A quiet jingling begins in the distance, millions of shoppers appear to have lost their minds and festive colours are starting to seep into the white winter sky. Yes, it’s Christmas: we know the drill, it happens every year. But for many, this year brings the excitement of their first student Christmas. It’s the perfect excuse to celebrate Christmas twice, but in very different ways. With many students not knowing what to expect, it’s time to open the great debate- eat your hearts out Obama and Romney.
In the red corner we have Christmas at home, and in the gold corner we have Christmas at University. It’s time to get those bells jingling, whip out the awful Christmas puns and let it snow!
‘It’ll be homely this Christmas’
Going home can be a refuge for students at any time, with the prospect of home cooked food and a comfortable sofa on the cards. But being at home in the festive season is even better than normal: upon returning, you are transported from a small room carpeted in clothes to a winter wonderland. With a bigger budget and years of collecting, home decorations are sure to beat the straggly pieces of tinsel on display at Uni. Picture the twinkling lights and red and gold glow, plus enough electrical decorations to power a small town.
Being at home for Christmas means you can join in the age-old ritual of putting up the decorations (for many, a peaceful and jolly activity, for others the trigger of World War Three). Generally, there seems to be two main categories of Christmas decorators: the scrooge, begrudgingly putting up a bare tree; or the artiste, who revels in the coordinating baubles, sometimes sporting a ruler for optimum symmetry. Beware: if there is more than one type of decorator-artiste in your household, make yourself scarce.
Christmas at home also brings the promise of a mouth-watering Christmas dinner. After years of practise, this is sure to be a treat: golden turkey, crispy roast potatoes; even the sprouts are bearable, a far cry from any student attempt at the Christmas meal. Although, it should be said that indulging in this feast often comes with the price of having to eat with family – not just annoying siblings and parents, but an array of aunts, grannies and dubiously-connected cousins. Although more relatives means more gifts, it also means the accompanying farce of recycled cracker jokes, awful Christmas jumpers, never ending card games, arguments, and a very drunk Uncle singing Christmas carols. Picture something akin to the Christmas party hosted by Bridget Jones’s mother.
For many, Christmas at home is much more wholesome, cosy and lavish then at university. Although there may be arguments and an array of embarrassing relatives, when faced with the radiance of the decorations, the assortment of gifts and the deliciousness of the Christmas dinner, these seem relatively pardonable. If there’s one thing that a Christmas at home can exclusively provide, it’s the ‘magic’ factor. Surrounded by loved ones and with the memories of childhood Christmases, home is the one place where Santa Claus really does come to town.
‘Have yourself, a merry student Christmas’
For many, becoming a student has meant a complete change of lifestyle. The onset of budgeting, partying and cooking for yourself will have introduced many students to a more fun, independent life. But how does this come into play at Christmas? Well for one, the Christmas parties: who doesn’t want to see Gangnam style performed in Christmas outfits? Celebrating the festive and New Year season with new friends will definitely make for some memorable nights (for those who will be able to remember anyway). Christmas at University provides festive opportunities which aren’t available at home- winter balls, socials, Southampton’s Christmas markets. These are all unmissable events which remind us why being at university jingle-bell rocks!
Then there’s the unrestricted housemate fun. With no rigorous timetable of Christmas activities, students are likely to undertake a more laid back approach to festivities, including raucous parties and plenty of loosely Christmas-related ‘banter’. It’s obvious that the low budget secret Santa is something sorely lacking from a domestic Christmas. Let’s face it, lads, Mum wouldn’t buy you that much coveted leopard print man-thong, would she?
Little home comforts can, however, make a difference to the student Christmas. Yes, the tinsel was only 99p and it’s not exactly Santa’s grotto, but it does cover the stains. Simple domestic goods can also be lacking in the student household, leading to turkeys shoved into ovens and frozen roast potatoes being microwaved whilst the hob boils over.
Let’s face it, Christmas dinner on a budget cooked by someone whose speciality is Pot Noodle is not the same as your family Christmas meal, but it’s nevertheless a welcome comfort. Also, sharing tipsy love and Christmas cheer amongst your house mates may have a slight advantage on watching Gran take out her teeth again. Having said this, this is only true if you manage to avoid your cheery Christmas table turning into a yuletide battle ground, with the combination of Christmas budgeting and alcohol often fuelling tense situations.
Whilst maybe not quite the traditional Christmas, celebrating the festive period at University can still be an unbeatably merry and eventful time. If there’s one thing that Christmas at home can’t match, it’s the ‘fun’ factor; with socialising, new friends and independence, you’ll definitely be rocking around the Christmas tree.
Images by Julio Rodriguez