For me, the holiday season starts immediately after Halloween. Even before Thanksgiving Break, I was singing Christmas carols, stringing up lights, and proudly wearing my obnoxious winter-themed sweaters. The end of the year has always been a fun time for me, and after the whirlwind that was 2016, I was more than ready for some holiday cheer.
My suitemate is an Ezra Stiles Representative on the Freshman Class Council, so he was placed in charge of decorating our entire dorm building with festive lights. I helped him brainstorm a design, but at first we both drew a blank. We needed something that was fun and interesting but also not impossible to make using just Christmas lights. Ultimately, we decided to rep Ezra Stiles, and chose a moose design. The moose is the mascot for Ezra Stiles College (the best residential college), so it was perfect for showing some Stiles pride and impressing all the other freshmen.
One cold Monday afternoon, after our Head of College bought us a dozen or so boxes of lights, a group of us freshmen went from room to room, dangling lights outside windows and slowly assembling our glowing creation. It ended up taking two days, but our final product turned out much better than I expected.
The Ezra Stiles Moose in all its wintry glory.
Ta da! The moose was born!
Little did I know, Christmas lights were only the beginning to the holiday season at Yale. I learned from a few upperclassmen that the can’t-miss-event of the season was the Freshmen Holiday Dinner. I couldn’t get much more information other than to dress up, so on the day of the dinner I showed up to the Schwarzmann Center with the rest of the freshmen class, all dressed up in my holiday bowtie. I realized that the holiday dinner was the first time our entire class had been together in one place since our first day on campus. You always hear that the holidays bring people together, but seeing it happen in real life was pretty special. It definitely made realize how many of my classmates I knew (more than I expected), but also how many freshmen I still had yet to meet.
The dining hall staff prepared an extra-special menu for us, and I was able to reconnect with some other freshmen that I hadn’t seen for a few weeks. I was having a great time, but was also a little confused over what all of the hype was about. Was this fancy dinner in the dining hall really supposed to be a standout moment of my semester?
And then the parade started.
When I say parade, I don’t mean a parade with dancers and floats and things like that. Instead, halfway through our meal, we all hear the unmistakable sound of a drumline, pounding away just outside the door of the Schwarzmann Center. Everyone stood up to see what was going on, right as a parade of staff came marching through the door holding up huge platters of food. Lobsters, ice sculptures filled with sushi, an assortment of different kinds of breads, and all sorts of other amazing goodies made their way down the middle aisle of the dining hall as the entire freshmen class looked on. After the parade had finished, we heard a few short speeches from the most dedicated Yalies - people who had served on the dining staff for 30+ years - and celebrated all of the work they’ve done to help make Yale as special as it is for all of us.
It can be easy to sometimes think about Yale only in terms of classes, professors, and grades, but hearing from people who had spent a lifetime at Yale supporting students in different ways was really heartwarming. It reminded me that so much of the work that makes Yale an amazing place happens outside of the classroom, but is still so important to Yale’s success and the success of the students.
Tying the bowtie in this picture was one of my greatest achievements all semester.
For me, another crucial part of the holiday season is singing carols. My suitemates can tell you that I am not a professional singer by any stretch of the imagination, but I still love a good Christmas tune. In early December, coincidentally, I got an email from a Ezra Stiles Fellow (and Admissions Officer) John Yi, who wanted to start a seasonal a cappella group of Stiles students to perform for our Head of College. I was super excited! Our group, dubbed the Merry Musical Moose, met for one quick rehearsal before the show where we learned all the music we would be singing. I have never been in an a cappella group, but our rehearsal gave me a small look into the world of a cappella that is so quintessential to the college experience.
Our group performed at the Head of College’s Christmas Tree Decorating party at his house, so after some hot chocolate and Christmas cookies, we sang the three songs we had prepared. Singing in front of people has never been my strength, but it was a very lowkey and casual show, so it turned out to be a lot of fun. I also had the opportunity to sing in a real-life a cappella group, which was definitely a new experience for me.
After our performance, the our group realized we needed an album cover for when we get hired by a record label.
Even through the stress and crazy time of reading week and finals, I’ve still been able to find time to relax and enjoy the holiday season. We had the first big snow of the year this past Saturday, which was also coincidentally the first day of exams. I had to trudge through a foot and a half of snow on the way to my ECON 115 final, and immediately bought a pair of thick gloves once the test was over. Little did I know how important those gloves would be, because that night was the infamous Freshmen Snowball Fight on Old Campus. Apparently, it’s a tradition for the freshmen to all have a giant snowball fight after the first big snow of the year, so around 400 of us gathered in the middle of Old Campus and battled it out for over an hour. My aim was horrible (we don’t get a lot of snow at my home in North Carolina), and I slipped and fell on the ice and more than once, but it was still so much fun.
I was worried about missing out on the holiday experience now that I’m a college student, but the past few weeks showed me that the opposite was actually true. Celebrating away from my family was different, but it also brought me much closer to my friends, and was a really special way to end my first semester at Yale. Part of me never wants to take down the Christmas lights we have in our suite, or the moose design we worked so hard to put up, so we might just keep the holiday cheer going all the way into 2017. Happy holidays!