As holiday carols played in Annenberg Hall, decorated with festive lights and garlands for the winter season, freshmen Taji Hutchins and Maliza Namude snacked on candies while classmate Crystal Yen worked diligently on a gingerbread house.
“I love the holiday season,” Hutchins said Monday as crowds of freshmen milled throughout the hall, greeting one another with smiles and hugs. “Why not celebrate it with everyone?”
Winter Fest, planned by the First-Year Social Committee (FYSC), provides a low-key, winter-themed, relaxing social event every year, allowing hundreds of freshmen to socialize with their classmates and take a well-deserved break from studying for finals. This year, the Freshman Arts Board collaborated on the event, adding craft stations for origami ornaments and handmade holiday cards. The Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) collaborated as well, providing materials for students to write letters to members of the U.S. military.
“What a challenge to judge the gingerbread houses,” said Thomas Dingman, dean of freshmen. “There were many extraordinary creations, from palaces to mangers. The collaborative and joyful spirit was everywhere in evidence. Thanks go, once again, to the FYSC for putting the event together.”
“Winter Fest is almost a study break event,” said Tori Machado ’16, chair of this year’s celebration. “We have dances or night events where you dress up, like the Winter [Freshman] Formal, but this is a chance for us to relax and get into the holiday spirit. A lot of proctors in the freshman dorms are bringing students as a group, so it’s a great community event.”
At the origami table, Ariana Kam ’16 and Julia Yu ’16, both members of the Freshman Arts Board, carefully folded small squares of colorful paper into tiny works of art. Across the hall, representing PBHA, Lauren Greenawalt ’16 offered fellow freshmen the chance to write letters to U.S. military members and veterans at the event.
Students’ handwritten letters will be forwarded to A Million Thanks, an organization that will then distribute the letters to active-duty service members, veterans, and even people stationed at home.
“Before coming to Harvard, I worked with AmeriCorps for two years,” said Greenawalt, who has been active with PBHA since her arrival at Harvard. “That time showed me how public service could both make an impact on the community, but also on the person providing that public service, and I wanted to bring those opportunities to the students at Harvard.”
As the glow of holiday spirit filled the hall, Namude was visibly relaxed. “This is such a great break,” she said. “Harvard students don’t have these kinds of relaxing events very often, so it’s good to take time and enjoy them.”