Untraditional holiday alternatives

By Zhen Hu

The impression many have of Christmas is one of festivity and home. Bright lights, strung along staircases, provide a warm glow – to accompany the food, family, and general merriment prevalent around this time of year. This is a traditional Christmas celebration, where participants relax at home, spending time with family.

But there are many different ways to spend Christmas, and these alternatives to established customs can be just as rewarding. They can also provide a unique, original spice to this holiday. Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to find these other options – just ask your friends what they’re doing. East’s student body celebrates Christmas in a plethora of ways – some expected, and some not so expected.

National Travel

Travel is the most obvious alternative to staying at home for Christmas, but the location varies wildly. Many students vacation to warmer places, like Florida or California, to escape the chilly winters in North Carolina– the Disneyland and Disney World attractions are two favorites. However, some do enjoy going to colder locations. Judy Albay, for example, travels to Yosemite to enjoy the skiing and rock climbing facilities there, and for which the park is popular. Joy Chen also goes skiing, usually flying to Wintergreen, W.Va., or Sugar Mountain, N.C., to spend a week or so braving the slopes. Most go to visit family, wherever they may be. International travel is prevalent around this time at East, with friends swapping locations and contact information for places around the world.

International Travel

Relatives often live far away, and to accommodate that, students and their families fly all over the globe during the holidays. Calum O’Mara, for example, goes to Ireland. They often visit Bewley’s – a famous coffee shop in Dublin, renowned for its desserts, soups, and, of course, strong coffees. Tyler Morgan voyages to Japan– usually simply for rest and respite, but this year, he will go to help his grandfather, whose home was completely washed away during the tsunami caused by the March earthquake. During his visit, Morgan plans to help his grandfather recuperate and rebuild.

There are also those who travel internationally to gain the unique experience of living in a vividly different environment. Luke Vrouwenvelder plans to go to Panama, as his father has a good friend from college living there, but also because it’s a good chance to practice speaking Spanish. As a junior taking Spanish IV, fluency and ease of speech are heavily emphasized. The pleasant weather, Vrouwenvelder notes, also contrasts welcomingly with our often frigid winters.  


In the spirit of the season of giving, some choose to spend their winter breaks volunteering for the community. Cissy Yu is a notable example. Yu goes to a senior home in Meadowmont, called the Cedars, to play piano for the elderly residents. A dinner pianist who takes requests, she is anticipated at the clubhouse dining room every year – and as a dinner pianist, has quite the talent for improvisation. The volunteering isn’t constrained work, either. Yu readily asserts that she greatly enjoys volunteering at the Cedars.

“I love making music for others’ enjoyment and adding to the festive feel of the dining room,” she says. “There are always some people who will sit in the lounge and listen and request songs, and it’s just a very exciting and fulfilling thing to do in my winter vacation.”

However you choose to celebrate Christmas – or even if you don’t celebrate it at all – the holidays are, first and foremost, a time for enjoyment; whether your gratification is derived from vacation, visits to family, or volunteering. You could also spend the entire celebratory week shopping, if that appeals to you. There are many ways to celebrate winter, and the season itself just flies by.

Photo courtesy of fresnohub.com

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