Christmas has always been a big deal to my family. At my parent’s house, the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, all of the fall decorations come down and the entire house changes seasons in the blink of an eye. One by one, we carry massive totes containing trinkets of holiday spirit up the stairs from their storage space in the basement.
Our two Christmas trees are always kept in the back of the storage room, so they are the last to come up, but they are the very first thing to be decorated. As we open totes, full of new and generational décor, we sort out ornaments. New and color-coordinated ornaments stay in the living room to be hung on our “pretty” tree, while the family heirloom and random ornaments go on the “ugly” tree in the dining room. While the more obviously planned out and organized tree is much more beautiful and could be pictured in a magazine, I love both trees equally.
Once the house looks like a scene from the North Pole, the Christmas baking begins. Each year, we make the same traditional, yet yummy, treats: star cookies, almond covered pretzels, peanut clusters, almond joys, peanut butter balls, Oreo balls, and sugar cookies. The entire baking process takes a whole day. It starts off cheery as we talk about gift giving and listen to classic carols, but by the end, the entire family is ready to step away from one away.
Going off to college, I figured these beloved traditions would remain the same. In some ways they have, as I go home for Thanksgiving, set up decorations, and return home again a couple of days before Christmas to help bake. The downfall is that as a college student, I don’t have much time to celebrate and be with my family.
This year, I was unable to travel home for Thanksgiving as I studied abroad in Costa Rica during the week-long break. Although I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel and see a new culture, it also reminded me that Christmas will never be the same as when I was younger. Instead of watching Christmas movies by the light of the Christmas tree, I am studying for final exams and calculating the lowest score I can get on a test to earn my desired grade.
Of course, there are ways I can get myself into the holiday mood. My roommates and I decorated our house and listened to our fair share of Christmas tunes. Last week, my dairy science club hosted a cookie baking session where we made an assortment of treats to deliver to faculty in the department. We also prepared Christmas cards to be sent to alumni and families of members. This tiny taste of holiday cheer certainly lifted my spirits.
After this finals week, I look forward to returning home to celebrate the season with my family and enjoy some of my favorite traditions. There truly is no place like home for the holidays.
Jessica Schmitt grew up working on her family’s dairy farm near Fort Atkinson, Iowa. She recently completed her junior year at Iowa State University where she is triple majoring in dairy science, international agriculture, and agricultural and life sciences education with a communications option. Schmitt served as the 2021 Hoard’s Dairyman editorial intern this summer.