Among being called lazy, narcissistic and privileged, our generation is often criticized for being nontraditional. The media loves to focus on how commercialized and insincere the holidays have become. We’re Christmas crazy here at LD, and while we admit things have changed over the years, our writers and editors can attest to the fact that cultivating and maintaining the meaning of the holiday season is still valued with these wonderful examples of Christmas spirit seen in our everyday lives.[divider][/divider]
Every year, Capital of Texas Highway (also known as Loop 360) in Austin is transformed from your typical traffic-jammed road to a sparkling, glittering lane of beautifully adorned Christmas trees. The highway, which courses through the rolling hills of Austin, is lined with hundreds, possibly thousands, of cedar trees that Austinites spend their hard-earned money and valued time decorating for the benefit of others. Families, friends and couples make it a tradition each year to drive out, park on the side of the road and string lights, garland, ornaments and more on the trees- rain or shine. The outdoor Christmas trees start popping up right around Thanksgiving, and by Christmas there are literally hundreds of shining trees, so beautiful to look at, that bring a sense of holiday joy to the city and the thousands of commuters that travel the highway each day. After New Year’s Day, the same people who decorated the trees go back out and take it all down with respect to the city and environment.
In my parents’ neighborhood, in my hometown of Harvest, Ala., there is a man who wants to literally light up the world, or at least his yard, just so people can see the Christmas spirit. Every Christmas for the past decade or so, this man has strung up more than 52,000 Christmas lights all over his house and trees and set up dozens of decorations in his yard. He then coordinated all the lights on the house and the decorations to blink at different times to the beats of different Christmas songs, which play on a radio station that broadcasts only fifty feet or so around his house. People come from all over to park and tune to his radio station and watch the choreographed lights—it’s a local legend now, and people love it.
My workplace is packed to the rafters with… statisticians. I know what you’re thinking: “Holy guacamole, that sounds dire.” But contrary to the stereotypes you’d expect, there’s nary a pocket-protector or calculator in sight. The vast majority of my colleagues are young (or young at heart) and vibrant, and keen to make a difference in the world. Every Christmas, our offices have a decorated tree in pride of place at reception, with a sign requesting that employees bring in gifts and food to give to families who don’t have the means to give their children the Christmas morning that many of us take for granted. Every day, I arrive at work to see that the packages under the tree have multiplied—sometimes so much that the local city mission has to do a couple of trips to collect them all. I get a real kick out of seeing how committed my workmates are to bringing a little joy to people who need it the most.
I have only lived in Knoxville, Tenn., for less than a year and a half, so I’m not entirely sure what is normal for the area. My apartment complex has a Christmas decoration contest that makes the complex look very festive at night. Furthermore, my complex’s office has a free wrapping station for the residents—which I find very helpful since I am notorious for wrapping my presents in whatever paper is handy (birthday, Christmas, congratulations, etc.). Knoxville’s downtown area, Market Square, is gorgeously arrayed in decorations and lights that make it perfect to wander around on a chilly evening. While the graduate department is not exactly rife with Christmas spirit, my fellow burnt-out graduate students and I cling to the countdown to our last day on campus. Several of my friends have put up mini-Christmas trees in their apartments.
The Longworth family have two Christmases: one on Christmas Day, and one on Boxing Day. Every year for as long as I can remember and as long as my dad can remember, the entire clan—consisting of around 20 to 30 of the “rabble” (i.e. kids), adults and elders—congregates at one of three houses: my nan’s house, or her brother’s house, or her sister’s house. It’s not about gifts, nor is it about bragging about our lives/our kids’ lives/our grandkids’ lives. We just eat lots of leftovers, laugh lots, and go on The Boxing Day Walk (every year, without fail). Secretly, I love this day more than Christmas itself. It pains me to see others cringe at the prospect of family gatherings; I look forward to this all year. And this year I get an extra special treat—I’m bringing my American fiancé along so all the gang can meet him (and mock him, probably).
My partner and I lived in Saint Louis for two years. While there, he worked a weekend and holiday job, so we weren’t able to go back for visit our families on Christmas. I was never a big Christmas person, but being able to celebrate on our own really got me into the spirit. In fact, Christmas is now one of my favorite holidays. We were able to merge family traditions, create some new ones, and generally enjoy the brief time we got together during our otherwise crazy, graduate school lives. Now we’re on our third solo Christmas, the first in our DC apartment, and although we have more time together, we can’t wait to spend the day playing with the cats and enjoying each other’s company. Then, at some point in January, we’ll travel back to Illinois to spend quality time with our families.
I spent Thanksgiving far away from home this year. It was the first time I hadn’t enjoyed all of the traditions with my family, so you can imagine how eager I’ve been to go home for Christmas. Before heading home to the States from my semester abroad, I planned one last trip through central Europe and into eastern Europe. My friend and I checked into our hostel in Prague after a tiring day of travel that included immediately getting lost in the city’s winding, sporadically labeled streets. Approaching a hunger-induced meltdown, our mood was instantly turned around by the hostel owner’s kindness and generosity. Instead of demanding payment and some form of collateral so we could get our key, he took us on a tour of the hostel that ended at the front counter where a box of chocolate Santas awaited us. As it turns out, we arrived in Prague on St. Nicholas Day and the streets were full of people celebrating, which involves dressing up in devil horns and compelling people to do embarrassing things. Americans generally don’t celebrate St. Nicholas Day, so it was a pleasantly surprising dose of cultural immersion. As the weekend went on, our hostel’s owner continued to surprise us with kind gestures, from doing our laundry to making us tea. Shameless plug—stay at Ahoy Hostel and get to know the owner, Petr, if you visit Prague. He truly exemplifies the holiday spirit regardless of the day.
Though during the school year I live in a crazy college town, it’s still a small town atmosphere speckled with young families and people who have called Athens home forever. Each December, our uptown is transported into a winter wonderland with lights and wreaths adorning all of the street lights, a Santa’s workshop on the street corner, Christmas music being pumped through speakers on our main street and the armory draped in lights. On a mid-December evening, the giant tree in town is lit. Business offer free cocoa, there are horse and carriage rides, and Santa comes riding into town. Choirs sing on the courthouse steps and couples embrace as college kids and “townies” stand together.
Have some Christmas Spirit to share? Comment below or tweet us @LitDarling!
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