When I think of Christmas, I think of snow.
Because UC Berkeley is full of students from many cultures, the winter holiday means something different to each student. To me, that holiday is Christmas, and Christmas means snow.
In my mind, the two are inextricably tied together — Christmas is snow and snow is Christmas. I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, so I’ve never had a Christmas without snow. That is, until I came to Berkeley.
I had to adjust to a few things when I moved to Berkeley: getting over the time difference, dealing with my student visa, being independent for the first time and growing used to a snowless winter.
Gone were the days of snowstorms and hail. Gone were the news alerts that school was canceled because we had a foot of snow. Instead, I looked up and saw sunny, cloudless skies and walked around in a light, fall-weather jacket.
When December rolled around my freshman year, I eagerly looked outside my window for a glimpse of snowflakes falling from the sky before I remembered where I was. I texted my parents, asking for pictures of our house buried in snow. I counted down the days until winter break — yes, because I’d be done with finals, but mostly because I’d be reunited with snow.
One of my favorite moments is the first snow of the season. The light crinkly sound the crystallized flakes make as they hit the ground. The crunch of those flakes under my boot. The way they get caught in my hair as I walk home. My holiday never really begins until that first snow.
So moving to a place without snow was a shocking adjustment. It felt like the holiday was never going to come — finals just seemed to drag on and on, with no end in sight. Time seemed frozen without the snow to mark the start of winter.
I never felt farther away from home than I did that first winter in Berkeley.
I’m not naive — I know that one of the main reasons I miss snow so much is because I’m separated from it. I remember what it was like to live with snow every day in the winter, and I remember how fed up I would get after falling down five times on my way home from school.
Snow isn’t always glamorous. I know that during winter break, I will eventually get frustrated with the weather. Inevitably, I’ll walk outside in the cold and curse under my breath, bitterly complaining about the minus-15-degree weather (in Celsius). I will complain about the black ice (and I still remember one winter when I was rushing to school and slipped on the black ice in my driveway, nearly breaking my back). I will complain about the slush that seeps into my nonwaterproof shoes, freezing my toes.
But even when I’m slipping and sliding on my way to the subway in freezing weather — even as I bitterly complain about the cold — when I see snow dust float down from tree branches in the wind, I will smile. Because to me, snow isn’t just the weather — it’s home.
When I think of snow, I think of my brother sitting on our couch, loudly rehearsing his lines for his school play. I think of my mom next to him, helping him practice while drinking her homemade hot chocolate. I think of my dad sitting on the floor, grinning as he decorates our Christmas tree with Coca-Cola bottles and R2-D2 figurines that light up (we are a family of pop and “Star Wars” lovers).
I think of me sitting in the middle of it all, wrapped in a warm fluffy blanket, alternating between looking at my family and looking out the window as the snow falls from the sky.
When I miss snow, I really miss my family. When I’m reunited with snow, I’m reunited with my home. I get very nostalgic during the holidays, and snow is just the embodiment of all that I miss when I’m away at school.
A few days after I came home for the break this year, Toronto had a mild snowstorm. The morning after, I looked outside my window and saw what I’d been wishing for since November.
Snow was here, and I was finally home.