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All they want for Christmas
Local teens explain their holiday wishes--and what they say might surprise you
Emily Leach and Carson McCluskey

‘TIS THE SEASON, and it holds a different meaning for everyone. Children wake up in excitement to open presents from Santa, examine the plate of cookie crumbs left behind by the jolly old man, and spend the day with loved ones.

For adults, Christmas is often a time to relax, to spend precious time with family members, and to provide happy memories for their children while they still can. It’s a season loved by all.

Then there are those in between both worlds: teenagers. They are the dreaded names in the Secret Santa bag, those mysterious creatures that no one knows what to buy for or what to think of.

What does Christmas mean to them? When asked this question, the majority of adults responded with a similar answer.

“I’m sure teens will probably say that being out of school for a couple of weeks is the best part about Christmas, but what they don’t realize is they’re building traditions that they can carry on throughout their lives,” says Amy Perry, a communication arts teacher at Savannah Arts Academy. “Hopefully teens are making memories with family and friends and being grateful!”

Kenneth Bostick, a physician’s assistant at the Center for Digestive and Liver Health, states, “I believe the majority of teenagers don’t remember the true reason for the season, which is the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. For teenagers today, the majority, Christmas is all about receiving.”

Are teenagers truly as self-absorbed during this season as adults believe? Or is there some spark of remembrance and good will hidden deep within the crevices of their souls? After questioning 21 teenagers on their views of Christmas, I lean toward the latter.

An overwhelming majority of teens said that they still get excited about Christmas, and while presents do seem to be one of the favorite parts of Christmas for most teens, it does not seem to be merely for the purpose of receiving.

Hannah Stewart, a senior at Savannah Arts Academy, says, “It’s not because I get what I want, but I like the suspense of the gift ‘unwished for’. It keeps you hyped up all day and makes the holiday even more fun.” The majority of teens questioned said they didn’t care what they received for Christmas this year, followed closely by those who wished most for happiness.

In fact, an equal amount of teens preferred bringing people together to anything else. Still, coveted presents varied from romantic love to a Wii.

As for their least favorite aspect of the holiday, a majority say they despise commercialism.

“Christmas is a corporate tool used to increase sales and profits. It’s a hype. It’s lost its meaning in most people’s lives,” states Calin Caracol, 18.

James Minter, 17, agrees. “I think Christmas is overcelebrated and overrated. I think corporate America, as they do with many other things, uses a semi-religious basis in order to boost their marketing.”

Emily Leach, a sophomore from Calvary Baptist Day School, makes a face as she declares her least favorite to be fruitcake. Others still detest Savannah’s cold yet snow-less weather (not a problem this year as it is neither cold nor snowy...I hate to think what it’s like over at the Equator), getting fat from all of the food, and having to take billions of family photos.

“I don’t get excited about Christmas. The only thing that brightens my mood is seeing my older brother get excited about it,” declares Emily Barielle, a senior at St. Vincent’s Academy.

“My favorite Christmas memory is probably the year my brother turned 18. I was still 14 at the time. That year, I planned on sleeping a little later, being an official “teenager” and whatnot. However, around 7 a.m. my brother, Corey, bombards me in my bedroom and bounces on my bed, shouting, “WAKE UP EMILY, WAKE UP!’” Barielle recalls.

“We ran into the next room and woke up our disgruntled mother and stepfather and spent the rest of the morning unwrapping presents and munching on Christmas candy,” she says. “You worry about your family sometimes, wondering how they deal with their every day stresses, and when you see them jovial and laughing, it makes you feel happier and relieved.”

Teens responded differently when asked for their favorite Christmas memory. Maegan Smiley says, “We used to leave reindeer food outside on Christmas Eve and check to see if it was gone in the morning. That was fun.”

Dani Sadowsky, 17, “When I was 5 or 6, my brother and I played with the boxes from our large gifts for 3 days in the living room. We painted them like cavemen and played with all of our new things in there.” Some memories are cherished to this day.

Tess Johnson, a student at Savannah Arts Academy, remembers her favorite Christmas memory was “ of my first Christmases, spent at my grandma’s house in New Jersey. I cherish it because it is the only Christmas I shared with both my Grandma and Grandpa while they were alive.”

As for the mysterious St. Nick, Chelsea Michaels says “I really saw how creative my parents had been.”

Patrick Rippman, 18, doesn’t have one favorite but instead “just the blur of many Christmases in New Jersey as a child, seeing the lights and gifts and family and food. It was just a cool atmosphere and seemed larger than it does now.”

That isn’t to say Christmas has lost its meaning now that they’re older. To Tess Johnson, Christmas means, “Peace, love, and happiness. A time full of warmth and people being selfless toward one another.”

Dani Sadowsky agrees. “Christmas means my family getting together and cooking for each other, playing family poker and having fires in the fireplace every night or bonfires in the backyard with fire-roasted food.”

Victoria Rugen, 17, says, “It doesn’t matter what gifts I receive, but knowing I have the comfort of my friends and family during the holidays is what I’ve learned matters most about Christmas.” She wishes most for her father to return from the Army and be with her for Christmas.

Kimberley Wilson, a senior at Johnson High School, states Christmas means “family, God’s birthday, and the act of giving.”

To Carson McCluskey, it’s “just a time when I can feel happy with friends and family and connect with my parents a little bit better. I feel that I relate better now to how they felt when Christmas was right around the corner than I did when I threw carrots on top of my roof for the reindeer.”

He also adds that the time with friends is important. “It’s probably the last Christmas I’ll spend with some, as a teenager.” As for the Christmas food, he says it’s “a lot better than having McDonald’s.”

For me, Christmas is a time to reconnect with the past, to remember what it was like as a child, and to carry on the tradition of spreading good will, celebrating, and giving. It’s that one static event in life.

Seeing the good will and kindness of others along with the continuance of a fondly-remembered tradition inspires me to believe in the goodness of humanity and to have hope for the future.

Based on the results of those surveyed, I believe this notion is shared by most teenagers, and, furthermore, by most adults.

Another shared notion: not to be too broke after all that giving.

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Local teens say:

Favorite Part of Christmas

#1 – (Tie) Bringing people

together, and presents

#2 – Giving

#3 – Happiness that accompanies

the season

#4 – Weather

#5 – Christmas break

What Teens Want for Christmas

#1 – Doesn't matter

#2 – Happiness

#3 – Clothes

Other answers: New phone, camera, computer, presence of family, love, guitar amplifier, car, money, DVD player, to be able to afford buying presents, a Zune, an iTouch.

Favorite Christmas Song

#1 - 'Santa Baby'

#2 - 'All I Want for Christmas Is

You' (Mariah Carey version)

#3 - 'Let It Snow'