I remember the days of ending the first semester of school with a week full of holiday parties. We elementary schoolers eagerly waited for our parents to rush in with hot chocolate, cookies and cupcakes decorated with snowflakes, Christmas trees and dreidels. I remember flipping between ABC Family’s “25 Days of Christmas” movie marathons and the holiday-themed episodes of my favorite TV shows on Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. I remember starting my letter to Santa as soon as I had finished stuffing myself with turkey on Thanksgiving night, later exchanging ideas with all of my friends and discussing what types of cookies we would be baking on Christmas Eve. I remember getting to help decorate both my house and my grandparents’ house, in awe of the towering presence of the tree and delighted by the colorful lights. Most importantly, I remember feeling totally surrounded by and filled with the holiday spirit, overjoyed by the festivities of my favorite time of the year.
Sadly, at this point in my life, the same cannot be said. Yes, in some ways, it is because I no longer believe in the jolly old man who shimmies down chimneys at night to deliver presents, but there was much more to my love for the holiday season than Santa Claus. I suppose things first started to taper off when a classmate told me that he isn’t real, but everything else that I have always loved about Christmas was still there. Even in high school, at least I was still at home. I was present for all of December. I still studied for finals but not to the extent that I do here. It didn’t have to interfere with my increasing excitement if I didn’t want it to.
Now that I’ve moved here for school, there is hardly any time to even enjoy the holiday season before winter break begins. The biggest taste of it that I got last year was keeping a Christmas music playlist on shuffle whenever I was in my room. I was so engulfed by Dead Week, turning in papers and studying for exams that I didn’t have time to be festive. I mean, it barely even gets cold here. I’m not from a city that has brutal winters, but it was hard for it to feel like December here when there were days during finals week that I was sitting at Coupa wearing short sleeves without a jacket. I longed for the ability to see a little cloud of my breath in the morning whenever I stood outside, to need gloves and a puffer just to leave my dorm, to wear boots and not feel oddly out of place.
Last year, it even snowed back home — more snow than Atlanta had gotten in a while — in the week before I flew back, and it was all gone before I had finally arrived. Seeing my friends who still live there or who were already home playing in the snow that was sticking was borderline-heartbreaking. By the time I got home, I was so burnt out from an exhausting quarter that I didn’t even have the energy to jump straight into everything I had been yearning for. It was great to be back, and eventually I did feel the holiday spirit welling up inside of me again, but it wasn’t the same as before.
I can only assume that it gets worse from here. At least now I have a guaranteed three-week break, but in the future, who knows what responsibilities will come up around this time of year. I don’t mean to sound like Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch, though perhaps one could say that the Stanford bubble has taken on the role of the latter in this case. Regardless, I am still very grateful for my enjoyment of the holiday season when I get home, and this will always be the most wonderful time of the year in my eyes. I suppose it’s just saddening to think about how it’s changed since I’ve gotten older. It may be Dead Week, but fret not — I am keeping my spirit alive.