There are always a few things that start to make it feel like the holidays. Aside from the mountains of essays due at the end of the semester, the days are shorter and there’s a chill in the air as it starts to get colder, offset by the warmth of the decoration lights glistening out of the shop windows onto the sidewalk. The holidays have always been one of my favorite times of the year. I love the ambience, the music, the Starbucks red cups, the anticipation of spending time surrounded by family, friends and good food that makes the stress of the end of semester seem worth it somehow.
This year, I find myself even more enamored with the holiday spirit. After spending the last December break in lockdown, unable to celebrate as we usually do, it feels like everyone is anxious to make up for lost time. Because of the travel restrictions, I was unable to go home last year and be with my family for Christmas. It has always been a special time for me and so it was extremely hard to be away from all the people I love during this time of the year for the first time in my life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who found the last holiday season bittersweet, nostalgic for the “way things were.” And although that experience undoubtedly came with challenges, it truly made me reflect on the meaning of the holidays and what exactly it is that makes it such a special time for so many people.
If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past year and a half, it is how important it is to spend time with the people you care about. When things seem hard, having someone to turn to, having a group of people to surround yourself with makes all the difference. The holidays are a wonderful time because of the novelty and the décor, but underneath all that the holidays are special, in my opinion, because they bring people together. Spending a Christmas away from my family, ironically, showed me this more than ever. Having my group of friends to band together and re-create Christmas traditions, having a friend mail me my favorite homemade peanut butter squares and receiving, on Christmas Eve, an envelope of cards from everyone in my family who I could not be with touched me in a way nothing has before. It made me realize that for me, the true gift of life and human existence, is the people, the relationships that warm you from the inside.
My first Christmas away from home taught me that there is so much wonderful human connection to be found, even outside of where you would have expected it. The holiday spirit for me is now a spirit of connection, a reminder of the beauty of human relationships, friendships and family equally. The world is in no way back to normal, and if this holiday season is difficult, I hope this reminds you that you aren’t alone, that there are supports out there, even when it feels otherwise. I’m wishing all of you a safe and restful winter break. See you in the new year!