‘Tis (still) the season to be jolly

Jamila Dawkins | Forum Editor

Four days ago, I arrived on campus with 25 feet of Christmas lights and a resolution: to recreate for myself the holiday spirit that last year’s holiday season sorely lacked.

For most of my life, I’ve been pulled into arguments on Christmas season etiquette. “You start celebrating too early,” I was told when I began humming along to Mariah Carey’s Christmas album in September. “At least wait until after Halloween,” lectured my spookier acquaintances when I traded trick-or-treating for a night of Hallmark “Countdown to Christmas” favorites (because yes, Hallmark begins counting down to Christmas in October—as they should). “Let’s wait until after Thanksgiving,” cautioned my well-meaning (and perhaps somewhat overwhelmed) roommates when I started hatching dorm decorating plans in early November.

Normally, I’d be sympathetic towards—even understanding of—such demands. I’d keep the holiday music down, or wait until Thanksgiving to start decorating and enjoying the season in full. But last year, September came and I felt nothing. In October, my midterms started, and by my November slump, I wasn’t feeling much of any spirit, let alone holiday spirit. Rather than walking around looking at the lights as they went up, I was in my dorm, working or sleeping or Zooming. And once it finally got to Thanksgiving time—the unofficial accepted threshold for the beginning of Christmas cheer—instead of being in my dorm, decorating and enjoying The Jackson 5’s best Christmas hits, I was on my way back home for the semester out of fear of the spikes in COVID cases that were happening at the time.

Where Christmas had previously crept up on me, always something to be anticipated around the corner, last year it came and went like another Friday. And once it went, I was left wishing that I could have a do-over.

This holiday season was different for a lot of us, and probably a little worse than usual for most of us. For many Wash. U. students, the looming weight of January finals likely stripped a little bit of light from the occasion. In December, the US had the most COVID deaths and the highest hospitalization rates since the start of the pandemic. Many of us were isolated from family and unable to engage in long-held traditions—both things that we need now more than ever.

I recognize that it is a privilege to be able to complain about a lackluster holiday season. For being healthy throughout that time, for having family to miss during the holidays and for being able to return to campus this semester to begin this Christmas tirade, I am grateful.

That being said, I also recognize that December is my favorite time of the year and that last year, I spent mine studying, crying, trying to teach my aunts and uncles how to use Zoom so we could talk on the 25th and generally in a holiday gloom. So—every year, but especially this year—let’s stop gatekeeping the holiday cheer. If you hear Whitney Houston’s “Do You Hear What I Hear?” drifting out of my room, look the other way—and yes, I will be watching “Home Alone” this weekend. Consider recreating the holiday of your choosing, too. Look for happiness wherever you need to find it.

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