Ah, Christmas- the best time of the year. The past 2 years though, it’s been hard to remember what the Christmas season is like unaccompanied by the stress and general miserableness of final exams. Gone is the pleasant build-up to the actual day; now, it’s pretty much a mad scramble to stay sane for most of December and then BAM! It’s Christmas, and then just like that, it’s over. So like any good 20 year-old, I’ve decided to regress and seal myself inside the pleasant memories of Christmas’ past.
I can’t place the first Christmas I remember, although my favorite story from the early years is the classic story of when my uncle got me some sick tear-away pants. I didn’t quite understand the concept though. So, when he excitedly demonstrated the cool added feature by ripping them off of me (in front of the whole family), I thought he had purposely destroyed them and began bawling. Imagine the shock and betrayal I must have felt! Although to be fair, my uncle probably felt worse for making his little nephew cry in front of everyone.
It’s also funny to think of all the different toys I wanted when I was younger. I remember desperately wanting a PiPi-Max dog toy- the one that drank water and then “peed” when you took it on a walk. I didn’t get one though; now that I look back on it, I had a living, breathing dog that peed all the time, for free, so the request was a bit foolish on my part. We also got Hess trucks every year- those were lit. And who can forget the hours my poor parents (and yours too I’m guessing) must have spent unscrewing those action figures and RC helicopters from their cases all while 3 impatient young children badgered them and whined about not being able to play with their toys. Thanks, you two.
I also remember the year when my siblings and I each got a big music themed gift. My sister got a karaoke machine (which played Hannah Montana 24/7), my brother got a keyboard (which remains in my house to this day), and I got the electric guitar and amp I wanted. Man, was I excited. In fact, I was so excited, that I played it probably 5 times total before we got rid of it years later. Not kidding. Money well spent, in my opinion. My parents might disagree.
Christmas tree shopping was also a grand old time. Each year my siblings and I would take turns naming the tree, although it has more recently become a team effort (this year’s tree is Spruce Springsteen. We are quite proud). The most infamous tree, however, is the aptly named Christmas Tree from Hell. This monster of a tree (literally, it was huge) fell over not once, not twice, but three times, and pretty much always during the night. It destroyed half of our ornaments, many of which were pretty valuable to us (for example, my “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament from 1996 was one of the fallen). We were not sad to be rid of that tree.
I think it is the traditions of Christmas Eve and Christmas though that inspire the most nostalgia and make me long most for the end of finals. Our Christmas Eve tradition has been going on as long as I can remember. First, it is off to Holy Childhood, the special education school my mom (and myself) work at, for a delightful and brisk Christmas Eve Mass. Then, we beeline it straight to McDonald’s for milkshakes (and French fries for my brother). Then its home, where my mom lays out the first Christmas gift on our beds- fresh PJ’s. Once we are all cozied up, we break out the clementine’s and devour them while watching The Polar Express. We’d decorate cookies, write notes to Santa, and then go to bed after that when we were younger, although now, we stay up with our parents and watch It’s a Wonderful Life as well. It’s quickly become one of my favorite movies- and every year, without fail, at the very end of the film, my dad begins to bawl his eyes out, tearily proclaiming how wonderful the ending is. You can’t beat the classics.
Then of course comes Christmas morning, where for the longest time, like any good Catholics, we sang happy birthday to Jesus before sitting in a row on the top of the stairs so my mom could get a picture. Then we tumbled downstairs, where present opening became a systematic process. First came the stockings, of course, which every year (to this day) contain 4 constant items among other treats- a quarter (so we may never be poor), coal (so we always have warmth), a potato (so we may never be hungry), and an orange, which I think was so our life would always be sweet but I’m not totally sure. Then, my mom would each hand us one present at a time, so that all 3 of us could look and see what the other had gotten. After presents, Grandma comes to visit, hors d’oeuvre’s are enjoyed throughout the day, and Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Story play on the TV in the background. It’s a grand old time.
Looking back on these fond memories and traditions only makes me more excited to leave finals behind and more than ready to enjoy the numerous comforts of home during the holidays. Although now it’s back to the real world (my abnormal psych notebook is burning a hole in my backpack), I can say I’m very lucky to have such great memories to look back on. With that, I wish you all happy holidays and a happy 2017!