Winter traditions to make season brighter

Kathleen McFadden

‘Tis the season … for finals and sleep deprivation. Cramming for exams and feeling the effects of pulling all-nighters is every college student’s routine right before Christmas. With all of this stress, it can be hard – if not impossible – to get in the Christmas spirit before the holiday arrives two weeks from today. For Villanova students, final exams officially conclude on Dec. 19, giving most of us only a week to prepare for the biggest holiday of the year. Christmas is not just any holiday; it comes with a feeling and a spirit that build excitement until Dec. 25 arrives. Despite the many papers to write and exams to study for, there are still ways to get into the Christmas spirit on and off campus. Food, music, movies and decorations can make all the difference. If possible, bake some holiday cookies. If you lack those inner Betty Crocker baking skills, buy the Pillsbury holiday cookie cutouts and throw them in the oven. During the morning walk to classes, you can fight the bitter cold with a cup of hot cocoa instead of the usual coffee. Another seasonal beverage to enjoy is eggnog. Pick up a quart at the nearby Wawa, or attempt to make some yourself.Probably one of the most important things to do to get into the Christmas mood is to listen to as much holiday songs as possible. Local radio stations such as 101.1 FM and 97.5 FM currently play nothing but Christmas tunes. If the radio is not for you, make a Christmas playlist on your iPod.Holiday movies have always been a Christmas classic. Put in your favorite holiday DVD or tune into the ABC Family TV channel each night. Channel 30 on Villanova’s campus, ABC Family is having its annual “25 Days of Christmas” special by playing Christmas movies every night. The popular holiday flick “Four Christmases,” starring Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn, is out in theaters now too.Decorations are another key element in bringing us Christmas cheer. Decorate your room or apartment with lights, a mini-Christmas tree (perhaps even a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree), garland and ornaments. To save money, make decorations with friends, such as ornaments and wall hangings. Connelly Center’s Reel Divine, Bartley’s The Exchange and St. Mary’s 2nd Storey all offer numerous candies perfect for pasting onto gingerbread houses. Let’s face it – Christmas would not be as popular without its signature gifts. Create a “Secret Santa” with a group of friends or donate presents to the Advent Giving Tree hosted by Campus Ministry. Additionally, the annual Advent Mass will be held in Jake Nevin Field House this Sunday at 8 p.m. All of these on-campus options can bring students out of the finals slump and into the Christmas spirit. If you can find some free time to venture off campus, there are even more holiday options.The Academy of Music in Philadelphia is currently showing its annual performance of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker.” This show, performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet, is one of Philadelphia’s greatest holiday traditions. Philadelphia also hosts traditional ice skating at Penn’s Landing. Another ice skating venue is at nearby Longwood Gardens. Each year, the “Christmas at Longwood” exhibit showcases floral displays, ornate trees, holiday music, over 500,000 outdoor lights, fountains, ice-skating and holiday concerts. If ice skating is not your style, enjoy watching the performances by professional ice skaters on the outdoor rink. No matter how it is celebrated, Christmas, with its traditions and spirit, will always be “the most wonderful time of the year.” The trick for college students is to find out how to achieve this spirit.