Shining a Light on a New Christmas Spirit

As I stood alone in Boston Common, waiting for the annual tree lighting to commence, I looked around me.

Hundreds of families gathered together to formally welcome the holiday season. They huddled around each other for warmth on the crisp December night.

As the tree lit up, mothers and sons embraced while fathers carried their daughters on their shoulders. Together, families sang along to Christmas carols, and took photos commemorating the special moment.

As beautiful as the ceremony was, it made me sad. There I was alone, attempting to enjoy a famous Boston tradition that I had heard so much about.

Instead of admiring the glowing tree, I was fixated on all the families around me—wishing I had mine there with me.

Growing up, I loved the holiday season because it always had a way of bringing my family closer together. I am a homebody. Nothing makes me happier than spending time with my family. The holidays were ideal time for bringing us together.

This year is my first holiday season in college. My first holiday season away from home, and away from my family.

My dorm room doesn’t have a sparkling tree surrounded by presents, or any Christmas decorations whatsoever. It’s safe to say that to me, it doesn’t really feel like Christmas.

I blame my despondent attitude on my inability to fully embrace change. As a creature of habit, I find myself overwhelmed and distracted by all the new things forced into my life. Recently, I’ve found myself reminiscing about life before college.

At home, the Christmas festivities begin way before the 25th. Little-by-little, small touches of Christmas would be sprinkled throughout my home. By now, a fresh spruce tree would be towering over my living room. The comforting aroma would waft through the entire house. Day after day, the gifts from family and friends would begin to pile in under the tree. Every now and then when no one was looking, I’d go through the presents looking to see if any of the big ones were for me.  

It brought me joy seeing my mums satisfaction as she went through what seemed to be a tedious task of sending elegant gifts and Christmas cards to our nearest and dearest. However, in recent years our have cards no longer featured a photo of me and my brother posing in matching navy blue polos.

On the weekends, my family would wind down by watching our favorite Christmas movies, Elf and Love Actually.

I foolishly tried to recreate this moment last Saturday night but only got through 30 minutes of another favorite: Home Alone 2. It just wasn’t the same.

I miss fighting my dad over our favorite chewy gingerbread cookies gifted to us by friends that we wait a year to enjoy, attending Christmas parties surrounded by the childhood friends I’ve known longer than I can remember, while the holiday classic Christmas with the Rat Pack plays on repeat in the background.

For the next four years—and probably longer—the lead up to Christmas will be different. Instead of spending it with family I get to enjoy it with the new friends I’ve made and create new memories I will look back on one day with nostalgia.

For the first time in my life, I get to wake up, look out the window, and see snow falling from the sky, dusting the top of bare tree branches. Just like in the movies.

Looking back, I realize I took all these moments for granted. It’s only now that I really can appreciate how lucky I was for the last 18 years. When I do get home—just four days before Christmas—I know to savor each moment.

Featured Image by William Batchelor / Heights Editor