Spirit of the Ages

Students reflect on differing perspectives of holidays from childhood to teenage years


photo illustration by Rachel Hartmann

As children grow into young adults, the value placed on the holidays matures and grows as well.

As people grow up, the highest branch they can reach on the Christmas tree is not the only thing that changes. Our whole perspective on the holidays seems to change with age.

“You broaden your horizons as you grow up,” junior Ren Murphy said. “You hear about holidays like Kwanzaa and Hanukkah when you’re a kid, but as you grow older, you learn more about different religions and their stories.”

The broadening of horizons makes people more open to opportunities, creating new adventures and shaping people with what they live through.

“We gain more life experiences as we get older, so we don’t view the world the same as we did when we were young and naive,” senior Brenna Kenney said. “As a young child, the holiday season is one of the most important times of the year. It was the time that I got to spend with my family that lived out of state or that I didn’t see as often.”

Nostalgia is paired with the holiday season for many, which psychologist and member of the American Psychological Association Krystine Batcho, Ph.D., a professor at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., is an expert on.

She explains that nostalgia helps us maintain a sense of stability which ensures that the person we are is not lost in life’s progression. It’s done by helping us feel connected to others through shared traditions or holiday music which can make us feel like we are a part of something greater than ourselves.

“My youngest sister still believes in Santa,” senior Emma Eastman said. “I want her to have a good experience during the holidays because I had a good experience during the holidays. Through this, I feel like it still keeps those childhood memories ingrained as I grow older and the importance of children being able to imagine that magical things exist.”

In a survey conducted by Housemade.com from 4,500 Americans, it was reported that it is the age of 9-10 that children start losing their childhood innocence about Christmas and tend to start drawing back from participating in more younger kid Christmas activities.

The nostalgic aspect affects how to participate in the holidays and the perception of time. The holidays remind people of special times, which helps them keep track of what has changed and what has remained the same in their lives and themselves. Pointed out by Batcho that holidays bring back memories of simpler times and the sense of security of childhood.

“It’s a lot more stressful now,” Eastman said. “It’s not the holiday itself but more about what it has become because you have to buy so many gifts. At the same time, it’s finals, and you get more stressed from that.”

Other psychologists have found other explanations for this phenomenon, like people’s experience of time is a backward-looking process that relies on memory. An idea explained by Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D., the

Clinical Director of The Lazarus Insitute on Psychology Today that as individuals get older, the amount of recallable life they have decreased. This is why the school days and summers in childhood feel longer, while as adults, the days, weeks, and months rapidly fly by.

“Before, I would be very excited and impatiently waiting for Christmas Day when I could open all the presents I got from Santa,” Kenney said. “I now see it as a time to spend with my family and where my family gives each other gifts rather than waiting for the day Santa brings me all of the gifts.”

Multiple possibilities explain this commonly shared experience of the holidays feeling different as we grow up, but parts of the human brain still can’t be explained. Lazarus explained that the phenomenon of time passing faster as we age is one of the brain’s unknown and possible unknowable mysteries. However, people still are able to have a great holiday season with changed perspectives. Some realize the gift-giving brings the same joy as receiving the gifts.

“You don’t have the same, younger joy that you did when you were little, and you had all this anticipation just waiting for Christmas Day,” Kenney said. “But you still have the happiness of the holidays; it’s just a different kind.”

While age changes, the spirit of the season still seems to prevail no matter how old one gets. You’re never too old for a sleigh ride, decorate a Christmas tree, and of course, opening gifts.