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Which Family Member Is Most Likely to Ruin Christmas, According to Data

We’re not leaving anything to chance this year

As the youngest and only brother to four sisters, I was blamed for a lot of things growing up — even a lousy Christmas. To say nothing of how Hollywood would have you believe it’s usually the brother who ruins the holiday. In A Christmas Story, it’s Ralphie who is always up to no good. In Fred Claus, it’s Santa’s bitter older brother Fred who causes an injury so bad he can’t even deliver gifts. And Kevin takes the blame from his entire family in Home Alone, even though Uncle Frank is clearly the one at fault.

It’s self-serving for me to say, I know, but all of this seems like an unfair representation of brothers. And so, I set out to discover the truth: Which family member, statistically speaking, actually ruins Christmas the most? 

My first attempt at a methodology was to simply scour Google search trends. But to my dismay, no one is really searching, “Why is my brother ruining Christmas?” They’re more likely looking for a Christmas cookie recipe that their brother can’t shape into a penis. 

However, people do broadcast their holiday familial spats on social media — especially Twitter, the go-to platform for airing petty grievances. Due to the specific demographic of Twitter users, this might not be the most scientifically-sound data sample, but given that Boomers have taken over Facebook and determining which family drama posts on Reddit are true is outright impossible, the bird app was my best option. 

It may have been my limited experience in brand management or the purposefully limited scope offered by their free trials, but most so-called “social media listening” tools offered zero assistance. However, I found a way to scrape specific data points from Twitter’s search results and export them into a database. This way, I could collect every tweet in which someone complained about their brother(s), sister(s), mom(s) or dad(s) ruining Christmas, along with the time and date. 

First, though, it was important to weed out instances wherein a tweet included the necessary keywords but didn’t denote a family member ruining Christmas. For instance, @kirstjoness‘s tweet, “Just remembered at Christmas when someone replied to my sisters Snapchat saying no way is that your mum and it was me ???? 4 months later and it’s ruined my day again,” contains the right keywords, but isn’t counted in the dataset. For accuracy’s sake, I utilized Boolean operators to limit tweets to those that included specific iterations of familial denominations plus “Christmas ruined,” “ruined Christmas,” “Christmas is ruined,” “ruining Christmas” and so on.

Still, while specific parameters allowed me to mostly include only reports of the OP’s sibling or parent ruining Christmas, some margin for error should be expected. So, take all of this with a grain of salt before you blame me for ruining your Christmas (and maybe proving the very thesis I’m trying to disprove?). 

With that, let’s dig into the data. Between December 14, 2008 and December 14, 2021, roughly 2,843 people complained about someone in their family ruining Christmas. Brothers accounted for 1,261 of those ruined Christmases; sisters for 1,451; dads for 108; and moms for just 23.

Notably, blame wasn’t often cast in the opposite direction — i.e., parents blaming their kids, which is likely just due to a lower number of parents on Twitter. But when it did happen, kids as a collective caught the blame more often than the individual son or daughter:

Of the 35 complaints lodged against kids for ruining Christmas, 12 blamed their son, eight blamed their daughter and 15 blamed their kids or children collectively.

Could one extrapolate this data to determine that certain siblings simply complain about their family members more often than the others? Sure. But the data didn’t present which sibling the OP was. Still, overall, sisters are complained about the most. Thus, the data backs me up that, yes, sisters ruin Christmas more than any other family member.

However, the data provided more than just one conclusion. By filtering the dataset for language insinuating someone was responsible for ruining Christmas more than once, I was able to find the repeat offenders. That is, your sister might ruin a singular Christmas here and there, but which family member continues to ruin Christmas over and over again?

Of the 1,261 complaints about brothers ruining Christmas, roughly 44 were repeat offenses. Similarly, two of the total 23 moms; 10 of 108 dads; and 21 of 1,451 sisters had all ruined Christmas more than once. With that in mind, it would seem as though brothers love to make a habit out of ruining the holiday. 

There were a total of 77 parents or siblings who reportedly ruined Christmas “again,” and brothers were relentless in their pursuit, totaling 44 of the repeat offenders. 

It’s by no means the intention of this very scientific study to stir up more family drama before the holidays. Instead, a time-based analysis of the data could help us prevent future Christmases from being ruined. That is, when, exactly, will your sister ruin Christmas? 

There wasn’t much discrimination when it came to when people complain about their relatives ruining Christmas. In fact, people reported ruined Christmases on 243 days of the year, roughly 75 of which came during the summer months of June, July and August. As one would expect, though, the majority of complaints arrived during the holiday season — well over 200 people deemed Christmas ruined in the 48 hours leading up to Christmas Eve, 335 on Christmas Eve alone and 947 brothers, sisters, moms and dads ruined Christmas on December 25th.

With that in mind, it might be worth keeping an eye on your family now, especially those siblings who’ve got one ruined Christmas under their belts. In terms of repeat-offenders, the data shows Christmas-ruining sisters typically strike on Christmas Eve, whereas brothers hold the lion’s share of Christmas Day fiascos.

Finally, I’d be remiss to not include the number of times you — yes, you — ruined Christmas. Between 2007 and 2021, people have taken to Twitter 9,876 times to confess that they, themselves ruined Christmas. (Or that they’re being blamed for ruining Christmas or that they plan on ruining Christmas in the future.)

For the last 14 years, the number of complaints lodged against family members followed a near-identical path to the number of complaints wherein people identified themselves as the perpetrator of a ruined Christmas — both rose in the early years, peaked in 2011 and 2012 and then slowly declined after that.

As we see in the chart above, the number of tweets denoting personal responsibility waned from 2016 to 2018, rose in 2019 and 2020, but has since seen a steep downward trend. This could be attributed to the simple fact that Christmas 2021 hasn’t happened yet, and thus most of us have not had the chance to ruin it. But allow me to wildly speculate on a dataset that’s undergone zero scientific scrutiny. Compare the sharp post-2020 pivot in the graph above to the post-2020 trend in the graph below, and a very troubling divergence appears: Where there’s been a sharp decline in announcing personal responsibility for ruining Christmas, blaming family members is undeniably on the rise.

Note: Total volume of tweets in each category above have been adjusted to scale for clarity.

Perhaps there’s no use in burying our heads in data and crunching numbers in hopes of seeing the future. And while Christmas may always be at the mercy of the whims of our wackiest, drunkest family member, we can at least reign ourselves in. That’s right. This year, maybe don’t whisper “actually, it’s sparkling wine ham” at various moments throughout the day and consider thinking twice before cuckolding Santa Claus. Let us all just enjoy the holiday in peace, and maybe if we look at the data again next year, we’ll see that together we’ve flattened the curve.