The holiday season while in college tends to be a little bit different than holidays at home. Instead of spending the month with your family and doing all your longtime holiday traditions, you’re stuck at school in a flurry of stress and finals. Due to this time of the year being so busy, it can be hard to get in the holiday spirit in a school environment. Then, when finals have finished and you get to go home, it’s almost Christmas and the holidays are basically over. Although this time can be tough and stressful, there are plenty of ways to keep your old traditions alive at school, along with even creating new ones with friends.
There are many events in the Amherst area that can help you get in the holiday spirit while you’re at school. These events can be a fun study break or just an activity to do with your friends. There is a winter light display at Look Memorial Park in Northampton until Jan. 1 which, not only gets you off campus and away from finals and studying, but it also gets you in the holiday spirit. There are also various University of Massachusetts holiday concerts, both instrumental and vocal, throughout the month of December that are easily accessible and discounted for students. You can even check out the dining halls for gingerbread house contests, specialty hot chocolate and holiday-themed desserts.
Not only are there events you can go to on and around campus that will help you get in the holiday spirit, but there are plenty of things you can do right in your dorm that will boost your holiday cheer. One thing you can do is decorating your dorm; try getting string lights to hang up around your room. These lights create cozy lighting and might remind you of decorations you have at home. If you can’t fit a tree in your dorm, you might as well have the lights that go on the tree. You can also hang up tinsel around the room to include some of those holiday colors. On your door, you can hang stockings for you and your roommate, hang up a whiteboard and ask people to write what they want for the holidays or what they love about the season; these things will gets your floor mates involved and create a sense of community.
While decorating your room enhances more of the visual senses to get you in the spirit, nothing beats the holiday smells. Try getting holiday scented air fresheners or candles. Balsam, cedar and evergreen smells are perfect for replicating the cozy smell of a real Christmas tree. You could also try gingerbread, cinnamon or peppermint scents to replicate the smell of traditional Christmas cooking.
Another thing you could do is throw on holiday music to get you through your finals study sessions or even just for your walks to class. The most popular streaming platforms, such as Spotify and Apple Music, will curate holiday playlists for you so it makes it easily accessible, rather than having to create a whole playlist yourself. Most contemporary holiday music is upbeat, and many popular artists are constantly producing covers of all your favorite classic holiday songs giving them a jovial feeling to get you out of that finals slum.
The holiday season is all about giving, you giving to other people and other people giving to you, but it can be hard for your loved ones to know exactly what you want, especially since you’ve been away from home for so long. Creating a list of things you’d like to receive and asking your friends and family to do so as well can not only help you get in the spirit but it also prevents you from having to wrack your brain for gifts to give the important people in your life. There are ample cute stores in Amherst and surrounding towns that you can do holiday shopping at. You can knock some presents off your list and along with supporting small businesses during the holidays.
While there are plenty of things you can do on your own to get in the spirit, a huge part of the holiday season is spending time with the people you love. While you have to get through finals before being able to spend time with your family, there is a plethora of things you can do with your college friends that will help you all get in the spirit and feel surrounded by loved ones. Getting a group of your friends together and doing a Secret Santa gift exchange can be either funny or serious and the gifts don’t necessarily need to be expensive. Sometimes the best gift to receive during the finals season is a $10 Dunkin Donuts gift card to use when you’re staying up all night for exams.
Another way to get your friends involved is by having a holiday-themed get together of any kind with them. Sometimes just getting your friends together and listening to Christmas carols is enough, but you can also have an ugly sweater contest or camp out in your dorm’s common room to have a holiday movie marathon.
Amid the stress of finals, sometimes we forget that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Try bringing some of your old traditions to campus or creating new traditions with new friends to help you get in the holiday mood.
Emma Ryan can be reached at [email protected]