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Dorms deck the halls for Christmas

| Monday, December 7, 2015

Notre Dame students are busy decking the residence halls for the holiday season. The 29 dorms on campus each celebrate in a different way, with unique events and traditions.

This past Friday, Carroll Hall hosted its signature event, Carroll Christmas, inviting the entire student body to start celebrating the holidays. This year’s turnout for the event was almost double last year’s, with an estimated 600 people in attendance, Carroll Christmas commissioner and junior Mitchell Meersman said.

Meersman said this year’s event featured its traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony, horse-drawn carriage rides and performances from student music and comedy groups, in addition to arcade-style “Reindeer Games.” Carroll Christmas was first hosted 15 years ago, replacing “Carroll Haunted House,” a Halloween-themed signature event.

“There are things that we always do at Carroll Christmas,” he said. “We always have Santa and the elves, and our freshmen are traditionally the ones who dress up. It’s a rite of passage kind of thing. In Carroll Hall, they dye their freshmen’s hair gold, and then at Carroll Christmas you work a shift as an elf.”

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Meersman said Carroll Christmas is one of his favorite dorm traditions.

“I would encourage everyone to try and make it out to Carroll Christmas before they graduate, especially if they’ve never been to Carroll before,” he said. “It’s a great way to get introduced to Caroll. We’re really not that far away.”

Junior Patrick DeJong, president of O’Neill Hall, said the dorm’s signature Christmas decoration is its large O’Neill “O” wreath.

“Once the ‘O’ comes out, everyone gets excited,” he said. “Everyone knows it’s Christmastime.”

O’Neill also spreads Christmas cheer inside the dorm, DeJong said, with section decorations and a “Secret Santa” gift exchange.

“O’Neill really revolves around its sections,” he said. “Going out with the guys, going Christmas shopping, getting trees, getting lights, getting gifts, getting stockings is just a blast. It really gets you in the mood for Christmas.”

Dillon Hall employs 5,000 lights to produce its annual light show, senior and resident assistant Tom Hite said, which has been a tradition in Dillon for more than 10 years.

“We have a ton of lights on the side of Dillon, in multiple colors,” he said. “The performance is about 10 minutes long. It’s synched to music. It’s a giant production.”

The annual light show premiered last night and will run at 8 p.m. every night this week.

Pangborn Hall focuses on creating a festive environment within the dorm community with events such as door decorating competitions, cookie decorating and a tacky Christmas sweater party.

“Since we’re here for so long, we’re here up until Dec. 17 or 18, I think it’s important to make the dorm a homey atmosphere,” sophomore and hall president Annie Batcheller said. “Your dorm’s already your home. When I’m at home during Christmastime, I want my home to be decorated, and I want it to look like Christmas. This is the same thing.”

Hite said the residence hall system at Notre Dame allows students to come together and celebrate the holidays in a familial setting.

“If the goal is to have the dorm be a family, which I feel that Dillon is, it’s nice to have everyone decorating on Friday afternoon,” he said. “The whole section’s out decorating, Christmas music is blasting, we’re drinking eggnog. That’s kind of like a family event.”

The Carroll dorm culture is also conducive to celebrating the holidays as a community, Meersman said.

“In Carroll, we study together, we hang out together. Christmas is a family thing,” Meersman said. “Because we’re celebrating it together, it solidifies the whole idea of the Notre Dame dorms as trying to create that family.”

Outside of the dorm, University-sponsored decorations and events help contribute to the holiday spirit on campus, Batcheller said.

“Notre Dame does a great job,” she said. “I love how there’s garland in the Main Building. I love all the free food. It feels like everyone’s in a little better mood because of it.”

Despite the impending stress of finals, Hite said students find ways to enjoy the holiday season and spread Christmas cheer.

“Christmas is a big holiday,” Hite said. “Do it right. Go all out. Spend time together. Because it’s easier to be in a better mood during finals week when there’s Christmas lights up.”

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, the Observer's current Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's a former Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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