone, others are like, hurry up and give me an orgasm so I can feel better."
After all, there are plenty of reasons why someone could feel sexually disconnected during the holidays, Marin points out. She cites logistical difficulties, like people who spend the holidays with family and have less privacy, as well as financial strain or straight-up seasonal depression, as totally valid and extremely un-horny circumstances.
"Many people just aren't in the mood with the darker, shorter days," she says. "Even people who are single tell me they're hesitant to start hooking up with or dating someone around the holidays, since this time can bring up so many expectations — second only to Valentine's Day!"
The bottom line on holiday sex, according to sexperts:
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time is anything but neutral, and rarely do people fit neatly into one box or another when it comes to the holidays, sex, or pretty much anything.
"For the ooey gooeys of the holidays, they may feel close, warm and connected," says Mintz, of this Christmas-loving group's heightened sex drive. Or maybe you're headed somewhere warm and have lots of vacation sex on the horizon! ("If I go to someone else's house and I'm not doing all the cooking, I might feel like I'm on vacation!," she adds.)
If you're feeling hot and bothered by the holidays, embrace the gift of Christmas that keeps on giving and know that science backs you up. But if you're not, know that there is plenty of research out there that supports your feelings, too, says Mintz. "The holidays are hard for so many people," she says. "So give yourself some grace during this time, and take good care of yourself."
And hey, speaking of really taking care of yourself, consider this your friendly reminder that partnered sex isn't the only path to stress-busting pleasure. Research shows that masturbation is a legit self-care tool that can help us fend off loneliness, boost endorphins, and stay connected to ourselves this holiday season.