Transcontinental flights were too much to justify going home for Thanksgiving break. But spending Nov. 28 on campus feeling like a woman about to inherit a large sum of money (it was actually just $68 in JumboCash) whilst all of my family FaceTimed me wasn’t as lonely as it may have seemed to an outsider. Thanksgiving is perhaps the only American holiday that never excited me. It doesn’t have the glamour that Halloween has nor the drama of New Year’s Eve. Thanksgiving was always a lackluster opening act to the headliner: Christmas.
I understand that the ubiquitousness of the holiday and the subsequent closing of public schools, businesses and federal buildings while other major religions’ holidays remain functionally unrecognized is a product of America’s universalization of Christianity. Yet when Christmas trees start being erected and I hear the resonant vocals of Mariah Carey in shopping malls and dining halls, I can’t help but be excited.
Christmas is a time of and for gift-giving as well as a break from classes. But the worth of the holiday lies in more than the Lush bath bomb or lotion I will probably receive from my mother. There’s no other holiday that has the ability to inspire the level of nostalgia that Christmas can. Every track off of Justin Bieber’s album “Under the Mistletoe” (2011) catalyzes long-forgotten cherished memories of fifth grade, while his song “Away in a Manger” reminds me of being a painfully awkward middle schooler performing in front of hundreds of church members during a Christmas Eve service.
Despite the common criticism of commercializing the holiday into a vaguely secular tradition, the products of this corporate misinterpretation always make me happy. In the midst of studying for finals, seeing a cartoon Santa Claus on a chocolate bar and being inundated with vibrant reds and greens reminds me of a tangible event that I can positively anticipate. When I am dreading a certain due date for a paper or an exam, I schedule an event that I know will cheer me up after the test or paper. In the case of spending Thanksgiving on campus, I knew I had to self-isolate in order to successfully study, so I allotted $80 to spend on Uniqlo’s Black Friday sales. After reading about 100 pages of my textbook on Thanksgiving day, I went to bed and in the morning, opened my laptop to buy three turtlenecks and a pair of jeans. Despite the issue of conflating self-care with capitalist consumption, preemptively deciding to buy clothing, all of which are necessary due to the crushing coldness of Massachusetts winter, helped me to focus.
The absolute breadth of Christmas music serves to fuel my ability to power through these last few weeks of the semester. When I am overly caffeinated in the middle of an indecipherable paragraph about the importance of a certain clay that a jar was made out of or writing a paper about early 20th century perspectives about the temperance movement, I am glad that I can put this pain into perspective by simply listening to Mariah Carey’s “O Holy Night” (1994).