What the holiday is like for students staying on campus

We’ve almost made it through fall term!

By the end of this week, final papers and exams will be finished. Time to head home for annual holiday celebrations.

However, not everyone leaves campus over winter break. Sometimes jobs, internships, finances and other projects can make it difficult to get home for the holidays. International students may find it unrealistic to take such a long journey for a short visit. A lot of students also consider campus their home and don’t join the rest of the population in their mass exodus.

This time of year is traditionally filled with family, food, lights and decorations, but the lack of inhabitants in campus housing over the break can put a real damper on feeling jolly. Dining halls close, and buildings are locked. The usual hustle and bustle of Portland State is replaced with a quiet emptiness. For some, it’s a peaceful reprieve from the usual flurry of the university crowd. But if you are anything like me, you’ll find that it can get boring and lonely pretty quickly.

If you are among those staying on campus, you might be feeling a disconnect from your merry side. Sure you could work more, maybe pick up some extra shifts, but there are some fun ways to infuse holiday spirit into your winter break. I’ve come up with a few suggestions to make the most of your staycation.

Decorate your room. Put a wreath on your door or make paper snowflakes to hang from the ceiling (there are some super cool tutorials on YouTube). Decorate a tiny tree and put it in your window. Get kitschy holiday decorations at Goodwill. Hang lights all around your room—lots of lights. It’s impossible not to be cheery when surrounded by lights.

Organize a “Christmas-Kwanza-Hanukkah-Solstice celebration” on campus or look for one that might already be planned. You can put up fliers on announcement boards and even post to the university listserv. Why not make it an ugly sweater party? You can get yours at Goodwill along with the decorations.

Wear holiday socks, scarves, jewelry, sweaters, etc. Dressing festive can make you feel festive, and it infects other people with joy, too.

Bake something. Many of us have food traditions, and baking during the holidays is often part of that. If you live in housing that has a kitchen, bake cookies, pie or whatever makes you feel closest to home. If you don’t have a kitchen, find a friend who has one you can use.

Get off campus! Walk through downtown to the big tree in Pioneer Square or along the river to catch the parade of Christmas Ships. Check out Zoo Lights or take a stroll along Peacock Lane. There are parties, concerts, plays and gatherings of seasonal celebration all over the city. Find local festivities listed in Willamette Week and Portland Mercury holiday event guides during December, as well as various other listings online. Look up whatever interests you and get out of that room!

Go out for a meal or movie with friends on the holiday. Chances are, you won’t be the only person you know flying solo this season. Get together and do something non-traditional, such as eating out. Portland has a small number of bars and restaurants open on Christmas day that serve up a decent holiday dinner. Last year I went out for a delicious roast beef dinner and drinks at My Father’s Place.

Last, but definitely not least, is community service. If you have time on your hands, use that time to do something good for someone else. Hand out much-needed socks and scarves to people living on the streets. Get involved with blanket, coat, toy and food drives. Donate time to local services that provide dinner to the homeless. Visit elderly people who aren’t able to leave their homes. Acts of kindness are a way to do great things for your community and be reminded of how blessed you are.