Sophie Liu and Sophia Emy

December 31, 2019

10 Campus Holiday Traditions at Exeter

  1. Every year, dorms host Angeling, a form of the classic Secret Santa gift exchange. Angeling takes place over three days, the third day revealing each dormmate’s secret gift-giver. Whether it be fifteen or fifty students, the entire dorm squeezes into a circle on the cozy common room rug, heated from the boiler room on the floor below. In fleece pajama pants and graphic tees, bundled up with one another on the couches and floor, we observe the gift-wrapped, tissue-stuffed, bow-adorned boxes that each dorm-member has prepared for another. Cheers ring through the room when mystery gifters are announced. 

  2. Holiday dinner at Wetherell Dining Hall is probably the one time of year that the dining staff presents good food (besides Family Weekend), all at once. Christmas music rings through each hall as students bring overflowing plates of prime rib, shrimp cocktail, salad, and mashed potatoes to the dining tables covered with blue cloth and adorned with paper snowflakes. Then there’s the dessert station, an entire table lined with bowls of frosting, candies, and sprinkles to decorate your own gingerbread man.

  3. Winter formal happens every January. Everyone shows up at different times and stay for different amounts of time but everyone goes for the same reasons: food and Instagram pictures. Whether you attend with your group of friends or with an awkward date who you never talked to outside of class, what’s more festive than freezing your legs off in a dress that you will only wear for that one occasion while snacking on hors d'oeuvres in your fists?

  4. Despite it getting dark at 4 and the below-freezing temperature, we bundle up and head over to the most logical place to take shelter, the ice cream store, Stillwells. Stillwell’s massive proportions and endless flavors somehow manage to always provide comfort, even on those freezing nights. 

  5. The first time snow piles up overnight, students fill the quads the next morning to take their winter pictures and flood Instagram with them. Some go with the original snowflake emoji caption, while others use puns with the word “snow”, very proud of coming up with “snow more worries” or “snow much fun.”

  6. Walking single-file on the poorly paved paths to D2 and calculating how long one hot chocolate allows you to stay. Then listening to the barista play the guitar as the coffee shop quiets down. 

  7. Getting emails warning students to beware of ice with subjects like “Everyone is slipping…”, but everyone’s faith in their ability to walk remains unwavering. Then watching that one student walk into class late, snow in their hair, in pain from their face-plant after walking downstairs. 

  8. Every student fears for their life when walking down the stairs or hills at night in the winter. From when it gets pitch black outside by 4:00pm until the next morning, students have to fend for themselves. Black ice lines the pathways, having evaded the melting salt or freezing over from rain on top of snow. You don’t know where you’ll slip next. If you’re lucky, you can spot the shining surface of black ice under the street lamps, but otherwise you must rely on the traction of your snow boots to keep you from falling right onto your tailbone.

  9. Lining up at precisely 7:56 pm to secure a good gingerbread building spot and dashing to the toppings tables when the clock strikes 8. Some embrace the crumbling of their houses while others intricately lace their roof, all equal in their beliefs of winning. 

  10. Instead of caroling from door to door, the Exeteras, Exeter’s all male-acapella group, goes caroling from dorm to dorm. In the dorm common rooms, they make their entrance, snapping their fingers and humming their soprano notes. Their audience is whoever happens to be in the common room at the time, but they are especially popular in the girls’ dorms, where giant groups of girls gather on the carpet to see the boys in their suits and ties and floppy Santa hats belt some holiday tunes.


Looking to the past, the founding fathers of the United States of America took it upon themselves to stand against taxation without representation in governing powers. The freedom riders took buses through the south to fight segregation and Jim Crow laws. Looking through a global history textbook, you can easily locate a thousand more examples of civil engagement. Without these constant examples and messages herding us towards taking our own actions, we would be sheep a shepherd. But sometimes, it is difficult for the shepherd to realize that they are actually leading the sheep to slaughter. 

For civil engagement to be effective, those leading the charge must be able to discern where the line lies in terms of protesting. They must be knowledgeable in the arts of politics and negotiation. The proper education and understanding of the economy and society are imperative to those resisting. In order for your actions to have the effect you want it to have, you need to know how.

As members of the youngest generation, it is our job to pick up the pieces of of climate change, gun violence, and overpopulation, that were left behind by those who came before us, the burden falls to us to overturn social and political injustices. Our first instinct is to jump right in to the real world and get started, but I am writing because I believe we should be careful in how we choose to spend our youth. 

Missing a physics test to visit a climate strike or receiving disciplinary actions for missing too many classes may seem like a small price to pay while you are young, but it will have unintended consequences in the future, jeopardizing the potency of your impact on our world.


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