Slow Down This Holiday Season

Everyone fits into one of the following categories; either you think Christmas music should be played before Thanksgiving, or that it should only start being played after Thanksgiving. This season, it may feel harder than ever to not play “Jingle Bell Rock,” when promptly after Halloweekend, TikTok became overwhelmed with holiday wish lists. Though I stand firm in my conviction that Dean Martin ought not to play until after Turkey day, many are not convinced by this and feel that the Christmas season starts as soon as the Halloween decorations are put away.

Despite falling under the holiday season, Thanksgiving and Christmas are very different. Christmas is the most commercialized holiday and is accompanied by its own genre of music and film, while Thanksgiving is not as romanticized. Serving as the in-between holiday, Thanksgiving marks the  midpoint between the first weeks of November when all people do is mark the number of Saturdays until Christmas morning. Thanksgiving is not only shadowed by the coming of Santa Clause, but also the anticipation of Black Friday sales. It’s a commonly forgotten holiday, yet it may just be the most valuable one. 

 People often share their Christmas traditions, yet we rarely hear of the traditions of Thanksgiving. For example, do you go on a walk after your big meal with friends and family? Is there a designated pie baked annually? 

A downside that comes with the Christmas spirit is that it can often bring incessant want and materialism. TikTok wishlists and Youtube hauls may be signs that the Christmas season is approaching. However, these trends may also bring out the worst in us. Wish lists may be useful at giving people ideas of what to put on their own lists, but these traditions make Christmas not full of spirit but competition. 

On the contrary, Thanksgiving highlights a holiday devoted to gratitude and appreciation. With Christmas being extremely stressful with people anxiously shopping, planning, and preparing to see in-laws, Thanksgiving presents an opportunity to slow down and reflect. It’s not about giving the best gift or opening the Anthropologie candle you wanted. It’s about preparing food with friends and family, taking the time to enjoy a meal and recalling good things that have gone by. There may not be themed music to accompany Turkey Day, but there is the guarantee of good company, which means so much more. 

A year ago, Saint Louis University students went home for an extended winter break without the promise of being able to return to campus in the spring. It was a time of deep uncertainty and fear, yet the season never felt more comforting. While the pandemic spread deep anxiety about “what if’s,” last year’s  holiday season was a familiar brightness in dark times. It was a luxurious break, and while many students may miss its length, this year will offer the deserved gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas.Thanksgiving break will allow students to escape the stress of academics  to enjoy a few days with their loved ones. Upon returning to campus stuffed with  Thanksgiving food, they will face the three weeks before Christmas break with renewed determination and stamina.  Thanksgiving gives people the opportunity for reflection on how much has changed in the past year and to identify those things which we are thankful for. Being the holiday of peace makes it the perfect ingredient to approach the Christmas season with extra mindfulness. 

If Thanksgiving can be a holiday of reflection, Christmas can mean something beyond holiday cups and Hallmark movies. It can symbolize the warmth of baking with loved ones or the joy of decorating the tree with nostalgic ornaments. The holidays ought to be only defined not by the activities that occur but the feelings that resonate as well.

We are always looking ahead for good things and often forget to stop to see the good things already around us. The leaves will eventually fade, the snow will melt  and we will wish we hadn’t rushed through it all. Remember, to enjoy it all this holiday season, one must find happiness in the quiet moments and the celebratory ones. Let’s return to a feeling of warmth and a mindset of gratitude.