The three weeks between Thanksgiving break and the end of the semester can be a killer. After traveling home for the holiday and seeing family, getting a break from work, and eating delicious food, trying to get back into the grind and mentally preparing for finals can be tough. It’s an unfortunate fact, considering that this is arguably the most critical point of the semester. Luckily, we have so much here at Naz to get us excited for the holiday season while classes are still in session.
Dorm Decorating: Thankfully, I live with people who love the holidays as much as I do! We’ve always gotten in the holiday spirit, but this year we have an on campus apartment, which means we have even more room for festive trimmings. We had a ton of decorations up in our apartment for Halloween and, each day after the 31st, we took down a little more of that decor and put up a little more holiday stuff. The day we got back from Thanksgiving break, we went all out with the holiday decorations. It may seem like a lot of effort for only three weeks, but you can’t tell me that writing papers or studying isn’t ten times more tolerable in a room of colorful lights!
Snow on Campus: If you think the campus looks beautiful covered in leaves and autumn reds and yellows, you should see it after a fresh coat of snow. Come January we get buried in it, but, if we’re lucky, we get a few light dustings around finals that are just enough to get students in the winter spirit, but not enough to be a major annoyance (although, I only speak for those of us who don’t have to commute). After a busy day of classes or studying, curling up with some hot chocolate, putting on The Grinch or Charlie Brown, and watching the snow fall outside my window in the background is the best way to relax.
Holiday Events: One of the best parts about being at a school that celebrates diversity is getting the opportunity to learn about a multitude of perspectives and holiday customs. My family has always celebrated Christmas and it is hands down my favorite holiday of the year, so I love having the chance to learn about how other people celebrate this time and what they do while I’m decorating my tree or listening to Carol of the Bells for a fifth time. On campus, we’ve had Pre-Kwanzaa celebrations, Quran teachings, and Hanukkah cookie baking in the past, and these are just a few examples. The Center for Spirituality is really great about embracing everyone’s holiday traditions and planning events to celebrate them. Recently, right after we got back from Thanksgiving break, they sponsored an event with Dr. David Anderson that discussed spirituality and hope during the holidays and talked about how these concepts inform each other and relate to the many holy days different religions observe at this time of the year. Also, if we ever need to get away from the books and off campus for a while, The City of Rochester Public Market is the perfect place to go to pick up some amazing artisan holiday gifts and decor and the Garden Factory turns its greenhouse into a winter carnival, perfect for a taking a study break and some christmas card worthy pictures.
The weeks leading up to christmas are my some of my favorite and I was afraid when I came to college that the stress of finals and being away from home during that time would dampen my holiday spirit. I was especially concerned by the fact that I could no longer participate in some of my favorite holiday pastimes in highschool, such as caroling in local nursing homes with my select choir and singing in Melodies of Christmas, an annual fundraising concert put on by the Empire State Youth Orchestra and Chorale for The Melodies Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Albany Medical Center. Thankfully, my fears were never realized and I actually think I treasure the holidays more now that I’m at Naz. I still miss those things, but I still have the memories and we have so much here to hold us over until finals are through and the week between then and Christmas is plenty of time to do last minute shopping and carry out my holiday traditions of decorating the house with my parents and baking cookies with my dad and grandmother. Finals will always be stressful, but being able to get into the holiday spirit with my Naz family during the three weeks that I can’t be with my real family makes the time leading up to the end of the semester and the start of the holidays fly by!