University residence halls celebrate the holiday season

By Jaini Shah

The scent of gingerbread cookies and peppermint candy canes fill the air as Campustown transforms its streets to reflect the holiday spirit.

Wearing festive apparel and displaying colorful home decorations isn’t the only way that they’re celebrating, however. The University residence halls have both traditional events and creative programs for students looking to celebrate the holiday season before heading off on Winter Break.

Dan Quock, the residential director of Snyder Hall, assists in the organization of the Dial-A-Carol program, a tradition that began 54 years ago.

“It (the program) started in 1960. There were some students who were walking around campus, in the Ikenberry area, one night, and they said ‘Wouldn’t it be really nice to have a phone line you can call, and just hear some holiday songs being sung?’” he said.

According to Quock, after discussing the idea with an area secretary, she helped get a phone line activated in the building, and the students began to advertise the number to their fellow residents.

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Through the years, the tradition, which began at a small residence hall, ultimately reached a global level.

“Over time, it just grew to where the entire campus could call. Eventually, to anyone in the nation, and now it’s anywhere around the world,” Quock said.

Last year, there were around 4,000 calls, Quock said. Each year it’s been growing significantly, as students try to figure out more ways to get publicity and get the word out.

This year in particular, one student has even gone as far as tweeting the famed talk show host Ellen DeGeneres on a daily basis about Dial-A-Carol.

The event is one week long, and begins at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 11, or Reading Day. The line manned by student volunteers, and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until Dec. 17 at 11:59 p.m.

Last year’s biggest request was “Jingle Bells,” reaching approximately five hundred requests, and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” was another popular request.

Snyder Hall is not the only hall to have a musical tradition in place. Allen Hall has had an annual week long tradition of holiday celebrations called “Allen Hall-idays.”

Jesus Rory Monroy, a sophomore in LAS, is a second year resident at Allen Hall, located in Urbana.

“It (Allen Hall-idays) starts off with Coffee House, which is our monthly mic night, which kicks off a string of events,” he said.

Along with the musical aspect of holidays, there is also an event tailored to those who like cooking.

“After that, we have Iron Chef, which is where residents are allowed to go in the dining hall, choose ingredients and create a dish. The staff in the dining hall, our RAs and RD will judge who has the best plate,” Monroy said.

Along with these events, some other programs include landscape art (painting), a hall decorating contest, a program advisor benching contest, crafts and a Secret Santa gift exchange. The key of the programs is to make sure that no one is excluded and that people with different interests are included.

Once the whole week’s festivities are done, there is a formal dance with food and a DJ to celebrate the holidays.

Similar to Allen Hall’s celebrations, Weston Hall has a gift exchange, however, their programs are geared toward discussing different holidays.

Jacob Fleener, senior in LAS, is the multicultural advocate of Weston Hall, located in the Ikenberry Commons.

“We’re going to be doing a White Elephant exchange. From a social justice perspective that I do, I’m going to be doing a conversation about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas — just different religious events.”

According to Fleener, talking to residents about their holiday celebrations brings together the student community and broadens their perspectives about what other cultures do as well.

Whether students participate in traditional events, cultural discussions, spirited celebrations or programs, Monroy said the holiday season unites students together.

“It’s a good time to be around the people you love,” he said. “I very much enjoy it.”

Jaini can be reached at [email protected].