A leaf blower is not at the top of many Christmas lists, but Blake Thomas wants one.
This is the second year that Thomas, a biochemistry junior at the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, has thought about practicality before desire when asking for gifts, and he’s not alone.
Many students have a wish list of video games and trendy clothes after their first semester in college, but as graduation approaches, they often realize the need for fewer glittering packages and more useful items. Business suits, computer software and leather portfolios are finding their way under Christmas trees in college students’ homes.
“I think I’m asking for mature gifts because they make me feel grown up,” Thomas said. “In college, there’s always that daunting real-world idea of being on your own soon, and I think a leaf blower is my way of easing my mind into it.”
Thomas said the holiday season feels different as an upperclassman.
Freshman year, after his last exam, he would hurry home, but now he hangs around town for a bit, making sure his house is locked up for winter break. Each year, as Chattanooga feels increasingly like home, the holiday loses a little of its magic for Thomas.
“I don’t notice the holiday spirit now the way I did while I was in high school,” he said. “I’m still worried about my class schedule, books and just life. The holiday is less of a time to completely relax and more of just a break from my grades.”
The lack of relaxation is symbolic of the gifts he hopes to unwrap Christmas morning.
Because Thomas spends money on books, rent and tuition, he’s realized the importance of saving, and doesn’t want his family to spend on things he doesn’t really need, like gift cards.
“I believe college students become more prone to understanding the value of practical spending,” he said. “I still desire trendy and fun things, but I realize that there are ultimately more important things in life.”
Approaching graduation, Anna Hershberger’s wish list is also focused on the future. She’s asking for a professional watch for Christmas.
“A watch to me signifies maturity,” the Indiana University journalism senior said. “I think this appeals to me because as a senior in college I want to be accepted more as an adult, especially going out into the real world so soon.”
Hershberger, 21, said the transition to adulthood throughout her college years is evident in the way her family celebrates the holidays.
“I definitely don’t get as many gifts as I did in high school,” she said. “It just recently hit me that my way of thinking about gifts has changed since freshman year. Now, I feel like one gift can hold a lot of meaning.”
Like many students, Hershberger’s excitement for the holidays remains, but for new reasons. While she used to be excited about tangible things, she now looks forward to the feelings of being home with the people she loves, especially this year, for her last winter break before embarking into the working world.
“I think a lot of my friends agree that Christmas has become more about giving than getting,” she said, “It’s comforting.”
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