While finals may not take the cake as the most wonderful time of the year, we all know what does: holly jolly Christmas. Even though the actual holiday takes over hometowns during break, some colleges go all out to celebrate before students make the trek back to mom and dad. These schools got a stamp of approval from Saint Nick himself.
10. Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College boasts constant Christmas spirit with a fresh blanket of snow and a Christmas tree that could put Times Square to shame. Every year the holiday season begins with a Christmas tree lighting accompanied by The Christmas Revels, a professional musical group specializing in the music of the holiday season. The seasonal sights and sounds get the spirit flowing before you can swallow that last bite of turkey and stuffing.
9. Baylor University
Chances of snow in Texas are slim, but Baylor doesn’t need flurries to kick off the holiday season; their Christmas on 5th Street Celebration does plenty to compensate. The street is flooded with a Christmas tree farm, marketplace, carriage rides, pics with Santa, live nativity and the list goes on. Relient K (Christmas music experts) even made an appearance this past year. Their annual tree lighting even brightens up the evening of Christmas on 5th Street, illuminating Burleson Quadrangle. “Christmas on 5th is basically when Christmas takes over the center of campus, even though it’s too warm to feel like winter,” sophomore Katherine Estep said. “I love it because it’s right before finals, so it’s nice to remember that there is more to life than how I do in my classes.” There’s a strong tradition of giving back too. The BKG Fraternity hosts “Brothers Kollecting Gifts,” where they give gifts to the local Boys and Girls Club and create a Santa’s Workshop where kids from the Waco area celebrate with Santa, Mrs. Clause and the Baylor community. “The biology department collected hundreds of toys for kids this Christmas and Habitat for umanity built the frame of a house in the middle of campus to raise money,” Estep said. Even without a winter wonderland, Baylor manages to spread the Christmas spirit.
8. New York University
From the Macy’s parade to the tree at the Rockefeller center, NYU’s zip code alone makes it a pretty fantastic place to be during the holidays. “Holiday season in New York is aggressively wonderful,” freshman CJ DiOrio said. “Everywhere you go around campus, there are huge light-up stars on the lamp posts. All the stores have Christmas displays and the big Macy’s is a 15 minute walk away from me.” Their top-notch education even makes contributions to the holiday season with classes that partake in the festivities. “We just analyzed Christmas songs in my Music Theory class,” DiOrio said. For a classy Christmas evening, NYU hosts the Joffrey Ballet School as they put on The Nutcracker, a Christmas classic. For J.K. Rowling fans, the Harry Potter Alliance hosts a Yule Ball that doubles as a donation collection for charity. And everyone knows that NYC, with all its decorations and cheer, looks magnificent coated in snow.
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7. Samford University
Don’t get your hopes up for a white Christmas, but Samford University does plenty to bring the Christmas spirit to life. Get ready for the biggest event of the season: The Hanging of the Green. The event consists of a church service in Reid Chapel where a selected group of seniors hang greenery, hence the name “The Hanging of the Green.” The evening involves both spiritual and festive celebrations, as afterward the students anticipate the Lighting of the Way. “We line up on the steps of the library and count down for our Christmas tree to be lit up. We celebrate with hot chocolate, cookies and a concert,” sophomore Kristin Thurwachter said about her favorite tradition. Even with toasty temperatures, the campus goes all out for Christmas. “It’s rare to find someone who is not in the Christmas spirit. You can just feel the excitement on campus to celebrate the birth of our Savior,” Thurwachter said.
6. College of William and Mary
The College of William and Mary celebrates the season with something beyond trees and ornaments: the Yule Log ceremony. As logs burn, students get a chance to take in the warmth and relax by listening to carols and stories about Christmas traditions around the world. Then the president himself reads How the Grinch Stole Christmas whilst wearing a Santa Claus suit. “I went because it was sort of expected of me, but it was probably the most memorable night of my freshman year,” sophomore Jamie Joseph said. “Being surrounded by the entire student body with the fire going and being read a children’s book by the President of the school—that made it amazing. It really made me feel like a part of the Tribe family for the first time.” Students flock to the Green and Gold Christmas, a Christmas party hosted for underprivileged children in the community. Then to top it all off, The Lord Botetourt statue famously dons a wreath for the season.
5. Belmont University
Ever heard of the “Christmas at Belmont” TV special on PBS? Belmont University graces your television with this classic, featuring the students and staff of the School of Music. The nationally aired program exemplifies the talent of the students as they perform classic Christmas songs. “It’s a concert that involves every music and theatre ensemble at the school, coming together for one big holiday show,” Jordan Anderson, a former student at Belmont said. “I was able to perform in ‘Christmas at Belmont’ and it was such an amazing experience seeing the hard work of all the performers come together to create such a magical concert experience for everyone.” The Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony also doubles as a penny drive that fights hunger across the state. Music and Christmas go together like peanut butter and jelly, and Belmont happens to rock at both.
4. Columbia University
Like NYU, Columbia’s location alone oozes Christmas cheer. But beyond New York City’s attractions, Columbia also puts on its own signature events. The Tree Lighting Ceremony illuminates the trees along College Walk. Top that off with a little snow and the sight truly becomes winter wonderland-esque. “My absolute favorite part is the lit trees,” freshman Charlie Dees said. “This winter has been unseasonably warm (it’s 65 out right now) and we’re mostly wrapped up in freaking out over finals, so it’s really nice having those trees as a reminder of the season.” A cappella groups perform at the event and different campus groups use the opportunity for charitable endeavors. Afterwards, the Yule Log Ceremony fires up as a log is carried into the lounge of John Jay Hall by students dressed as soldiers from the sun-dial, where its lit amid Christmas caroling.
3. Wake Forest University
Every year Wake Forest combines two awesome aspects of life: love and feasting. “In the spirit of love and peace, Wake students and faculty gather in Wait Chapel, sing old Christmas songs and eat delicious Moravian bread with coffee,” sophomore David Burch said. The night finishes with a sentimental candle lighting as the room is dimmed and everyone joins in singing Silent Night. Students make the campus glow with the “Lighting of the Quad” where they each hold a candle to create the fiery masterpiece. The school’s president is no stranger to the festivities, as he throws his own Christmas bash for the faculty and staff, which also contributes the Million Meals Challenge to collect canned goods. Of course, no campus on this list is complete without a massive, well-lit Christmas tree. Wake Forest is no outlier with their signature shrub lighting up the holiday season. “Wake Forest probably made the list not for its decorations or wintry atmosphere, but for the holiday spirit in the student body just before Christmas time,” Burch said. “From the band playing Christmas carols in the cafeteria to the various tacky Christmas sweater parties, Wake’s student body resounds a lively holiday spirit in the midst of a stressful finals week.”
2. University of Notre Dame
As a Catholic school, let’s just say the birth of Jesus is a pretty big deal to the Fighting Irish. The entire campus bleeds green and red, and the Christmas spirit goes into overdrive when there’s a thick layer of snow on the ground. The main tree towers in the center of Main Building, directly under the golden dome. Most of the 29 dorms on campus host their own Christmas events, including Carroll Christmas on Far Quad, PE’s Silent Night Silent Auction and the Dillon light show. “The Dillon light show reminds me of driving through Christmas lights at home,” sophomore Jordan Ryan said. “They’re some of the most impressive Christmas lights I’ve ever seen.” Zahm, a special men’s dorm on campus, blasts their favorite song, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on North Quad even more than usual. A cappella groups host caroling concerts and Christmas themed study breaks are held throughout finals week. Wherever you turn, the holidays are there to greet you.
1. Saint Anselm College
Tiny school, colossal Christmas cheer. Every year students look forward to the decadent Christmas Feast. “Not only is the food to die for, but it is a time to be with your friends, who have become family, and celebrate with people you love,” freshman Hannah Mischler said. “The dining hall is decorated beautifully with hundreds of gingerbread houses made by students and a huge Christmas tree surrounded by a running train set. Also, there are always classic holiday songs playing while we eat.” There’s events like DecemberSong, that performs readings and songs for the Advent season under candlelight, and a Christmas with CAB celebration. The fluffy snow and crisp temperature gives you the stunning winter wonderland vibe. The schools gives back with the event “Giving Trees,” which allows students to donate gifts to families in need during the holidays. “There is a sense of togetherness throughout the entire campus. It makes you feel proud to be an Anselmian,” Mischler said. Hard to argue with decadent dining, decorations and bonding.
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