A melancholy remembering of Christmas’ past


Max Stahl, staff writer
Imagine you are in a room. Imagine it is cold outside, but the room is warm. Imagine the hearth is crackling with a vibrant flame, and you are sitting in front of the fire, its irresistible heat caressing your numb and shivering flesh. Imagine you’re wearing your favorite sweater. Imagine you are well-rested, unstressed and happy. Imagine warm chocolate chip cookies that smell like heaven are cooling on the kitchen counter. Imagine it is snowing outside, even though it never snows in Southern California. Imagine any of the myriad holiday season clichés and the quaint, cozy, almost sedative warmth they afford this otherwise dismal time of year. Imagine them, because, if you’re like me, they will never come true.
As students progress through high school, winter break becomes more and more fraught with time-squelching school assignments and other academic obligations. Ninth grade isn’t so bad: over the break, freshmen might find themselves saddled with a biology packet, book report or history project. Tenth grade, much like ninth grade, tends not to present students with overly burdensome workloads, although AP classes may make winter break more stressful for sophomores than for freshmen. Eleventh grade, the most academically rigorous year, dramatically elevates the amount of vacation time one has to spend working working. In addition to whatever homework assignments high school juniors may have (such as AP U.S.History packets and research papers), they must also prepare for the SAT, a rather time consuming activity. As for twelfth grade, two words sum up their break pretty nicely: college apps. Indeed many, if not most, seniors will spend their winter breaks writing supplement essays for individual colleges in order to meet their January deadlines.
The question persists: is winter break really a break? Well, yes and no. It is a break in the sense that students get two weeks off from school. Most will spend a good portion of those two weeks sleeping in, and most will not do as much work as they would in school.
But winter break is also not a break. A true vacation would mean a reprieve from work. Winter break is far from that. As a junior, I know that I will have to spend several hours during most days doing homework and preparing for the SAT. My parents have already assured me that my two weeks off will be relaxing, but not particularly fun.
Winter recess should not have such a contradictory nature. It should be one thing only, and that is a break. Understandably, some obligations are unavoidable. There is little I can do about SAT preparations; this is the only time I have for them. There is little seniors can do about college apps; they have been working all year on their apps, and winter break is the time to make the final push to finish them before they are due. There is little any of us can do about travel plans, extracurriculars or visits from our annoying relatives we see only around the holidays.
But schoolwork is avoidable. Not in the sense that students can choose not to do it, but in the sense that teachers can and should find ways to avoid giving vacation homework. Some teachers acknowledge our need for a break and assign nothing over the vacation. Others, however, do not. We deserve to be rewarded for our hard work and sleep deprivation with two weeks of rest, not two weeks of homework.
But no matter. As much fun as it is to vilify teachers, I really can’t fault them for assigning work over the break (for the most part); they’re just trying to do their jobs. The fact that vacation work is inescapable
13,500 rockets have hit Israel since 2001. That’s three rockets per day have, on average. 8,500 rockets have hit Israel since it unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. 5,000,000 Israelis live within Hamas rocket range. Can you imagine going to school one day and not being entirely sure you will be able to come home and hug your parents? In 2011, Hamas fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus. Israel does not target civilians. It’s simply not the truth. Imagine if one rocket landed in Los Angeles. How would the world react?
Don’t forget Gilad Shalit. Don’t forget the brutal murder of the Fogel family on Shabbat in 2011. Don’t forget how Israel has wanted peace from the beginning, but that most Palestinians and Arabs want a one-state solution: Palestine. Don’t forget that Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Don’t forget that Israel has given up major land assets in peace propositions for peace, but they have been rejected by the Palestinian Authority. I’m not saying that Israel is perfect, but I’m saying that Israel has done its part in attempting to propose peace and in protecting civilians. Israel has the right to defend itself, as does every other country.
Israel specifically targets military assets with maximum possible precision, while Hamas randomly fires rockets at Israeli cities. No precision, no accuracy. Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields showcases this as well. The terrorist organization stores rockets and weapons in buildings housing civilians, forcing Israel to decide whether to care is disappointing, but it is also inevitable. It’s just a fact of high school life.
In spite of everything, I still thirst for my two weeks away from school I thirst for two weeks of relaxation, for time to watch movies and cavort with my friends and, most of all, sleep. Sure, I’ll have to do some work (actually, a lot of work) in between, but at least it’ll be better than going to school.
This is what winter break has become. It is far from ideal, but at least it’s better than going to school.