There was a certain magical feeling I had during the holidays when I was younger. It was a delicate combination of eagerness for what Santa would leave under the tree for me and slight nervousness that such a fat man would even make it down my chimney in the first place. As much as I yearn for the simpler times, the truth is that I’m a 20something now, so the holiday season is celebrated a little bit differently these days. How differently, you might ask? Well, I’m here to break it down for you.
1. Preparing For Christmas
In grade school: I prepped for the big day by sending letters to Santa with detailed descriptions of exactly what toys I wanted for Christmas. This list was complete with photos cut out from the Toys “R” Us catalogue and the Sunday newspaper ads. And yes, it was addressed to 123 North Pole, adorned with a real stamp and all.
In your 20s: A week before Christmas, I go to the mall with mom to pick out exactly what we’d like. And yes, she still wraps everything even though there’s no element of surprise anymore.
2. Christmas Morning
In grade school: My brothers and I would wake up at the ass crack of dawn, unable to contain our excitement to see what Santa left under the tree for us. I rarely ever slept the night before Christmas because I was just too psyched to see if Santa brought me that Easy Bake Oven I asked for.
In your 20s: We wake up around 10:30 a.m. and sometimes that’s still too early. Also don’t even try to make us open gifts until we’ve got a cup of coffee in hand.
3. Holiday Traditions
In grade school: It was a tradition to leave milk and cookies for Santa by the fireplace in case he needed a quick pick-me-up. Oh, and carrots for the reindeer? Yeah, we left that, too.
In your 20s: Those cookies are alllllll mine.
4. Our Wish List
In grade school: My Christmas list consisted of dozens of toys that I definitely didn’t really need. Furbies, Barbies, and Moon Shoes, oh my!
In your 20s: How about some clothes and money? Maybe a nice pizza? (Secretly still down for the Moon Shoes, though…)
5. How We Spend The Days Leading Up To Christmas
In grade school: Nights leading up to Christmas were spent cozying up by the fire and singing Christmas carols with my family. My mom does a mean rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” on the piano.
In your 20s: Being back in my hometown means reuniting with high school friends and going out to all those cool bars we were always too young to go to. The best part about it? Seeing all those girls who peaked in high school and secretly being satisfied that you were a loser back in the day.
6. Buying Gifts For Our Friends
In grade school: I spent hours buying tons of little gifts for my closest friends and actually stressed out about finding them the perfect present. This usually required a trip to Claire’s and Limited Too to buy tacky body glitter and Jolly Rancher-flavored Chapstick that was oh so hip back in the day.
In your 20s: Nowadays, my friends and I are all on the same page — you just can’t put a dollar amount on our friendship. Instead, we settle for sending each other one thoughtful gift and calling it a day, or promising to buy each other a celebratory cocktail the next time we’re out together.
7. Christmas Treats
In grade school: “Pass the hot chocolate, please! And let’s make some Christmas cookies!” (those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey’s kiss on top were my specialty.)
In your 20s: “Alright mom, where’s the peppermint vodka in this house?” (I still can’t quite stomach the taste of eggnog.)
8. Family Gatherings
In grade school: My relatives asked me how school was going and always commented on how fast I’ve grown up. “Wow, you’re already in sixth grade? I remember when you were in kindergarten like it was just yesterday,” said every relative over 40.
In your 20s: Sure, my relatives still ask how school is going, but that’s accompanied by a barrage of more intense questions. “Do you have a boyfriend? What the heck are you doing with your life? So, you have a job yet? What do people even do these days with a journalism degree?”
In grade school: It didn’t feel like much of a “break” because I always lived at home anyways. Sure, it was great to have no school, but other than that, it was the status quo.
In your 20s: Now, I cherish my time with my family because there aren’t too many other times throughout the year when I can spend three uninterrupted weeks at home with them. Sure, they may annoy me and I’m giving up some of my freedom by being back under their roof, but it’s all worth it because I can play pranks on my little brother again.
10. What We Care About During The Holidays
In grade school: All I cared about on Christmas morning was what presents were under the tree for me. I was a pretty greedy child, what can I say?
In your 20s: All I care about is spending quality time with my family on Christmas morning. That hour or so we spend by the tree opening gifts and making fun of each other’s horrible wrapping skills is the best part of my break. (Oh, and that dope breakfast casserole my mom makes is a great perk, too.)
I definitely get nostalgic when I reminisce about Christmastime when I was younger. But let’s be real — now I have my priorities straight and truly understand that the holidays aren’t about whether or not the latest edition of Pokémon cards are waiting for me under the tree. It’s all about spending time with the people who matter most. Merry Christmas, everyone!