Christmas from a Distance: Students Prepare for an Altered Holiday Season

by Jea Mo | 11/18/20 2:05am

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by Sophie Bailey / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Whether gathering with extended family around dishes of turkey and pie during Thanksgiving, piling on a couch with friends to watch “Home Alone” or excitedly embarking on a New Year’s vacation, many people eagerly anticipate the joys of the holiday season. The winter months are usually an ideal time to reunite with friends and family and reflect on the past year.

This year, however, things will look very different. With COVID-19 raging across the globe, Dartmouth students are facing the disappointment of an altered holiday season. For many students, the pandemic will make it difficult, if not impossible, to gather with friends and family. 

Chloe Cordasco ’24 said that her extended family has a tradition of getting together to celebrate the holidays.

“It’s a giant production with lots of family members,” Cordasco said. “Sometimes we go out to eat or [have] a big dinner party. But that’s definitely not an option this year.”

She explained that she will be spending the holidays with family members that she has quarantined with in order to prevent viral transmission at a large dinner party. This will reduce Cordasco’s bustling annual celebration to a small gathering of only her parents, sister, maternal grandparents and herself.

Meanwhile, other students won’t be able to share holidays even with some of their immediate family. Jaclyn Mule ’22 said that both her sisters, who are currently studying in the United Kingdom, will not be able to come home for Thanksgiving. The U.K.’s travel regulations, which require people reentering the country to self-isolate for 14 days, would make coming home too difficult for her sisters, especially because they will not have time off from school for the U.S. holiday.

“Both of them would have probably flown home for a couple of days,” Mule said. “But now, they can’t come home for Thanksgiving because they would have to go through the quarantine period. … I won’t have two out of five members of my family [for Thanksgiving].”

Many students are also disappointed that quarantine regulations will make it difficult to get together with friends during the holidays.

Mule said that she will not be able to meet anyone outside of her family if she wants to see her grandmother, who is at a higher risk for COVID-19. 

“I’m really happy that I’m going to be able to see her, but that means I will not be doing my usual ritual of seeing all my friends from home,” Mule said.

Jason Whang ’24 said he is disappointed that he will not be able to stay in the U.S. after the term ends to spend Thanksgiving with his newly made friends before flying back to South Korea. However, he acknowledged that this concern is relatively insignificant.

“I guess it hasn’t affected me in a life-threatening or drastic measure,” Whang said of COVID-19, “but it has been a minor inconvenience. Times with friends will be disrupted. I know this is kind of a luxury complaint in a global pandemic — more people are less fortunate.” 

Despite these letdowns, students are trying to find alternative ways to connect with friends and family over the holiday season. Whang, for example, will be using online platforms to keep in touch with friends and celebrate the holiday season virtually.

“There will be other people who have different opinions and go to parties and have fun. I also think there will be times when I think, ‘Why am I not [having fun] when I can?’ But I think it is my part that, given how the pandemic is going, I don’t contribute to it and go to gatherings with large groups of people.”

“My friends know me as a person that doesn’t usually initiate calls over Zoom or phone,” Whang said. “I’ll pick up the phone, but I don’t actively try to call people. But because we [will not] see each other for a long period of time, I definitely am planning to talk to my friends over Zoom or [Facebook] Messenger more.”

Of course, there are certain elements of the holiday season that video calls simply cannot replicate, such as the excitement of end-of-year parties. Personally, I am fighting the urge to go downtown with my friends for Christmas — my favorite holiday.

Whang nodded when I brought up the urge to celebrate in person.

“I feel like gatherings and parties will still happen,” Whang said. “There will be other people who have different opinions and go to parties and have fun. I also think there will be times when I think, ‘Why am I not [having fun] when I can?’ But I think it is my part that, given how the pandemic is going, I don’t contribute to it and go to gatherings with large groups of people.”

Despite the many ways in which COVID-19 will dampen holiday cheer, students are attempting to see the glass as half full. Cordasco and Whang said that they actually look forward to spending more quality time with their immediate family rather than a large number of people. 

“It was often a burden if my family decided to host the parties,” Cordasco said. “It was something that became very stressful. I feel like this year [will] be more chill. Honestly, I’m looking forward to it.”

Although celebrations will look significantly different from a normal year, students intend to enjoy the holiday season safely. Wherever possible, we can look at the bright side, seeing this holiday season as a chance to treasure quality time with our loved ones.

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