Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or even Festivus, winter break is always the much-anticipated halfway point of the academic year. If Thanksgiving is considered an appetizer, then winter break is the main course. Reaching this point isn’t an easy feat, so even if you bombed all your finals, all isn’t completely lost. You have about four weeks to completely forget everything you’ve learned and begin anew in January.
The time away from coursework and extracurricular commitments is a chance to re-evaluate your priorities. For some, free time might be a foreign concept and even a little intimidating. But don’t be scared: Use it to your advantage. Winter break is a period when you can actually read for pleasure — wait, people still do that? — and catch up on TV shows without the cloud of ignored assignments looming overhead.
December and January also provide the opportunity to enjoy the ever-fleeting wet season of SoCal that we call winter, or to go to a place where snow is actually a thing. The jetsetters out there will use these upcoming weeks for extensive travel; personally, it always seemed odd to spend the winter holidays in a tropical locale, but hey, that’s just me. I guess Santa has to visit Hawaii and Cabo, too.
Most, however, will be returning home. Whereas Thanksgiving break was a teaser, a trip back home that lasted three to four days at most, students are in it for the long haul during winter break. That is a solid three weeks and some change spent with parents, siblings and extended family, but also a break spent away from the friends whom you see nearly every day at school.
On the other hand, a chance to reconnect with family and old friends from back home isn’t such a bad thing. You know that Christmas spirit people are always talking about during December? It’s actually just a concept that we should be familiar with throughout the calendar year: treating others how we want to be treated and giving rather than receiving.
Speaking of, presents are great, but the true gift of time away from school is that you can spend it however you want, doing whatever you want. Though the commercial aspect of the winter holidays is inescapable, don’t lose sight of what’s actually important. Instead of racing around buying gifts, wouldn’t it be better to watch the “25 Days of Christmas” on ABC with your family while drinking spiked hot chocolate? If that’s too sentimental, look at it this way: Even a Scrooge can enjoy being in the company of people he or she loves — or, at the very least, finds tolerable for extended periods of time.
Going home for winter break will make you appreciate the freedom found at college. At home, it’s not quite as acceptable to knock on your roommate’s door in the middle of the night for random conversation — probably because your “roommates” are sleeping parents and siblings. At college, sleep is a precious commodity only reserved for weekends, not weeknights when so many other tasks can be accomplished, such as procrastination and social networking. During the winter holidays, we can catch up on sleep, so close Facebook for the night and catch some much-needed rest while you can.
On the flip side, you also learn to appreciate your family more since you’re not always around them. Mom’s cooking tastes even better, and miraculously, the fridge is always fully stocked and household supplies never run out but are always replaced. Having Dad around to take care of household and/or car maintenance is more convenient than waiting to take action until your car breaks down on the side of the road because of a lack of upkeep. And a shower at home feels much more refreshing than one in crappy on- or off-campus housing.
Holidays spent at home also herald the arrival of traditions. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re here to stay. Some are stupid. Some are outdated. Some might even bring up bad memories.
But what would the holidays be without a tinge of nostalgia?
You might pretend to hate it when you’re forced to eat Aunt Martha’s Jell-O fruit salad that jiggles unnaturally or when the same old Christmas songs play on every station, but when else do these occur? Admit it: Hating these traditions is part of the fun. A holiday wouldn’t be the same without them. So the next time you hear “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” don’t consider homicide by way of candy cane. Just remember these songs, and other irritating traditions, need only be endured for a few weeks every year.
Winter break is when college students are granted well-earned liberty. You can perfect the art of doing nothing and bask in post-finals glory. Catch up with friends who you don’t see any other time of the year and learn to tolerate — and maybe even be entertained by — the quirks that abound in your family. After all, the holidays should serve as reminders to appreciate what we have.
In short: Happy Chrismahanukwanzaakuh.
Nick Cimarusti is a junior majoring in English and Spanish. His column “Get Schooled” ran Mondays.