COLUMN: There’s no place like here for the holidays

Marianne Hale

I made my first jack-o’-lantern a few weeks ago after finding him in a pumpkin patch, taking him home, carving him up and scooping out his gooey pumpkin guts by the handful.

I’m 21, which is apparently a little late in life to be carving a pumpkin for the first time, at least if you ask any of the people who, when told about my recent carving adventure, responded in disbelief: “You’ve never carved a pumpkin before?”

Now, what’s left of my once luminous jack-o’-lantern is a sad, shrunken, moldy fruit on my front porch and – more important – the memories I had finding and carving my very first pumpkin and making a new holiday tradition.

It reminds me of the other holiday traditions I’ve welcomed in the past three years I’ve spent here on the Hill.

A four-and-a-half hour drive separates me from my hometown in northeastern Kentucky, so the only holidays I usually make it home for are Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But what about all the other holidays? You know, Easter, Halloween, my birthday … I just can’t make it home for all of them.

So, I’ve made a tradition of making traditions, and I suggest you do the same.

Whether your family celebrates a little or a lot, you’re basically at their mercy when it comes to celebrating holidays.

As much as we all love the tried and true ways our families celebrate, college is your opportunity to make some traditions of your own.

Take Thanksgiving, for example. Even though I head back to Greenup County for Turkey Day every year, I celebrate beforehand with my friends in Bowling Green.

After all, they’ve become part of my family these past few years. And let’s face it – I’ll never miss an opportunity to eat, especially when gravy and pumpkin pie are involved.

When I lived on campus my freshman year, my friends and I ate together at the Fresh Food Company’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Now, I enjoy Thanksgiving potlucks with my friends. All you need is the ability to make one dish (my go-to is deviled eggs) or the ability to pick up something at a supermarket last-minute.

At Christmas, there are Secret Santa presents to buy and ugly sweater parties to attend.

At the Herald, we draw names for Secret Santa (or Holiday Pals, if we’re being politically correct), then spend a week putting little gifts on someone’s desk or in their mailbox, saving a bigger gift for the big reveal at the end of the week.

You can do the same with any group of people: friends, coworkers, the guys or gals who live on your hall. Just be sure to know your pal’s interests beforehand. You don’t want to develop a reputation as a bad Secret Santa. 

Then there are those ugly sweater parties. I’m sure you’ll get invited to at least one of them this holiday season, and if you don’t, host your own.

The idea is to find a heinous holiday sweater. Most people turn to Goodwill, where I once found a Christmas vest made of 100 percent boiled wool. I don’t know exactly what it means when wool is boiled, except that for me it meant spending a night in one very itchy, ugly vest.

When you’re not adorning yourself in holiday decor, there’s holiday home decorating to be done too.

You can make an event out of decorating a Christmas tree with your roommates.

Even when I lived on campus, I tacked up a Christmas tree made of green garland on my dorm room door and strung lights around my window.

My last piece of holiday advice: If you can’t make it home for the holidays, crash someone else’s. My best friend’s family invited me over for Easter last year, and since then, I’ve attended Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and a few birthdays at the Laun house.

If you know someone who lives too far away to go home for the holidays, take them home with you. Besides, some of those distant relatives might be a little easier to stomach with a good friend by your side.

Happy holidays, Herald readers.