Two students holding gingerbread houses.

Lena Lofgren ’23 hosted a gingerbread decorating party in her dorm room before the holiday break. Kyle Felter ’23 (left) and Lofgren show off their completed gingerbread houses.

Photos by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Starting holiday traditions

2 min read

First-years embrace the spirit of the season

Lena Lofgren ’23 brought some of her own holiday traditions to Harvard, but she’s starting new ones as well. The first-year from Swarthmore, Pa., grew up in what she described as a secular, culturally Muslim family who appreciated Christmas as a festive season. She watched a “Sesame Street” holiday show every year, and a family friend playing Santa visited their house for many years.

“The winter can be so cold and sad, so for me, the holiday is uplifting,” she said.

Student in form with decorated Christmas tree.
Lena Lofgren’s dorm room captures the spirit of the season.

Hoping to bring some light to finals period — and her dorm room in Straus — Lofgren starting decorating before Thanksgiving. A full-size artificial tree bedecked with pink and gold ornaments sits in the corner of her room, and stockings for each roommate hang on the wall. All of the roommates signed a hand-painted “2019” ornament, and last week Lofgren took a study break with friends to decorate a gingerbread house.

“It’s all about the structure,” she said, frosting one of the walls of the prefabricated house before scalloping the roof with white frosting and painting the windows and door red. “Last year I was thinking about traditions a lot, and now I’m trying to start some.”

Kyle Felter ’23 is someone who appreciates traditions and festivities.

Decorating a gingerbread house.
Final touches on a gingerbread house.

With a steady hand, the final pieces are attached to the gingerbread houses.

He says he’s celebrated two Christmases for years — one with his father’s Italian family, partaking in the Feast of the Seven Fishes, and another with his Dominican mother’s relatives, roasting a whole pig.

Unlike Lofgren, gingerbread decoration for Felter is less about engineering and more a matter of taste. Affixing multicolored candies along the edge of his gingerbread roof like strings of lights, he said: “I’m trying to get as much icing on as possible. That’s the best part.”

He paused to admire his artistry, and put down the piping bag: “I think I might be done. I don’t want to get overly ambitious.”