Andover transforms for the holidays each year: twinkling lights add sparkle to rooftops and colorful wreaths adorn front doors. For some dorms, celebrating the holidays with festive decorations has become an ongoing tradition; other dorms hope to start a new tradition by creating a homey environment for students spending the holiday season away from their families.
Ina Megalli ’20, a resident of Eaton Cottage, agrees that decorations can be uplifting during the winter months.
“I think they’re really nice. The lights help me find my way home in the darkness. They make me feel like Eaton Cottage is a lot more homey than it is without lights. It makes it look pretty and well done,” said Megalli.
With regard to how students from different backgrounds might perceive the decorations, Dea Barreto Lagesse ’18 said, “Most of the decorations revolve around a specific holiday. They can make it seem very isolating for people that don’t practice the religion.”
Respecting the students who may not celebrate Christmas is highly important to house counselors. Shawn Fulford, Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, and House Counselor of Eaton Cottage, says she decorates by season, not by holiday.
“I decorate the dorm in every season. We always have a wreath. I mean from April through October the garden is blooming so when it’s November and December, the garden is just dead. I wanted to put something up that’s welcoming… I just want them to feel like they’re home,” said Fulford.
As the holidays quickly approach, dorms take on different approaches to the decorating process. Some are more unified. For instance, Debra Pickering, Chair in French and House Counselor of Clement House, typically hosts a holiday party the Sunday before break, complete with hot chocolate, carols, and cookies.
“We typically have a little Christmas tree, decorated with baubles and tinsel, in the corner of the common room. I also give tinsel garlands to the girls to put up around the common room and in the entrance. Otherwise, it is up to the particular group of Clementines each year to decorate as much as they would like,” said Pickering in an email to The Phillipian.
From year to year, students’ innovative contributions bring a unique twist to yearly traditions. Karissa Kang ’17, a three-year resident of Clement House, says her dorm is like family.
“Last year, [a girl] in my dorm cut these beautiful snowflakes and hung them on the ceiling. Although they were a fire hazard, they were extremely beautiful. So this year I hope that we can have something equally as beautiful and hopefully will not be as dangerous,” said Kang.
The process of putting up decorations can also be a bonding experience for certain dorms.
Max Ivakhno Bykova ’19, a current resident of Draper Cottage, said, “Decorating [the dorm] together would bring the people more because it’s a big task that everyone can collaborate on and give a bit to develop [the decorations].”
On the other hand, many dorms leave the job of decorating entirely to the students.
Kathryn McQuade, Instructor in English and house counselor at Nathan Hale, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “The house counselors in Nathan Hale don’t decorate the dorm for the holidays, but students often bring in their own decorations for their rooms, which of course we support.”
“We want students to feel comfortable decorating for and celebrating the holidays that are significant to them personally, that bring a little bit of what they miss from home into their living spaces at Andover. And of course, we also want to honor the diversity of backgrounds and traditions that Hale students bring with them to the school,” continued McQuade.
Decorations aren’t the only way to celebrate the holiday season. Gift giving events are very popular. In Eaton Cottage, a non-Christmas-affiliated ‘secret psych’ is planned for January where members leave each other little gifts. Another way that students celebrate is through an inclusive holiday party that celebrates all holidays and the beginning of winter break.
Valentina Boldurescu ’17 from Paul Revere Hall said, “[My friends and I] organize [a gift swap] because when you have to buy many presents for so many people…you’re trying to divide [your focus] amongst so many people. In this case, we just focus on each person.”