Spending the holidays like a Gael

Students share how they celebrate the holiday season at Queen's

This time of year, students juggle studying for exams with celebrating the holidays.

While some students are lucky enough to head home early for winter break, others spend most of December getting exam-ready in the library.

As the end of the year approaches, The Journal asked students to share their most memorable holiday experiences at Queen’s. We hope these stories remind you to spread holiday cheer, whether you’re at home or on campus. 


“My first year roommate and I bonded over our shared love for Christmas. Homesickness becomes real around exam time. That’s especially true when you could be decorating the tree and drinking eggnog with your family instead of sitting in Stauffer staring at your notes. 

We decided to go all out and decorate our dorm room and front door with as much Christmas cheer as we could. I think we spent at least $20 at Dollarama in their holiday section. Imagine tinsel, fairy lights, wrapping paper, and ornaments hanging from every possible piece of furniture, then multiply that by 100—that was our room by the time we were done. 

We lived on the first floor of McNeill facing the entrance courtyard, so as we decorated we blasted Christmas music with our window open and sang to everyone walking by. We probably looked like absolute fools, but we had a blast anyways. 

For the next few weeks it was comforting to sleep in our festive dorm room, and it cured my homesickness. The holidays brought my roommate and I even closer because we knew we could celebrate with each other. Now, every time I fire up my Christmas Cheer playlist on Spotify, I think about her. 

Celebrating the holidays on campus can be hard, but in my first year at Queen’s I learned that you can make the best of any situation if you have great friends to do it with.”

—Tegwyn Hughes, ArtSci ’20 

“Four out of my six housemates are Jewish, including me. Last year, Hanukkah overlapped with exam season, so none of us could go home to celebrate with our families. 

On the first day of Hanukkah, we decided we to make latkes—traditional potato pancakes—so we could still have our own celebration in Kingston. We got our Jewish mothers on the phone to talk us through the process, and within a few hours, all six of us managed to make a few heaping plates of latkes. 

One of my housemates got her parents to bring us a Menorah when they came to visit a few weeks prior. Once the sun set, marking the official start of the holiday, we all called our parents on FaceTime and lit the Menorahs with them. 

It was really special to be able to show a bit of our culture to our non-Jewish housemates, and even though we were hours away from home, we still got to celebrate with our families. 

I can’t remember if we lit the Hanukkah candles any other night of the holiday—we were probably too distracted studying for finals—but having one night where we got to celebrate all together allowed me to have a special holiday moment during the stressful exam season.” 

—Jessica Levett, ArtSci ’20 

“I had a horrible experience staying on campus during the holidays.

The flight from Canada to my hometown—Luoyang, China—is 13 hours, and tickets are expensive during Christmas. To make matters worse, my final exam last year was on Dec. 21, which meant I was going to have a short winter break. 

I decided to stay at my residence, Leonard Hall, and sleep through the holiday. 

Unfortunately, there was no one else left on my floor. I was lonely, and my only entertainment was watching Netflix all day long. 

Since all the dining halls were closed, I stored a lot of food in my mini fridge and used the microwave in the common room for each meal. Scrolling through my friends’ pictures of roasted chicken and homemade apple pie on Instagram, I was disappointed.

Things got even worse on Christmas Eve. When I went downtown to have a Christmas dinner, I realized that all my favorite restaurants were closed, and I already ate all my stored food. 

At night, the heating in the dormitory turned down, and my room was freezing. I tried taking a hot shower, but the water was also cold. I called campus security to turn the heating back on, and when they arrived, they were surprised I wasn’t home for the holidays. 

At night, the heating in the dormitory turned down, and my room was freezing.

Cold and hungry, I finally managed to fall asleep and end my terrible Christmas Eve.

When I woke up on Christmas morning, I was sick. After taking Tylenol, I called my parents for comfort but they didn’t answer the phone. I realized there was a 12-hour time difference between us, and they were asleep.”

—Chris Yao, ArtSci ’21

“Campus holiday cheer can make the final weeks of the fall term manageable. In second year, a couple of friends and I decided to throw a Christmas party—and we went all out. 

We searched Kingston for the ugliest Christmas sweaters, baked festive Rice Krispie squares, bought eggnog and gingerbread-flavoured drinks, and—most importantly—created the best Christmas playlist to date. Is it even a real Christmas party if you haven’t heard Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ at least four or five times?

Looking back, the party arrangement was more fun than the party itself. While preparing, it consisted of glitter, Rice Krispies all over the floor, and impromptu Christmas-themed Zumba. We had an absolute blast. 

The following day wasn’t as magical. We learned melted Rice Krispies and gingerbread drink stains are difficult to remove from chair cushions. 

Luckily, we all worked together to clean the house entirely. As we cleaned, we listened to the same Christmas jams we heard all night long and snacked on the stale Rice Krispies to make it bearable.”

—Taylor Osborne, ArtSci ’20

“In my first year, I went home immediately after classes ended and hid away from Queen’s until exams required me to make one final appearance on campus. I’d planned to do the same during my second year, but my hiding spot was quickly compromised. 

My family went to Boston during the beginning of December and some of my professors required in-person delivery for our final essays.

Though I was initially upset my winter vacation was delayed, my friends helped make it up to me by enveloping me in holiday cheer. 

Though I was initially upset my winter vacation was delayed, my friends helped make it up to me by enveloping me in holiday cheer.

The day classes ended, I went over to my friend’s house for her Christmakkuh party. I wasn’t expecting much, since party resources and time to prepare can be somewhat limited during exams. However, as soon as I walked in, my sullen spirits rose. 

The house was filled with my friends, and adorned with creative Christmas and Hanukkah decorations. Festive red and green Jello shots lay across one table, while latkes—my personal favourite—covered another. 

Club-ready lights and a playlist that repeatedly played ‘Wait a Minute!’  by Willow Smith made the night unforgettable.

Something I did forget, though, was that my birthday was the next day.

I’d planned to go home before the clock struck midnight and my 19th birthday began, but I got too caught up in the party to leave. Suddenly, everyone around me started counting down and eventually erupted in a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday.’

Even though it wasn’t the celebration I’d envisioned, the party helped me forget about exams and appreciate my friends in the spirit of the holidays—plus, the hosts gave me two free shots.”

—Josh Granovsky, ArtSci ’20

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