Stereotypical first thoughts of Christmas celebrations are often filled with music, movies and happy images. However, for some, the holiday can be a difficult time. The holiday season can stir up emotions that are not necessarily merry and bright, especially for those who are mourning the death of a loved one.

A Blue Christmas service will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 19 at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church, 1200 Boyd in Newton. Rev. Donna Voteau will lead the service.

“We acknowledge how tough grief is at Christmas, whether it’s your first Christmas or many Christmases without a loved one,” Voteau said. “The Blue Christmas service is a way to remember and give honor to people we miss at Christmas. It provides a reminder that sometimes there’s a sadness at Christmas as well as joy.”

According to, there are a number of reasons depression can be common during the holiday season including social isolation, grieving and a depressive disorder with seasonal patterns. Establishing a new tradition at the holidays is one way to deal with grieving-related depression at the holidays.

The Blue Christmas service, which will be around 45 minutes long, will include Scriptures, songs and a short message, along with a reading of names submitted by attendees who have lost a friend or family member.

"There'll be a chance to remember each loved one with a lit candle," Voteau said.

Voteau empathizes with those grieving, since her own father died the day after New Year's Day. Years later, the anniversary of that date — and all the holiday decorations — still evoke bittersweet memories for Voteau of his love for all things related to Christmas.

"I hope that Blue Christmas is a moment for people to just live in the acknowledgement that grief is a part of life," Voteau said. "I think we can mistakenly believe that grief is something to be dealt with and put away and my experience is it just doesn't work that way."

Voteau noted she has led many funerals for residents in the Newton community this year and while the Blue Christmas service is primarily focused on grief, other events can also result in feelings of sadness around the holidays.

"Part of what I think the Blue Christmas concept is about is the changes in our lives," Voteau said.

The holidays can intensify stress for families dealing with relatives who may be in prison or who have a drug or alcohol addiction. Individuals who are going through a divorce, have recently retired or who are facing financial difficulty can also feel guilty or ashamed that their Christmas season cannot compare with what social media, entertainment and advertisements highlight.

"We might to do well to remember Christmas isn't always a Hallmark-movie-everything-feels-great time for people," Voteau said.

Instead, Voteau encourages people to remember that God is with them, even when life is difficult.

"We haven't done Christmas better or celebrated Christ's birth better if everything is happy,'' Voteau said. "Jesus was born during life and life has ups and downs."

The public is invited to attend the Blue Christmas service, regardless of church affiliation.

“Maybe the best gift you can give this year is to come to this service with someone who needs support to get through the holiday season,” Voteau said.

For more information about the Blue Christmas Service, contact Trinity Heights United Methodist Church at 316-283-6410 or