Every year of my life so far, the winter holidays have been different experiences for me. How I feel about the holidays changes, and how I celebrate them changes as well. As a child, Christmas was thrilling and magical, but New Year’s Eve really had no meaning to me. As a teen & young adult, the opposite was true. I didn’t care much for all of the holiday cheer and just wanted to be out with my friends. Now I’m at a stage in life where I’m responsible for “making” the holiday magic that I loved as a child. It’s not about receiving every toy on my wishlist, and it’s not about going out and partying with my friends anymore either. It’s about spending time with my loved ones and making memories for myself and others to look back on fondly.
A trip down memory lane helped me realize those things this year. Sure, the holiday songs are the same, and some of the movies are the same, but Christmas has never been a repeat for me. Every New Year’s Eve seems like the same ball drop and another count down to midnight, but the years I say hello and goodbye to are quite different each time, even apart from simply growing older every year. Some of my memories aren’t as great as I wish they were, but I’m happy to have all of them.
(Please excuse the “photo of a photo” shots – many of these are from frames or scrapbooks that I didn’t want to take apart!)
This was one of my first Christmases, and of course I’m wearing a dress for the occasion. My mother often reminds me that I only ever wanted to wear dresses when I was little.
A shot of me admiring the sight of Christmas morning. This was a time when we still put up real trees for the holiday and didn’t have any cats around to wreck them yet.
I had Christmas in public school back then, too. I’m not sure if that is still common today. This was my favorite shirt for about a year, so of course I wanted to wear it for the holiday party.
Oh, and then came the awkward years as a pre-teen and teenager…
I had a long phase of not smiling for any pictures, ever. Not even for the holidays. All that I wanted for Christmas was new CDs, and then I’d spend the bulk of my time locked in my bedroom listening to them.
Next came my first college years, aka the Myspace era. My winter holiday photos included bad selfies and cheap booze, like any other events with my peers back then.
I didn’t decorate at home or bake any cookies during these few years. I really wasn’t festive at all. I did see my family, but I think I only stuck around long enough to eat dinner and exchange gifts.
And then I received my first little Christmas tree!
I believe it was on the Target website where I first found this mini tree in a pink/purple color and I became obsessed with having it for Christmas. The person I was dating at the time surprised me with it and now it’s one out of five different colors that I have. I’m in love with my colorful mini trees.
And I finally decided to be festive again that year, too. I decorated, baked, and wore a leopard print Santa hat all night.
The craziest New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had was the year that followed, when I traveled to Northern Wisconsin and celebrated all night long on a frozen lake.
A man was available to drive us around the lake for “sleigh rides.” Some people played ball games, others hung around the bonfire (which I’m surprised I never took a picture of). Simply walking around on the ice was trippy enough, but the fire pit on top of the ice was freaky!
That night ended with sky lanterns and fireworks. It’s been a little difficult to top that New Year celebration since then, but I’m okay with it. The hangover that followed was brutal. Note to self: Drinking to stay warm isn’t the best idea.
This year and the previous two have been all about the children in my family. I bake and decorate with them in mind first and foremost. My most recent holidays have also revolved around my current relationship and the traditions we’ve been creating together. Who knows what will come next – perhaps children of my own? Christmas in a new place? My winter holiday evolution shall continue…