The holiday season is upon us once again, and although many college students are too busy to idly sip eggnog, most of them want to participate in some way in the traditions they’ve developed with their families. Many people celebrate the same holidays and traditions, but in our increasingly diverse society, there can be contention. If you want to experience Christmas and New Year’s, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, and Yule with peace in your heart and goodwill to all, here are a few tips.
Remember that your holidays may not be everyone’s holidays. Students from other cultures may not celebrate any of the same holidays you do, and may not have any interest in singing Christmas carols or nostalgically discussing which of the occupants on the Island of Misfit Toys really deserved to be there. Many Americans do not have attachments to Christmas or choose to celebrate it in a secular instead of a religious way. While they should be sensitive of you too, avoid drawing a line in the sand about your traditions. Shared space is shared space. You may invite them to participate or accompany you to events, you may ask them if they wish to exchange gifts, but graciously accept their decisions if they decline.
Celebrate away from your Grand Valley housing if your celebrating will be loud or discomfiting to others. Not everyone finishes their coursework at the same time, and those with classes that finish later still need quiet time to get things done. Throwing huge parties in your apartment while others are either still studying or trying to sleep is always inconsiderate, but more so when they still have work to do and you don’t.
Respect the food rules especially at this time of year. If your roommate has a hands off policy about their food, expect that to be even more true during the holidays. Food has significance, and they may be making or saving that cake or dish for a special time.
Remember also that while the holiday season is generally perceived of as merry and joyous, for many people it can be harder or sadder than other times of the year. In Michigan, it’s dark, cold, and snowy and frequently sunless. This can be hard on people with Seasonal Affective Disorder or those whose moods are highly weather attuned. It’s also stressful for most college students because exams and final papers and projects demand a lot of their time and attention when they would rather be doing any number of other things. Finally, for some people the holidays remind them of difficult times or people they have lost, and this takes an emotional toll. If your roommate is someone who finds the holidays hard instead of happy, try to be understanding. This may not be the best time to have things out with them. You may find them less irritable after the new year as we move away from the winter solstice and back towards spring.
The holidays can be challenging, but they are also full of opportunities for joy and sharing. Be happy and considerate, and 2014 will begin in harmony for you and your roommates.