Normally by this time of year, my family and I would have meandered over to Ambler Farm on a mission to claim the perfect Christmas tree, an endeavor in which we never completely succeed, but thoroughly enjoy nonetheless. The holiday decorations would have been hauled out of the basement and peppered throughout the living room; my dad would spend an afternoon cursing luminous bulbs into submission around the façade of the house. A wreath with red bows would be affixed to the front door, stuffed reindeer would perch atop the piano, and Vince Giraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” would perpetually stream through the stereo.

However, this year, my family is forgoing our traditional holiday routine. As excited as I am that we will spend Christmas break traveling to Italy, there is something a little sad about the absence of those pesky pine needles littered on the carpet.

“This is my last Christmas as a child,” I gravely informed my father when he announced our itinerary. He reassured me I was not losing my favorite holiday; that by experiencing Dec. 25th in a Catholic nation, I would likely find an even greater embodiment of the Christmas spirit than I had ever encountered in my 17 Christmases past.

This may very well come to fruition, but the loss of our familiar Christmas proceedings has brought me to the conclusion that the best Christmases are behind me. This may sound terribly fatalistic, but I do not find this assessment to be overwhelmingly depressing. The holiday season will always be one full of good cheer. Families come together to celebrate one another; there will be spiced hot chocolate, piles of festive wrapping paper, and (hopefully) a dusting of snow to augment the magic of the season. I will always revel in blasting Christmas tunes on the radio and the scent of gingerbread baking in the oven. Reading The Night Before Christmas will forever invoke fond memories of piling on the sofa with my dogs, parents, and brother on Christmas Eve as a fire burns brightly and my parents’ voices bring the picture book to life.

It is these Christmases that I wish I could return to, when letters were written and mailed to Santa Claus and cookies and milk were left out to sustain St. Nick and the reindeer. The most wonderful part of youth is the inability to distinguish fantasy from reality, and it is one that has an otherworldly effect on the holidays. I can vividly remember waking up early on Christmas Day, rushing downstairs, and gazing in awe at the pile of presents under the glowing tree. The magic of belief cannot be equated with something else; it is incomparable, it is a manifestation not only of the beautiful innocence of childhood, but also the great unknowable wisdom of children. And once it fades, it never returns, and so we lose this intangible piece of ourselves along with the enchantment. We feel as though we have forgotten something, but we cannot remember exactly what it is, and eventually, we stop looking for it. Only when we see the glint in the eyes of our little cousins and nieces and nephews as they showcase the wares Santa has delivered do we catch a glimpse of this elusive magic, but we know that it is no longer ours to possess.

Alosha Southern is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.