Growing Old With Christmas

Alyssa Shepherd reflects on the festive period and discusses the way that this time of year has changed as she has grown older and how its meaning has altered for her. 

With all of the hustle and bustle of December well and truly passed us, it seems an apt time to reflect upon the different meanings which we attach to that wonderful seasonal event known to many as Christmas, and how such meanings change as we grow older and more mature. Personally, when I was younger, Christmas was the single most exciting event of the year, hands down. No event rivalled the anticipation, the excitement, the magic, or the food baby – not even my birthday. Although the food baby is very much still a thing, for me this day carries different weight and meaning as I continue to grow older. I’m too old now to receive visits from Santa Claus, or make a wish list of gifts to send to the North Pole. As a young adult, Christmas is now filled with other expectations, and is an event I enjoy in different ways.

The former sense of anticipation or excitement reserved for waking up to presents left by Santa Claus is now replaced by one for visits to and from family and friends, whom I do not always have the time to see in my busy life. Christmas becomes even more special to me as I grow older not because of the fact that it brings people from often distant places back together into a shared space to enjoy one another’s company, and to exchange stories, memories, and laughs, along with presents. As we grow older, we become more than simply gift receivers, since we are most often expected to use the money we have saved from full- or part-time jobs to buy Christmas presents for our family and friends. Personally, this is now the most exciting part of this holiday event. I really do enjoy taking the time to think about what presents would make someone happy and hold special meaning to them more than I do being on the receiving end of them - although wrapping them still isn’t as fun as it’s cut out to be (pun thoroughly intended).

Furthermore, if you’re a university student, the Christmas break means eating home-cooked meals, seeing your parents, siblings, and perhaps mostly importantly, your own bed, for the first time in several months. The Christmas break is a time to kick back and relax after a stressful twelve-week term filled with deadlines, internship applications or final exams. It is time, finally, to get home, sleep in until ridiculous hours, binge watch shows we’ve missed on Netflix, and simply enjoy being in the company of our friends and family without any looming deadlines or exams to worry about. In essence, Christmas becomes less to do with material goods, and more about celebrating with family and friends. The true sentimentality of Christmas moves beyond gifts and presents to meaningful relationships, and taking a moment to appreciate the people we have in our lives, and what they mean to us.