Off the Board, Opinion

When Christmas isn’t how it used to be

Upon entering my go-to cafe last week, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. Christmas music was playing and a familiar thought crept back into my mind: Christmas has not felt like Christmas to me for a while now. When familiar tunes about reindeers and Santa Claus chime from every corner, along with the incessant flashing of red, white, and green lights, I cannot help but feel nostalgic. Before I can push the thought away, I am always left wondering why the so-called Christmas “magic” is lost on me. What was it that made Christmas “feel like Christmas” in the first place?

Before the age of nine, my Christmas had religious affiliations. My parents always explained that it was Jesus’ birthday and somehow that meant we gave gifts to each other. The religious customs never stuck with me and although I observed them out of respect, they were no longer part of my Christmas experience as I grew older. What my adolescent self did latch onto was the loud, wild affair of family and relatives piling into our house to eat, drink, play games, and throw money at each other.

After I turned nine, my family moved away and though our Christmas gatherings were smaller, they were no less enjoyable. I attributed a lot of my excitement to the build-up to Christmas. There was something about scrolling through TV channels and only seeing Home Alone or Christmas specials that just made the time of year so comfortable and thrilling. Unlike Halloween, where you would not want to be any of the characters stuck in their timeline of horror, the holiday films were full of joy. I would have loved to be Danny Devito attempting to deck my house in lights so that it can be seen from space.

Now, in my 20s, I do not have the same kind of enthralled attachment to Christmas. I do not feel the same sense of anticipation. Honestly, I struggle to find what Christmas means to me now; I do not go to church, I do not have the same family traditions, and this year I will not even make it home for Christmas. I would not exactly say I have “outgrown” it––I simply do not enjoy it the way my nine-year-old self did. Maybe I never will again. But this does not have to be a bad thing, and I feel comforted that after many conversations with my friends, I know I am not the only one feeling this way.

It goes without saying, Christmas is a largely observed holiday and is practiced differently by many different people. I see it as a clear marker of time passing—like a second birthday. As we get older, we become more nostalgic each passing year and for some of us, this is amplified during the holiday season. Nostalgia is odd in the way that it can either be good or bad. Great memories make you thankful that you had them, but there is also sadness in knowing you will not have them again. The feelings that you had in that moment can never be recreated in the exact same way, and although it can be bittersweet, nostalgia is something that will always come and go—it cannot be avoided. As long as time keeps moving forward, Christmas will always come around to remind me of a time I cannot go back to.

So, even if I cannot replicate the Christmas celebrations of my childhood, nostalgia ensures that my experiences were fulfilling enough that I both remember and miss them. I do not exactly aspire to “make something out of Christmas again.” Simply knowing that I did love it at a time in my life is enough for me.

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