a screencap of Charlie Brown and Linus in 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'

Why the Holidays Feel Duller the Older We Get

Is our age taking away from these special days? Or is life just getting in the way?
December 15, 2022
6 mins read

Adulting? Yuck. There was a time when responsibilities didn’t exist for us — can you believe that? The nostalgia that comes around the holidays is a universal experience. I have found myself saying, “Hmm, if only I could go back” countless times. Remember when we thought that Santa was the one bringing us presents? It feels like a lifetime ago. Every package was a surprise, and we didn’t have to ask for specific things. It was almost as if Santa knew exactly what we wanted. Or perhaps, as kids, we were less materialistic, so we loved it all.

Now, we spend the holidays standing in long lines to purchase presents for those around us. Ironically, half the time we don’t even want to buy certain people gifts, but just feel like we must. Depending on a family’s traditions, the pressure to purchase items for loved ones can become overwhelming. Shopping during the holiday season can be intense, not to mention pricey. The added responsibility of gift giving comes at a time in our lives when we are the most broke. Dr. Suzanne Degges agrees: “Thoughts of all of the shopping, preparing, visiting, overspending, and performing that the holidays require may simply overwhelm some of us.” When we were children, we didn’t have to worry about these things. Instead, we were treated like little kings and queens.

Also, at school, our teachers kept the spirit alive. One of my best memories is walking into a classroom to “The Polar Express” playing on a huge box TV — you know, before flat-screen TVs were around. Around the holidays, classrooms were filled with tons of decorations, such as fake snow made from cotton balls. If you had a really nice teacher, you almost always had a candy cane in your mouth by the end of the day. And let’s not forget about the gingerbread houses. A Well + Good article makes a great point: “Kids just show up to their parties and events. As adults, we often plan our own, and need to bring food, and host things, which makes it feel more like work and less like pure enjoyment.”

But the winter holidays aren’t the only occasions for nostalgia. As we get older, every holiday can bring back fond childhood memories. For example, as a kid, the highlight of Thanksgiving used to be stuffing ourselves with turkey and other delicious foods. Now it’s dinner filled with awkward personal questions, like “Why aren’t you dating?”

Although birthdays aren’t actual holidays, they also fall into the category of days we celebrated and loved endlessly as kids. These days, birthdays are just average days. As we get older, celebrating holidays becomes more difficult because instead, we must prioritize school, internships or a 9-to-5 job. As a Cracked article puts it, “Kids are racing to be considered mature while adults will do anything to regress. That’s why a kid’s birthday is a momentous event.” How ironic is that?

So, how can we make the holidays feel like they once did? The truth is that we will probably never feel the exact way we did as kids. This realization is bittersweet, but it’s a part of growing up. The holidays are still enjoyable and a great time to spend with friends and family — after all, that’s what really counts. Trying to keep traditions alive can be a great way to relive those moments you had as a kid and take a trip down memory lane. However, there’s also nothing wrong with creating new traditions. If you think about it, that is what our families did with us: They created their own traditions and combined them with their past ones. Eventually, we will do the same.

It’s normal to feel as if things have changed, because they have. Find peace in the fact that it’s not just you who may be feeling this way. Always be thankful for what you have, and remember that making new traditions can be just as fun as reliving old ones. If your birthday falls on a weekday, celebrate it the weekend before or after. If you find yourself stuck in a whirlpool of awkward questions at Thanksgiving dinner, just laugh it off! Have that second slice of pumpkin pie, because you won’t remember it in five years.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the holidays as kids and as adults is that, as kids, we were able to live stress-free, and  as adults, we don’t have that luxury. At times, being present in the moment and experiencing things with full emotion is the only way to realize that the holidays weren’t better because of our age but rather because of the newness of it all. They are still wonderful, just different.

Valentina Palomino, SUNY Old Westbury

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Valentina Palomino

SUNY Old Westbury

Hello, my name is Valentina Palomino. I am a student at SUNY Old Westbury. Some of my greatest passions include writing alongside with reading. Nothing better than snuggling up next to a good book!

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