‘What Christmas means to me’


Photo by Tayhlor Stephenson / MTSU Sidelines

It’s 6 a.m.

If it were any other day, I’d hit the snooze button and heave a pillow over my head. But today is different. Today is Christmas.

The thought of what awaits me right outside my door leaves me giddy, as if I’m once again the towheaded 6-year-old hopelessly wishing to be gifted my two front teeth. I can’t keep my mind from wondering how high this year’s mountain of presents will be or what surprises are tucked inside my Rudolph-themed stocking. The unknown has me feeling anxious — you know that completely satisfying emotion we all hungrily crave as December 25 creeps upon us.

If you haven’t already caught on, the magic of Christmas still holds a firm grip on me, even at 21-years-old. But why is Christmas still so special after all these years? Maybe it’s the overload of presents, but maybe it has nothing to do with gifts at all. Sure, Christmas as a kid was particularly special thanks to the gifts galore that I completely shredded the wrapping paper clean off of. And those times when I awoke to Santa’s milk and cookies being devoured, those were the days. But for me, what makes the season so bright is family, and nothing brings the whole family under a single rooftop like the sound of bells jingling in the crisp, wintery air.

Ornament-decorating serves as the perfect holiday tradition. (Tayhlor Stephenson / MTSU Sidelines)

Whether it’s game night on Christmas Eve where everyone sits shoulder-tight around the dining room table in ugly holiday sweaters or it’s the petty fighting between my siblings over the glittery paint while decorating ornaments — which has yet to fail to-date — Christmas is family time, and family time revolves around the traditions that somehow nestle their way into our hearts.

It all starts on the first day of December when I’m handed a chocolate-filled advent calendar. By the way, you’re never too old to enjoy a sliver of chocolate a day, and what better time to do so than Jesus’ birth month? From there, the festivities seamlessly take off. From decorating the tree in glistening white lights and homemade ornaments to transforming the living room of my parents’ house into a replica of the North Pole, family-based traditions are what Christmas means to me.

Presents fill the room on Christmas morning. (Tayhlor Stephenson / MTSU Sidelines)

But what about the presents, because after all the holidays wouldn’t be the same without them. While they still play a huge role, it’s not so much about the receiving anymore as it is the giving. I used to hear it from my parens all the time, “It’s better to give than to get.” But I always considered that to be the wildest statement, and I never thought I’d really see the day I believed that to be true, but here I am believing the very words out of my parents mouths. While opening gifts is a great time, there’s nothing better than watching someone you love open the present you hand-wrapped and spent good time searching for. In that very moment, it’s as if the countless hours of shopping and Murfreesboro road rage were completely worth it. For a split second, all you can think about is the smile on their face and the pocket of satisfaction beaming in your heart.

All in all, times change but the magic of Christmas never really fades. While there may be no Santa Claus, it takes a village to celebrate Christmas the way it’s supposed to be celebrated, and I don’t take that for granted. And that’s what Christmas means to me — the family standing by me, celebrating the special day.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

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