It (Used to Be) the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Kassidi McKayla Kaminski

Kassidi McKayla Kaminski is a sophomore studying Psychology in the Liberal Arts Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin. After graduation she hopes to attend law school and is currently a member of Delta Gamma and a Young Life leader at Reagan High School.

There comes a moment in every child’s life when Christmas begins to feel different.  That moment doesn’t come at the same time for every child, but its arrival is inevitable. After that moment came for me, the twinkle of Christmas magic has dulled more and more with each passing year, encouraging my eccentric choices to try and make it sparkle again.

Me and a not-so-happy Kolton participating in a family tradition: going to visit Santa Claus.

Once this December arrives, I will have had my Christmas tree up for a full year.  It hasn’t been an easy task.  For the first couple of months, I worked hard to keep my mom out of the upstairs game room, fearful she would make me take it down.  Around month six, I think my family just stopped caring that it was there, or maybe they were all too lazy to take it down.  But I kept it up for the reason I mentioned earlier: the older I get, the more Christmas’s magical allure dims away.  I wanted to keep the tree up as a tangible reminder of that magic in a last-ditch effort to find it once again.

When I came home for Christmas break last year, I had about eight days to cram in as much tradition as I possibly could.  Studying for finals had left no room for festivities while I was at school.  So I then spent hours navigating crowded malls, and I yelled some not-so-cheery expletives while searching for a parking spot.  I stayed up late watching all of the Christmas classics and rushed through Christmas wrapping.  By the time the 24th arrived, when it was time to begin our 72 hours of five overlapping family Christmas gatherings, I was utterly exhausted.  And, I found myself kind of hating Christmas.

I didn’t used to feel that way.  When I was a child, back when Santa was a celebrity and life was good, the anticipation I felt for Christmas morning began on Thanksgiving and climbed with each passing day.  Like every other holiday-celebrating family, we had fun traditions to fill the countdown: shopping for stocking stuffers at Walmart.  Visiting the Santa on Kiamesha Street.  Watching Elf on Thanksgiving Day.  Listening to Sunny 99.1 while decorating our seven Christmas trees.  Opening a “surprise” gift of pajamas every Christmas Eve.  Humans thrive on routine and familiarity, which explains why traditions are so important to us.

My cousins McKenna, Cheyenne, and Dallas starting a new tradition at Houston Zoo Lights with my brother Kolton and I
last year.

But there’s a problem with traditions: they can be outgrown.  As we grow in age, our preferences mature, and some traditions just seem silly to us.  We learn the truth behind some traditions and allow the glittery veils that covered our eyes to fall away.  Traditions also require dedicated time, and time is scarce these days. Adults are responsible for planning the Christmas gatherings, buying presents for their significant others and ensuring their kids get what they want on Christmas morning. Between work and school and general commitments, it’s easy to let Christmas become a burden and a source of anxiety.

I don’t like change.  I never have.  I’ve spent many nights over the past few Christmases crying in my room, trying to reconcile my loss of childhood innocence with the Christmas responsibilities that come with adulthood.  In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Cindy Lou Who faces a similar dilemma.  As she grows older, she struggles to remember the feeling Christmas used to give her.  She concludes that because she’s changing, Christmas must be changing, too – for the worse.

But by the end of her lamenting song, Cindy realizes that Christmas is a state of being; it can always feel like Christmas “if there is love in your heart and your mind.”  This makes me think that maybe the reason that I’ve lost the Christmas feeling isn’t because my life has gotten busier; it’s because I started to lose the Christmas spirit, the heart of what the holiday truly is.  The saddest part in all of this is that I know I’m not the only one who has lost that spirit and struggles to find it again.  As a society we have commercialized and trivialized a holiday with a meaning that far surpasses Black Friday deals and themed parties.

Me teaching my then 15 year-old cousin Elle how to ice skate.

The spirit of Christmas implies that the holiday is centered around something spiritual, ethereal even.  Christmas loses its magic as we get older because we’ve completely missed the point: the “magic” of Christmas comes from the immeasurable joy and hope that this world received when a child was born over 2,000 years ago.  Traditions are fun, of course, and I’m not saying that we should give them up (as I mentioned earlier, I don’t like change).  I’m simply saying that traditions are not the point.  Maybe my struggle to rush through my Christmas traditions –  in order to relive my childhood and find Christmas again – proves futile because that’s not where Christmas is found.  I’ve been searching in the wrong place all along.

Before there were Christmas trees, presents and holiday movies, there was a story about the birth of a child named Jesus.  It’s part of the most important story you’ll ever hear.  And, it goes like this: Over 2,000 years ago, a baby named Jesus was born in a humble stable in Bethlehem.  He grew up to be the Savior of the world –  a perfect human – and died so that you and I could have hope in an everlasting life.  He gave us the ultimate Christmas present – one that exists every day “in your heart and your mind” –  and set the bar really high for anything I could buy someone on Amazon Prime.

We all have beloved traditions, and anyone can appreciate the magic of Santa Claus. Enjoy them all this Christmas.  But please make time for a new tradition, one that involves reading the story about the baby who was born in a manager all those years ago.  As for my Christmas tree, I’ll probably keep it up next year too, simply because it makes me happy.  But I won’t need it to keep the Christmas spirit alive.  I think I’ve found it again.