A lit Christmas tree. (Photo courtesy of kuwans.com)

by Matt Lennon

NEWBURGH— It is a quarter to midnight on this cold and snowy Christmas Eve, it’s almost time.

The tree shines in the living room with glorious lights and homemade ornaments from art class in first grade, the same angel is on the top of it since one could remember.

Cookies and milk have been laid out and Santa’s secret, magical key is placed on the inside of the door so he can get in with the family’s presents since the house doesn’t have a chimney for him to come down.

This was what Christmas Eve used to feel like, anticipation and unnerving butterflies of what the next morning would bring. Trying to stay up as late as possible hoping to catch the “Big Guy” in the act, but for some reason never prevailing.

“Christmas meant not being able to sleep the night before,” said Victoria Di Bella, a sophomore at Mount Saint Mary College, “cinnamon rolls in the morning, and the meanest butterflies from all the excitement.”

For some, the excitement of Christmas morning is still there.

“I still get really giddy just thinking about Christmas,” said Abigail Birnbryer, a sophomore. “It’s still just as important to me as it used to be, now I just really enjoy spending it with family.”

For others, that excitement has dwindled little by little with growth.

“Christmas now in college means stress,” said Di Bella. “Stress over what gifts to get for who, how much to spend, how much I have to spend, where I’ll be, what I’ll do. The best part of Christmas now is the long winter break.”

It used to be so easy, waking up and not knowing how the presents were put there or how Santa snuck out without hearing the reindeer or sleigh bells.

“When I was young, my presents came from Santa,” Di Bella added. “And the presents for my parents and brother came from Santa. I didn’t have to worry about getting anyone anything or them being disappointed in what they received.”

As people grow older it is hard to continuously keep up with holiday tradition on an annual basis, whether it be family moving away or starting their own family and beginning their own traditions.

“We used to go spend Christmas Day with my entire family in New Jersey,” said Birnbryer, “and we haven’t done it in over a decade. I miss that huge family aspect of it.”

Although the traditional Christmas Day may change throughout the years, there will always be those small traditions that make that day special.

“Every Christmas morning I make cinnamon rolls and immediately make everybody get up,” said Birnbryer. “We eat the entire day and then have an early dinner. I help cook with my mom and it’s just something we really enjoy doing together.”

Even if that means still putting out snacks for the “Big Guy” and his reindeer.

“Putting out carrots makes me feel more connected to my childhood and the old memories of Christmas,” said Di Bella. “And maybe I’m holding on to the last bit of belief I have. I’m not ready to let it all go.”