Holiday Reads: Squabbling Families, The Psychology Of Santa, Holiday Stress And Chocolate Chip Cookies

Every week reporter Ankita Rao selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The Atlantic: Why Families Fight During Holidays      
[T]his time of year the Internet is ripe with lists on how to avoid or mitigate family conflicts. At big gatherings, familiarity may not always breed contempt, but it sure can breed festering emotional wounds. Leonard Felder, a Los Angeles psychologist, has found that about three-quarters of us have at least one family member who annoys us. But why is it that the same minor jabs and annoying tics that are harmless coming from friends prompt epic screaming matches when uttered by relatives? ... Here are four theories as to why our families drive us nuts, and it would be nice of you to pay attention for once in your life (Olga Khazan, 12/23).

Pacific Standard: The Psychology Of Santa Claus
Polls show that 84 percent of American adults believed in Santa when they were children—children who, when prompted, say with a straight face that Santa is just as real as Michael Jordan. Santa was much realer to me than Michael Jordan, who never once gave me a present. Santa was the coolest guy on the planet. ... Parents continue with the Claus con, according to professor at Illinois State University, in order to ensure their children's parental dependency and to preserve their innocence. However, studies show that parents are often much sadder than their children when the truth comes out (Sarah Sloat, 12/19).

The Washington Post: For Women, It's The Most Stressful Time Of The Year
Family therapist B. Janet Hibbs, the author of "Try to See It My Way: Being Fair in Love and Marriage ," says her office is full of stressed-out, angry couples who feel unhappy and misunderstood during the holiday season. "I hear women say: 'You don't understand, I don't really have a choice. I have to do this,'" Hibbs said. They're overwhelmed not only doing too much but trying to keep mental track of it all. And men are defensive that they're blamed for not doing enough or doing it poorly. ... Feeling that I’m no longer the only one responsible for making Christmas magic — and that we can decide for ourselves what’s good enough — has freed up space in my head and my day (Brigid Schulte, 12/20).

Time: Why The Holidays Don’t Make Everyone So Jolly
People who suffer from anxiety and depression, for example, can have their already fragile emotions strained to the breaking point from all the stress of meeting holidays obligations. And if there has been a sorrowful event during the year, the end of the year can revive the trauma. … But the challenges do not, as many believe, lead to a spike in suicides over the holidays. According to a 2012 study from the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, the average highest suicide days actually occur in the spring and summer. And, according to some experts, the stressful season does not lead to more new diagnoses for depression or other mood disorders (Alexandra Sifferlin, 12/18). 

The Wall Street Journal: A Gift To Last A Lifetime
Jerry Sullivan gave his wife, Lorraine, a kidney for Christmas. ... Mr. Sullivan, a 59-year-old utility executive, wasn't a match for his wife, a retired 59-year-old educator, who was born with polycystic kidney disease and has been on dialysis since both her kidneys were removed in 2012. However, he agreed to give his kidney to a stranger, Claudette Parnell, a 52-year-old U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development employee who suffers from chronic kidney disease and has been on a deceased donor list for five years. His donation made Lorraine eligible to receive a kidney from an anonymous living donor as part of a national kidney exchange. Essentially a swap (Ralph Gardner Jr., 12/23).

The New Yorker: Sweet Morsels: A History Of The Chocolate-Chip Cookie
The chocolate-chip cookie celebrated its seventy-fifth birthday this year. ... The beauty of the chocolate-chip cookie—and no small part of its enduring popularity—is its fungibility. You can make it with shortening, margarine, or butter; you can make big cookies or small cookies; you can use pecans or walnuts or M. & M.’s or peanut butter; you can use more brown sugar or less; ... It doesn’t matter. What comes out will still be recognizable as a chocolate-chip cookie and, most likely, it will taste good. ... It seems that the only thing you can't do to a cookie, as Malcolm Gladwell discovered in 2005, is make it healthy (Jon Michaud, 12/22).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.