Cherishing Christmas: Comparing holiday traditions now to those of previous years

The change I've experienced in Christmas traditions over the years

Emily Xia

There’s no holiday like Christmas. Sure, Halloween, Thanksgiving and New Year’s all have their perks, but Christmas holds a special place in my heart.

As a young child, as soon as December came around, I would be prancing in my living room listening to “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (classics, if you ask me), sipping peppermint hot chocolate topped with a light sprinkle of marshmallows.

The weeks leading up to Christmas were filled with excitement. I loved pestering my dad to put up warm lights lining our rooftops, and decorating the Christmas tree was always my favorite part. I was too short to place the star on top of our 9-foot fake tree, but I was perfectly content with embellishing the bottom four layers with shiny glass bulbs and intricately-carved wooden shapes.

Santa was an icon to me. I spend my Christmas Eve writing a letter to him, wishing for a dog stuffed animal or begging him to protect me from cavities. I baked cookies from premade cookie dough and set out a glass of milk along with my letter. I would sleep fitfully, eagerly awaiting the next morning.

Illustration by Emily Xia

At the crack of dawn, I’d run downstairs to be met by piles of perfectly-wrapped presents under the tree, an empty plate with only crumbs remaining and a response to the letter I had written the night earlier. It wasn’t until I was 11 when I realized that my brother had eaten my cookies every year and my mom had been responding to my letters. I was horrified and locked myself in my room for hours, unable to fathom the betrayal. Now, however, I’ve learned to appreciate the humor my mom attempts to add in as she pretends to embody Santa.

Christmas meant the world to me for over 10 years. But now, as a high schooler, I can see my enthusiasm diminishing, and it’s devastating to me.

Replacing parties and holiday dinners with frantic cramming for finals. Sleeping in on Christmas morning to compensate for constant sleep deprivation. Losing my belief in Rudolph and Santa, characters I had nearly worshipped before.

Slowly but surely, Christmas is losing its magic.

It’s challenging to accept that I’m losing this part of my identity, that in a lot of ways, Dec. 25 is like any other day. I wish that I could go back in time and experience everything as a 10-year-old again, because the same traditions don’t have the same meaning anymore.

Not everything has completely changed. I still go to Target to buy gifts, and putting up the Christmas tree is still a highlight of my year. As an ornament collector, my tree has gotten more crowded with new ornaments every December — my favorite one being a wooden carving of a mouse playing a small piano with sheet music of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” I still bother my dad until he puts up the Christmas lights, and even though I don’t believe in Santa anymore, I still bake cookies and write a letter, just to preserve tradition. Oh, and I’m still obsessed with peppermint.

On the other hand, a lot has changed, but not necessarily in a negative way. Winter break means seeing my brother come home from college, and even though I know my letter isn’t being read by some jolly old man from the North Pole, the responses that my brother and mom come up with never fail to make me laugh. And of course, being 5’ 7”, I can proudly stand on a stool and firmly place the golden star onto the tip of the tree.

I’m always afraid to try new things, to abandon habits that I know offer me solace and bring me joy. Christmas was a source of stability for so many years, and I couldn’t bear to see it fade away.

When I say that my shell is my comfort zone, I’m not solely referring to self-confidence or social ability. My tendency to hide in safety extends over every habit I have, no matter how insignificant it is. Any small change could spell out trouble for my ingrained habits, and even though I know change also leads to improvement, it’s a constant struggle to wave goodbye to tradition that I’ve held onto for weeks, months or in this case, years.

Although it can be frightening for meaningful tradition to be uprooted, maybe it’s better to just sit back and let it happen. It’s boring to hang onto old thought processes when they’re very clearly expired. New traditions sprout up and they become the new norm until they are altered once again, keeping our lives fresh and exciting.

Though Christmas itself isn’t the same, I can still confidently say one thing.

There’s still no holiday like Christmas.