Yahoo! News asked writers from the Yahoo! Contributor Network to share their personal holiday tales and traditions. Below is a story from a contributor.
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It always seemed to me that Christmas coincided with final examinations at school! Long ago, when I was still a student living alone in a big city and away from my family, I developed the tradition of making a Christmas Calendar. My calendar let me have a meaningful holiday experience, fitting in music and worship at my church, shopping for gifts, time with friends, and decorating my little apartment while at the same time studying for my semester final exams.
While the effort seems now to have been a desperate attempt to find fun and joy amid the hard work of being an anonymous student alone in my large city, I look back at it fondly! My calendaring began each fall as the Christmas editions of popular magazines began to show up in the aisles of stores. I would purchase the most festive of the lot, take the unlucky magazines home, and attack them with my scissors and glue stick during study breaks, always accompanied by a cup of cocoa and a peppermint stick!
As I cut small symbols of the season from my magazine-items representing holiday baking, enjoying Christmas music, decorations for the tree, small wrapped gifts, and pictures of Christmas lights-I applied those symbols at random to my blank December calendar. That way, regardless of my test schedule, I had an attractive picture outlining my own celebration plans.
One of my great holiday treats was singing Christmas music in a local choir. I did this each year, during college and also during my law school studies. For those musical presentations, our choir attempted major works of the season, complete with live orchestral accompaniment provided by our local symphony. The Christmas Calendar always featured reference to the rehearsals and performances as part of my total celebration.
The hard work of my academic life also made it onto the schedule, but being able to place the necessary review sessions and mandatory tests amid all of my exciting holiday plans somehow made the month turn out to be fun. Even on days when the symbol was a simple candy cane, that small reminder still gave me something to use to symbolically rejoice in the season.
One year in particular, I accompanied a dear friend to cut a live Christmas tree as part of my month of holiday fun. While cutting a live tree is a common practice, I had never been on such an expedition to find a tree; I believed that families simply went to tree lots in the city to choose their scraggly trees! Cutting a tree in the unseasonable cold in our southern U.S. city was an experience above and beyond my expectations; when I initially placed a small symbolic tree on the calendar, I did not expect to be going for a large, live, fragrant tree!
I have still kept a few of my calendars as keepsakes and can still remember the anticipation of hoping for unlikely snowflakes on the day I had picked out to welcome snow to my warm, southern city. Once, snow even fell, blanketing the decorated city streets with an impossible frosting of snow and nearly causing the cancellation of my evening tests!
I no longer prepare my little joyful schedules. Instead, I now let the pace of my life proceed through the season naturally. But each year, as the holiday issues of magazines fill the shelves in early fall, I am tempted to grab one and snip away at the holiday symbols!