There’s no place quite like home (away from home) for the holidays.

As you get older, it becomes harder and harder to recapture the same feeling of joy that you got from holidays when you were a kid. Kids get to enjoy free candy and presents while even young adults must stress about buying presents for family and friends and getting everything decorated and prepared. With age, the magic you once believed in starts to fade away as you realize how commercialized most of your favorite holidays really are.

College students are already in such a weird transition between youth and adulthood, and that feeling of transition is compounded around holidays. As we get our first real taste of independence, we are often away from our families for the time surrounding the holidays or even away for the holiday itself, and the stress of this gets compounded with stress from classes and finals. We have to find our own way to celebrate away from home that finds a balance between our newfound responsibilities and holding onto the youth we have left.

I’ve found that holding onto my holiday spirit has been an essential part of keeping me sane in the midst of all of my college stress. I grew up celebrating Christmas, and getting involved with all kinds of Christmas activities has always helped me to feel a bit happier, even as I’ve gotten older. I urge everyone to go all out for the holidays, which comes from the person who wrote their college essay on an elf-on-the-shelf.

Every year in high school, without fail, even as exams loomed over my head, I put my family’s elf-on-the-shelf Marvin somewhere new in the house each night and set up an elaborate situation to be in. One time, for example, I put a Spider-Man mask on Marvin and hung him from the Christmas tree. There were no young kids in my house that still believed that elves-on-the-shelves moved by themselves, but I enjoyed doing it, and it made my family happy.

I’m not letting being in college stop me from celebrating as I did back home. I got to work decorating my room long before even Thanksgiving, and I have a new elf-on-the-shelf for my suite. The decorations in my room may even make me happier than they did at home, considering how well they break up what can be a monotonous college semester.

You can enjoy the holidays and spend time with people you love no matter where you are. You can decorate your dorm, seek out events on campus and force your friends to do cheesy holiday activities with you. There’s a lot you can do to make finals season merry and bright.

That’s what it’s all about, really. It’s not about putting more responsibilities on yourself, nor is it about engaging in debates over commercialism and “keeping Christ in Christmas.” It’s about doing what you can to make yourself and others happy, making time for the people you love and the things that make you happy and holding onto your curiosity and childlike wonder alive to keep exploring the question: “What does the season mean to me?”

Embracing the holidays keeps us connected with our ever-fleeting childhood and lets us just have fun. We get a few moments to stop worrying about all that comes next in our lives and enjoy what we have and the people we get to share it all with. So deck your room in lights, watch some cheesy Hallmark movies and make some hot chocolate.

Happy holidays, Trinity University, and a happy new semester.