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I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that the holidays are often stressful, and it seems that they come sooner every year. I can’t deny that Christmas is different this year, but I’d like to enter the holiday season with gratitude for what remains the same. I have become even closer to my immediate family since I’ve been home. With that said, I’m lucky to be surrounded by some of my favorite people to continue our holiday traditions.

Picking out & Decorating the Christmas Tree 

Because I’ve been away in Baltimore the past few years, I haven’t helped my parents choose our Christmas tree. Although every family has a different timeline for putting up their tree, we set ours up in early to mid-December. I enjoy visiting a nearby town’s tree stand that supports local charities. It may take us a long time to make the decision on the tree, but we always bond while wandering through the selection.  

I appreciate that my family waits until my finals are over to place ornaments on the tree so that I can be a part of the activity. I become nostalgic when we sort through the boxes and recall stories of past years. It makes me smile whenever I find ornaments I made in pre-school. I love that each ornament has a special meaning and memories attached to it.  

Dinner and Christmas Music by the Fireplace

Even though we have decorations everywhere, our living room is my favorite place to spend time during the holidays with all the festive pillows, the Christmas tree, and stockings on the mantle. Throughout the winter, my family and I have low-key dinners we playfully call “snack dinners” by the fireplace. Our snack dinners consist of pigs in a blanket, Swedish meatballs, chips & dip, and quesadillas. While my dad tends the fire, my sister and I play Christmas music in our holiday pajamas and fuzzy socks. It may be a simple tradition, but the atmosphere never fails to make me happy.

Building a Gingerbread House

At my house, the holidays aren’t complete without Christmas treats. In recent years, my sister and I have put our artistic abilities to the test to build gingerbread houses.  It doesn’t matter if the shapes don’t turn out perfectly or the icing is messy. No matter the results, we share a lot of laughs poking fun at ourselves and eating candy along the way. It’s fun to see what creative ways we can use the supplies for whether it be gumdrops on the roof or peppermint windows. If you want to save yourself the time and trouble of putting the pieces together, Costco sells a pre-built gingerbread house kit!

Watching Classic Holiday Specials

As I’ve grown up, I’ve missed the joy of being a kid at Christmastime. Yet watching old-fashioned television specials brings me back to my childhood. When my sister and I were younger, our parents introduced us to classics made when they were little. My family and I never miss a chance to watch Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. My personal favorite is Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. We might even pick one to watch on Thanksgiving this year to end the day.

Seeing Outdoor Lights

As soon as I start noticing that houses are decorating for the holidays, I become even more excited for the weeks to come. Every Christmas Eve, my family and I drive through our town to view outdoor lights in different neighborhoods. I admire how some houses go all out with elaborate displays and inflatable characters. In my area, many streets place luminaria candles and bags that shine throughout the whole night. Of course, we don’t take on this adventure without hot chocolate and the Christmas station blasting on the radio.

Since I don’t usually return to New Jersey until a week before Christmas, I sometimes feel pressure to fit in many activities. While I’ll still have finals this semester, I’m looking forward to my time at home to join in on the Christmas spirit.

Samantha is a senior and writer for Her Campus at Loyola University Maryland. She's a Communications major specializing in Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Marketing. During her free time, Samantha loves discovering new music, fashion trends, food, running, and binge-watching Netflix.
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