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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

Christmas magic

Kaitlyn Marks
Class of 2021

(12/2017) Golden lights shimmering against the deeply evergreen tree; sparkling ornaments dancing, shadows and light falling on the faces of those in the room. I glance around at my family each year and feel my heart grow warm with gratitude and joy. Since I was little, Christmas has been my absolute favorite time of year. Mention the word Christmas, and my eyes light up with glee and cause those around me to laugh at the childlike joy I experience during the festive season. Christmas represents an essence, a sparkling vision of the pure humanity and spirit of giving. Of course, there are presents, representing their own subcategory of Christmas magic, carefully chosen and given to others to bring joy. However, I speak of giving in a more traditional sense, as in serving others. This is the time of year to be selfless, to reach out and connect with other people, to weave a golden thread of humanity and common good that spans time and generations, all surrounding the warmth of such a holiday as this.

As a little girl, I was mystified by the shift I experienced in the world around me as the world became alight with snow, with lights and stories and magic, anticipation of joy and receiving love and light from all directions. There was a tangible sense of peace in the air, a transcendent joy that surpasses the stress of shopping mall parking lots and long lines and icy roads. One Christmas tradition that has encapsulated that essence for me is baking. When I was younger, this meant helping my mom and dad in the kitchen, begging to crack the eggs into the bowl, to try my hand at decorating the cookies, to mix the ingredients together into their own form of magic, and of course, to lick whatever confection we were whipping up from the spoon, my sister and I giggling side by side at the kitchen table as we snacked on dough.

As I grew older, the scent of gingerbread, chocolate and cinnamon wafting through the air from the oven became a beacon to me of the family time that comes along with the holiday. Although I became more independent and now bake often without help, my favorite memories in the kitchen are of the laughter bouncing around the room as the mixer whirrs in the background, inside jokes and easy, familiar conversation filling the air with as much joy as the baked goods rising in the oven will bring later. Life is busy, and throughout the year, it is easy to become preoccupied with deadlines and work and phone calls, stress and applications, daily routines and full planners. Christmas is the time of year in my family where it is most possible to truly live, to just be with those you love in comfort and familiarity. Christmas brings my soul the contentment of home and of love. It brings with it nostalgia and peace, and an opportunity to reflect.

Perhaps as magical as home and family is the actual magic that people around the world actively work to create for their children as Christmas approaches. When asked what Christmas means to me, I think of my sister and I having sleepovers in my room, staying up to try and hear sleigh bells on the roof in the night, sleeping with one eye open in the hopes of catching Santa. Moreover, I remember how every year, I woke up first, tiptoeing down the stairs to find that overnight, our living room had transformed, red, green and gold shimmering packages in haphazard piles under the tree, stockings filled and resting atop our piles.

I remember smiling as I felt so happy, not from the presents themselves (of course, those were lovely as well), but from being taken care of, loved and valued. I would tiptoe back upstairs, rather unsuccessfully containing my excitement, bouncing on my feet as I walked, and wake my younger sister, Lindsay, up, gently whispering that it was Christmas, excitement quickly blossoming in both of us. We knew that the day ahead would be one of relaxation, of giving our parents and grandparents the gifts we had so carefully picked out and so precariously and tirelessly worked to wrap perfectly, and anxiously awaited seeing their reactions on Christmas morning.

Curled up under piles of blankets, lights turned off in our living room, watching The Grinch, The Polar Express, movie after movie, I often think of not only the immediate joy I am experiencing, but the opportunity to create such memories with those around me. Just as magical and valuable are the memories I create during the holidays in which I am able to meet and give to others, in whatever ways become possibilities. This, for me, means purchasing the gifts for foster children written on the backs of pastel colored tags hanging on trees in the grocery store. This means driving through Thurmont on a Saturday morning in harmony and blessed grace with the seminarians from the Mount on a mission trip to deliver groceries to families in need for a Thanksgiving meal.

That particular occasion brought me closer to the true meaning of Christmas: experiencing companionship, joy, family and love while giving to others, reflecting on gratitude and creating memories that last forever. As the holiday gets closer, I aspire to embody the spirit of Christmas, to serve others, to be gracious and humble in receiving my own blessings, to be grateful for all I am given and am able to give. Peeking through old journals, my handwriting sprawling across the pages in haphazard lines, I can see vividly in my mindís eye the richness of the stories told on Christmas, the sparkling surprise of a snow-blanketed sky on Christmas morning, the warmth and light filling the room as such unparalleled joy flows through everyone present.

To me, Christmas is a gift in itself; it is a time to embrace tradition and community. Conjuring up the scent of gingerbread, the nostalgia of gently cradling ornaments passed down through time, the recollections of years past and family memories, Christmas will always remain my favorite time of year. As December begins to pass, I hope we all can embrace the spirit of giving, of living fully and of loving with our whole hearts. In a world that sometimes feels all too dark, let us feel happy and bright under the twinkling, glowing lights of the Christmas tree and the warmth of our lives and families, especially by giving to those in need of a little light.

Read other articles by Kaitlyn Marks