The Importance of Christmas Joy

As I walked through the Quad at SLU with Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” playing faintly in the background, I saw parents taking photos of their children with Santa Claus, SLU administrators handing out hot chocolate, red and green lights filling the sky above me, bubbles floating around my face and the Christmas tree lighting by President Pestello. It was the first feeling of joy that I experienced at the start of the Christmas season, and it was a joy that I had not felt in quite some time. As we complete our finals and depart for our homes, we must consider the importance of Christmas joy. 

I remember as a child setting up the Christmas tree with my parents, listening to Christmas music on the radio, driving around my hometown watching the twinkling lights all around me and burning my tongue while drinking hot chocolate. However, as I grew up, the adolescent joy of the Christmas season transformed into a season of rest and relaxation from the work of the previous semester. Throughout each break, I felt the constant reminder that in only a few short weeks I would have to return to school, and the Christmas spirit would be lost when the tree and decorations were taken down and stored away until the next holiday season. What had happened to the sugary delight of hot chocolate after school, the excitement of meeting Santa Claus at the local Christmas parade, the carolers spreading Christmas cheer for all to hear and the childlike forgetfulness of the approaching new school semester? 

To put it simply, I grew up. I found out Santa was not the one putting presents under my family’s tree, that I didn’t make cookies for a jolly old man and the carrots on the plate by my chimney were not for the reindeer on the roof. School continued, I stopped looking at all the lights around me and I stopped caring for the carolers in my community. I had more to worry about than a holiday I had already experienced countless times. Christmas became a distant memory of naivety, but it should not have and hopefully never will again. 

As I walked through the Quad this past Saturday, seeing fellow students laughing with their friends, singing Christmas songs and drinking hot chocolate, I was reminded that even though we are all adults, we are still so young. We all still have a youthful spirit that should be enjoyed during Christmas. So why should we not be enjoying Christmas like children again? Why should I be worrying about next semester’s troubles when the joy of Christmas is right before my eyes? It’s simple; I shouldn’t be. I urge all of my fellow students to close your computer, put down your phone while you’re walking to and from class and see all that Christmas has to offer, as I saw on Saturday. 

As a student in St. Louis, you can experience Christmas joy in many different ways. You can attend Winterfest, which is a Christmas celebration under the Arch on Fridays from 4 p..m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 9 p.m. The celebration is held every weekend until January 2. Under the Arch, you can ice skate, sit in a heated igloo, make smores or have your face painted. You can visit the Winter Wonderland lights at Tilles Park, walk through the Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden, watch the production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, listen to the Muppet Christmas Carol at Powell Hall or take the Polar Express Train at the St. Louis Union Station. 

Christmas is not only about receiving gifts, but giving them as well. As a kid, it was a blessing to receive gifts, but every year I would always give back, as we all should during the holiday season, whether that be donating gifts to local charities or volunteering at shelters to prepare home cooked meals. In elementary school, my classmates and I would write holiday cards for children and their families. Something as simple as writing “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” brought the same feelings of Christmas joy that I felt to those who may not have felt it. It was a moment of thankfulness amongst my community as we shared joy, not only for ourselves, but for all. 

In our St. Louis, there are a number of ways you can share joy with others through giving back. Even in a time of COVID-19, the United Way of Greater St. Louis offers do-it-yourself volunteer opportunities for anyone to do at home. You can make seasons’ greetings cards for senior citizens, prepare dinners for families, fill backpacks with school supplies for kids in the foster care system, send jars of cookies to nonprofit organizations, distribute angel tree profits or knit blankets for the unhoused. I wish for all of our community to not only experience Christmas joy, but share it with those around them during the holiday season.