All college freshmen have a common goal during their first semester: make a dorm feel like home. Everyone goes about this differently—some paper their bedroom walls with pictures of friends from high school, some hang their home state flags across their walls, some concoct makeshift versions of their favorite traditional home dishes using only Ramen, microwaves and plastic Tupperware. But come December, all these different approaches converge on one universal theme: holiday decorating.
When I returned from Thanksgiving break, I was welcomed back into Durfee’s B Entryway by the smell of the pine wreaths hanging on suite doors. My own common room table was littered with celebratory Hanukkah gelt, and, as the week went on, multi-colored wax that had dripped from a clumsy suitemate’s menorah. One especially crafty friend went so far as to buy seven red felt Christmas stockings and write each of her suitemates’ names on them in gold glitter glue. Farnam residents had decorated the front of their building with the customary twinkling Christmas lights, this year spelling out “JE LUX” before Thanksgiving break had even begun. And these holiday decorations extended far beyond the dormitories: by early December I saw music stands covered in wrapping paper, a small Christmas tree dripping with candy canes on the band room table, and a wreath obscuring the milk machine in Stiles dining hall.
These festive ornamentations are not only a means of making what is still foreign—our novel living quarters—familiar, but also as a way to make our new cohabitants into a community. Used to being home for the holidays, we prefer making our friends into a second family to mourning our distance from our first one. Like carrying a couch up four flights of stairs, fighting off cockroaches in the shower and jointly dealing with overzealous neighbors, cooperative decorating is a way for a suite to come together as more than just a group of roommates.
Of course many of us miss our parents, our high school friends and our homes all year long. But the holidays are a time of love for those closest to us—and especially those in close proximity. It’s easy to say that the hassle of going out to buy a Christmas tree or carrying a menorah on Metro-North isn’t worth the mere two weeks of holiday cheer that these decorations will provide. But I would argue that those who are too lazy or too apathetic to decorate miss out on a valuable experience—not just the potential beauty of the room itself, but also the chance to make a residence into a home.