There’s no doubt that Christmas will look very different this year, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a merry one. For many students, typical Christmas plans have been disrupted, while first years are trying to forge new ones under the strangest of circumstances. I spoke with some Junior Fresh students to find out how they plan on spending the holiday period.
One student, David Wolfe, admitted to feeling uneasy about the potential risks of simply sharing the day with their grandmother this year, something that we usually take for granted. “Instead of our usual fifteen, our Christmas dinner guest list this year is just six. It’s difficult not to focus on who’s missing, but I still feel lucky to be able to be with my immediate family, since there’s so many people who won’t be,” Wolfe said.
“Being able to spend Christmas with my grandmother is something I’m greatly looking forward to, in a year we’ve been able to see so little of her, but there’s still that sense of guilt and anxiety, a ‘what-if?’, that comes with it.”
“The inevitably intimate family gatherings will be more meaningful and create lasting memories, capturing the true spirit of the season.”
Whilst it’s certainly not going to be the wild fresher’s Christmas that many students had dreamt of, with the usual rite of passage for many that is the infamous Twelve Pubs Dublin edition, followed by endless parties, there is certainly a bright side to consider when thinking about the holiday this year. The inevitably intimate family gatherings will be more meaningful and create lasting memories, capturing the true spirit of the season, with the opportunity to establish some new Christmas traditions. In a world that is constantly buzzing with activity it’s important to unwind and remember what matters – as cheesy as that sounds. Who knows, maybe it will pose the perfect opportunity to bond with your siblings over a vicious game of Monopoly and escape from that pile of college work you need to catch up on.
Many international students are going to great lengths to ensure that they can be reunited with their family at Christmas and spend it with those who matter most. First-year student Kamonnat Setpattanachai shared her plans for making it home for the Christmas break. She booked her flights for early December to accommodate the mandatory two-week quarantine period in her home country of Thailand.
“I’ll have to do online learning until the end of the semester with different time zones which I’m sure will prove difficult,” Kamonnat said. I’ll have to quarantine at halls when I come back here too. That’s one month in total that will be spent in quarantine so I really hope that things will get better next year and that I’ll never have to experience this again.”
Kamonnat added that her flight will be a whopping 13 hours long, excluding transfer time. This journey would be a challenge and exhausting at the best of times, never mind throwing Covid restrictions into the mix. Pair it with having to endure wearing a stifling mask for the entire escapade and painfully slow, socially distanced queues at the airports and you have a potential nightmare before Christmas.
For those that are staying in college residences during the Christmas period, do not despair! Some ideas have been proposed to students who are planning to spend the holiday in Trinity Hall, Kavanagh Court and Binary Hub so it’s sure to still be one to remember. In the running is a daily guided 5km walk with other residents so that you can take in the Yuletide atmosphere, wrapped up warm in your favourite Christmas jumper. In addition, there will be a free festive food collection on campus and at halls, with no fear of going hungry if you can’t muster up a Christmas dinner, and finally a communal space on campus where students could meet whilst adhering to guidelines.
“One thing that remains unchanged this year are the beautiful light displays and decorations, which can still be found around every corner.”
If none of that tickles your fancy, there are plenty of other ways to make the most of the festive season in Dublin’s fair city. One thing that remains unchanged this year are the beautiful light displays and decorations, which can still be found around every corner. Indulge yourself in a viewing party; bring along some of your flatmates and, mask-adorned, you will be prepared to take on the busy city streets at night. Maybe invest in a festive mask for the occasion – go on, you know you want to! Our very own Trinity will be lit up with some colourful wintery scenes, as will the GPO and various other historic buildings. As you roam around the city centre, treat yourself to some warm mulled wine, or if you’re feeling daring opt for something chilly to please your sweet tooth; I’ve heard that Three Twenty Ice Cream Lab is gaining popularity.
Speaking of chilly, taking a splash, or even a dip on Christmas morning could be the perfect way to start the day – or so I’ve been told anyway. I recommend that you go to a local beach with plenty of room for a socially distanced swim to enjoy it safely, as lots of other people may have the same idea. Perhaps icy seawater crashing over you at the crack of dawn isn’t your idea of fun and you’d prefer a refreshing hike on the Howth cliff trail to start the day instead. Connecting with family and friends has never been easier in the digital age. Brighten up your evening (after you have stuffed yourself full of turkey and all of the trimmings of course) with some Covid-friendly virtual activities such as conducting a Zoom quiz night or watching a feel-good festive film on Netflix party. In the spirit of giving, why not create some virtual Christmas cards and share your masterpieces with your loved ones.
Many Christmas festivals and events across the country are still going ahead this year, reimagined in outdoor settings to ensure that everyone can enjoy the spectacles safely. If you are travelling home to Waterford you can look forward to Winterval, which will be in its ninth year this Christmas. Cork and Galway will also be hosts to some thrilling winter events. The Glow Christmas festival in Cork will take place, including a festive window trail – the perfect family day out. There’s plenty of activities to be found, so that you can all make the most of the holiday period, even if you’re not staying in Dublin!
In a year that has been overshadowed by the pandemic, Christmas could be a time to reach out to those that have done the same for you during the year and rekindle some of the joy and hope that’s been dwindling. Whatever your plans for the holiday season, whether you will be with family, in college residences or are travelling overseas to get home, I hope you all can spend it with people you cherish, stay safe and enjoy the break.