Lukas Flippo, Photo Editor

In a normal year, the several weeks on campus between Thanksgiving break and winter break would bring festive cheer to New Haven, from the first-year snowball fight to the first-year holiday dinner. But now, first years are preparing to return home until next fall, and all holiday celebrations between friends will be virtual.

In August, the University announced that students on campus in the fall would not be returning after Thanksgiving break to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread that could result from an abundance of travel. So, if students want to get festive over the next month, they will have to be creative. The News spoke to four on-campus students who will be leaving this weekend to find out what they have planned.

“There’s a lot of sadness in that I won’t get to see [my friends] in between the holidays the way we might’ve in another year,” Natalie Smink ’24 said. “I’ve been excited to go home, just for the thought of a break and seeing my family, but as the date keeps getting closer and closer, I keep getting sadder and sadder to be leaving my friends here.”

Smink said her two suitemates are her closest friends on campus and the ones she’s spent the most time with so far, and that she definitely plans to celebrate in some capacity with them.

She said the suite won’t be exchanging gifts this year, but that they each have their own ideas for how the group celebration will go.

“I joked around that I would send a letter to both of them, and then my friend said ‘No, let’s have a dance party,’” Smink said. “So we’re each doing different things — I’m sending a letter, Nayeli is going to call me for a dance party and Victory just wants us to FaceTime each other. We have three different plans and we’ll see which one goes through.”

Even before the winter holidays come, some Yalies are prepping for virtual Thanksgiving Day celebrations. Although students would not be together for Thanksgiving even in a normal year, this year the holiday will mark the beginning of eight months away from campus for first years, so the day will be extra emotional.

Ethan Kopf ’24 said he and his friends plan to take advantage of the holiday.

“My friends and I are planning to use Zoom around the time of Thanksgiving, sort of like a ‘Friends’-style Friendsgiving,” Kopf said. “I think it’s from the TV show ‘Friends.’ We can probably have a meal over Zoom and catch up … it’s really soon from now but we’ll probably miss each other right when we get home.”

Shreya Nuli ’24 also plans to celebrate Thanksgiving with her friends — like Kopf, with a virtual Friendsgiving and by sharing recipes. She also hopes that they will be able to “send gratitude” virtually.

But the real fun will come on the day after.

“For Black Friday shopping, we will definitely shop over FaceTime or Zoom and scope out the best deals together,” Nuli said.

Elijah Boles ’24 said he plans to decorate a Christmas tree over Thanksgiving break. But he doesn’t want to be doing it alone, so he’ll be on Zoom with some friends while he decorates — “we’ll play some Christmas music and catch up,” he added.

And when late December hits, the remote gift-giving will begin for some students.

Zoe Berg, Photo Editor

“In December, for Christmas, we’ll have a remote Secret Santa where we send each other different gifts and guess who gave presents to who,” Nuli told the News.

Students granted a winter housing exemption have the option to spend the holidays in New Haven in Yale residences.

Anjali Mangla |

Owen Tucker-Smith |

Anjali Mangla covers the intersection of STEM and social justice as a Sci-Tech staff reporter. She is currently a first-year in Ezra Stiles College planning to study Neuroscience, Global Affairs and Global Health Studies.
Owen Tucker-Smith covers the Mayor's office, City Hall and local politics. He is also an associate editor at the Yale Daily News Magazine. Originally from Williamstown, MA, he is a first-year in Ezra Stiles College majoring in statistics and data science.