Yale Daily News

As Yale undergraduates approach the end of their semester, community members are taking time to celebrate the holidays, attending everything from Gatsby-themed formals to an outdoor holiday market.

In addition to certain campus-wide events such as the first-year holiday dinner, Yale’s 14 colleges have strung up Christmas, Hanukkah and general holiday decorations as a way to celebrate the season at the students’ home away from home. Despite added precautions due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, residential colleges have found various ways to celebrate safely.

“We all want to be safe but we also know that Yale should be joyous,” said Tina Lu, head of Pauli Murray College. “We want to have a social life that feeds that part of our spirits as well as classes that feed our intellect.”

As December advances, there are more and more Christmas trees, yellow twinkle lights and wreaths all around campus. Most notable are the decorations within residential college courtyards. 

On Nov. 28, Lu sent an email to students in Pauli Murray titled, “let’s decorate the courtyards and drink cocoa together!” The following evening, Murray students decorated their main courtyard with inflatable snow globes, multi-colored lights and huge snowmen, all while enjoying hot cocoa and socializing after the Thanksgiving break.

Pauli Murray plans to keep the celebration going with a holiday party this coming Friday, Lu told the News.

“Winter can be a little gloomy in New England so we are going to fill the courtyard with as much cheer as we can,” Lu said. 

Benjamin Franklin College is also celebrating the holiday season, as seen with an enormous blow-up snowman and army of six-foot tall candy canes that adorn the main courtyard. 

According to Gabrielle Roman ’25 from Benjamin Franklin, the residential college is doing a “fantastic job” at decorating for the holidays.

“Ben Franklin is doing a really good job of instilling holiday spirit,” Roman said. “A lot of people joined in helping set up the tree and patio of the Head of College office.” 

But Roman noted that such decorations do not seem to exist elsewhere on campus. She also said that different holidays “aren’t represented equally around campus,” with Christmas decorations seeming “much more prominent” than those for other holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. 

In regard to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases on campus, Roman told the News that some people have been more hesitant to engage in in-person holiday festivities. Her very own Science, Technology and Research Scholars research program, a program for minority students in STEM, had a holiday party that got moved to be virtual due to the rise in cases. 

“There is more fear among the students and people are becoming more conscious about attending events,” Roman said.

Nonetheless, she and her suitemates made sure to decorate their entire suite with candy canes, holiday treats and a five-foot-tall Christmas tree.

Silliman College is starting a new event this year called “Winter Wonderland.” According to Silliman Head of College Laurie Santos, the College will host three nights of holiday events, framed like a “European-style holiday market.” Each night will feature outdoor stalls that will contain food and hot drinks such as churros, mulled wine, holiday cookies and more, Santos told the News. She said that the College’s operations manager, Sergio Gonzalez, “built all the wooden stands [for the market] by hand over the last few weeks.”

Silliman College will also have snow machines and holiday lights to make the outdoor courtyard festive, Santos added. With concerns due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, especially due to Yale’s escalation to yellow alert status, the residential colleges have to be careful with indoor events, and therefore many have shifted their celebrations outdoors.

“Our idea was to have a big event outside in order to fit with the holiday season but also keep the event as safe as possible from a public health perspective,” Santos wrote in an email to the News. 

But not all residential colleges have canceled their indoor events. Grace Hopper College is hosting a “Grace Gatsby Formal” as per their email to Grace Hopper students. The event invite says that the formal will occur on “December 10th, 1921,” in the Grace Hopper dining hall.

Some festivities will continue into Yale College’s reading period, which begins on Dec. 10.

Paloma Vigil is the Arts Editor for the Yale Daily News. She previously served as a DEI co-chair and staff reporter for the University and Sports desks. Past coverage includes religious life, Yale College Council, sailing and gymnastics. Originally from Miami, she is a junior in Pauli Murray College majoring in Psychology and Political Science.