All Hail: Spirit ain’t in it

I love Christmas. I really do. I can’t wait to go home and turn on the Christmas songs, gather around the fire and decorate the house.

But for some reason I’ve lost my Christmas spirit while at Northeastern.

Maybe it’s because of last week’s unusually warm weather or the stress of final papers looming overhead. No. It can’t be those. I think it’s because Northeastern has erased my beloved Christmas and replaced it with this ambiguous “Holiday” time at the end of December.

At the root of this elimination of Christmas was the annual lighting of the “Holiday” tree last Thursday as a part of Winter Fest 2006, sponsored by Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, the Division for Student Affairs and the NU Leadership Scholars Program.

For the record, there is no such thing as a “holiday” tree. The pine tree with the colored lights in the center of Krentzman Quad is, in fact, a Christmas tree.

To the best of my knowledge no other holiday, apart from Arbor day, uses a tree as a central part of its celebration, so why must we at Northeastern try to fool ourselves?

That is, if you can really call it a tree. It looks more like an oversized bush to me. Or as one of my acquaintances pointed out, like Marjory, who once gave advice to fraggles in the show “Fraggle Rock.” However, I guess this resemblance could lend support to the idea of calling it a “holiday” tree, since, according to, Marjory apparently spoke with a Jewish accent.

I understand the need to be inclusive and not alienate religions. I do not consider myself religious, and I admit I celebrate Christmas more out of tradition than religious beliefs. But can someone please explain to me why we have a “holiday” tree, while the silver menorah next to the tree, clearly representing Hanukkah, wasn’t called a “holiday candlestick holder?”

And, excuse me, but where was the representation of Kwanzaa? And why was there a frightening Frosty mascot walking around in a Santa suit? Is he Frosty or Santa? Generic or Christmas? Or perhaps a bizarre mixture that failed to satisfy anyone.

Now the “California weather,” as President Joseph Aoun called it, may have made me extra bitter about the word “holiday.” The weather made the hot chocolate and hot apple cider irrelevant and the actual lighting of the tree lackluster, given the quad was still lit by the late-afternoon light. But if you ask me, the entire ceremony was lacking in cheer.

From the Christmas/holiday elevator music, the token blue and silver balloons floating from stairway railings, the dull red and orange tree lights (with a small bit of blue and green mixed in for flare) and the American-coin shaped gelt (chocolate coins used when playing dreidel), I was thoroughly perplexed by the entire fest.

I admire the sponsoring groups’ attempt to spread spirit by having a winter clothing drive for the Salvation Army and tables set up for students to write letters to soldiers in Iraq.

However, the disturbing fact remains that these tables were relatively empty next to the food table and the table set up with “Santa’s helper” taking free pictures of adorable couples to put into plastic snow globes and snowflakes, which I am sure they will cherish forever. At one point the line of T-shirt-clad students waiting eagerly for the snow globes crossed the quad, and was by far the biggest draw.

But who can blame the students? It was the $109 that all undergraduate student pay to the activities fee that funded this event. Since it had already been spent on cookies and snow globes, it only made sense to cash in on some “Holiday” presents from good old NU. We bought them, after all.

As for me, bah, humbug.

– Jessica Torrez-Riley is a journalism major and a member of The News Staff.

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