Finals should not detract from the holiday spirit

We have officially crossed over into December and the holiday season. This means it’s now socially acceptable to go all out decorating, drinking hot chocolate and feeling festive. Despite the excitement of the holidays and winter break, it is far too easy for students to spend the majority of their December consumed with stress about finals.

Students should not let finals stop them from celebrating the holidays, despite the stress they bring. In fact, students can benefit from taking a break to put up a few decorations around their dorm or apartment. This makes one’s living space homier at a time when students may be feeling especially homesick or stressed. 

This year, the first official day of winter break is Dec. 19, meaning finals run very close to holidays like Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Christmas, leaving very little time for students to go home to celebrate the holidays without schoolwork looming over them. 

It is understandable that students may not feel like listening to “Joy to the World” when they have a paper due Monday, a final on Tuesday and a project due Wednesday. However, even though the joy of the holidays seems antithetical to the stress of finals, in reality, the two are not mutually exclusive. 

In fact, at a time when anxiety and stress levels may be high, studies have shown that decorating for the holidays can be beneficial. Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown found that decorating for the holidays can make a person happier, igniting feelings of childhood magic and nostalgia. Many of these feelings are experienced on the actual holidays themselves, but extending the celebration can keep the lively mood in the air for longer. 

Additionally, decorations remind people of family and a time when they were with less responsibility — a brief reprieve from current stress about responsibilities and tasks. 

Studies have also shown that putting up home decorations makes neighbors feel like that person is more sociable and friendly. In this way, decorations not only benefit a person on an individual level, but can make a whole dorm hallway or apartment complex feel more welcoming and interactive. Isn’t unity and togetherness one of the main purposes of the holiday season? Displaying your holiday spirit could lead to neighbors feeling more comfortable to interact with each other and engage in conversation, which in turn might lead to new connections. 

Some students may catch the “holiday homesick blues,” where they miss their family and would rather be at home preparing for the holiday season. These feelings may only be exacerbated by the mundane routine of studying and test-taking. Putting up a string of colorful lights can break the monotony of finals and diminish feelings of homesickness by making one’s living space feel more like a home away from home.

Finding decorations to put up can be as simple as a quick trip to the Target at USC Village or the push of a button on Amazon to buy things like Christmas stockings, snowflake decals or a fire-safe LED menorah or kinara. Putting up decorations could be as easy as using post-it art on windows to form a Christmas tree or heart. Or why not buy some construction paper and make some homemade snowflakes with friends?

Of course, it is perfectly understandable that not everyone associates joy with the holiday season or want to partake in the commercialism of buying decorations or gifts. But as we reach the homestretch — and very stressful — part of the semester, the main takeaway is to findthings that spark joy and feelings of togetherness instead of immersing oneself completely in finals. 

For students who do enjoy celebrating during the holidays, don’t let the feelings surrounding finals stop you from blasting Mariah Carey’s song “All I Want for Christmas Is You” while wearing fuzzy socks and building a gingerbread house!