Charter Members Celebrate the Holidays!

The holidays are a wonderful time of year – enjoying time with family, indulging in great food, and taking a break from work, among other various traditions. Check out these stories from some of our current members and alumni as they share how they spent their holidays! It’s amazing to see the variety of traditions and experiences our members have, from as close as New Jersey to as far as Germany!

Benjamin Kimmel ’20

Benjamin Kimmel '19

Over the winter holidays I completely disconnected from school work and unwound with my family. I put off my problem sets and my Junior Paper in order to right my sleep schedule and celebrate with my family. We visited my Grandmother for Christmas and sang her carols before enjoying a feast from the Jewish deli. For New Year’s Eve, my family and I celebrated with our annual tradition of eating cheese and crackers by the fireplace and discussing our resolutions for the new year. I particularly enjoyed playing game after game of Magic: the Gathering with my brothers, a trading card game that we have enjoyed together for many years. I returned to campus refreshed and ready to work through reading period and finals, albeit being very behind on many deadlines.

Michael Li ’20

Michael Li '20

I was in exotic Paoli, Pennsylvania, my hometown, during all of winter break. Besides visiting storied local attractions like routine walks with the fam in Valley Forge National Park and window-shopping in King of Prussia Mall, I also whiled away the break playing video games, binge-watching TV shows, and  getting fat off home-cooked meals. Sometimes, the best breaks are the ones spent relaxing at home, enjoying quality time with family, catching up with high school friends, and watching 10 episodes of The Office a day (and of course, denying that finals are after break).

George Georges ’19

George Georges '19

Over winter break, I divided my time among playing Super Smash Bros., sleeping, spending time with family, and (unfortunately) studying for final exams. I spent a lot of time with my 6-year old sister, Juliet, during her week off from school. I miss her immensely when I’m at Princeton, and she’s always thrilled when I’m back home for a break. I like taking her to my town’s public library, where we read children’s books or color in coloring books together. We also played a lot of Mario Kart over break, and I let her win a few races so that she’s happy.

On Christmas Eve, my extended family members (around 20 of us) all get together for a huge Christmas party. My family is Syrian, so we listen to a lot of Arabic music, make a lot of Middle Eastern food, and eat until we all go into food comas. I made ma’amoul, which is a Middle Eastern cookie, stuffed either with dates or walnuts and covered in powdered sugar. Some of the other foods we had included stuffed grape leaves, lamb, and kibbeh. In the Middle East, stuffed grape leaves contain rice and meat and are served warm. Kibbeh is a popular Middle Eastern dish made of ground beef or lamb mixed with bulgur wheat, either fried in little balls or baked in a large tray. At the end of the evening, one of my uncles dresses up as Santa Claus to make all the children even more excited about unwrapping presents at midnight. It was definitely the most exciting day of my break and a really fun time with my family.

Emily de Jong ’19

Emily de Jong '19

The first two weeks of winter break I spent with my family at home near Dallas, Texas, playing with my dogs (including our new puppy!), practicing bassoon for the Princeton University Concerto Competition, going for bicycle rides with my dad, and hanging out with old high school friends, including competing at trivia night joined by Olivia Rhodes, ’19 (Charter). My grandmother came to visit for Christmas, and as usual, we had Ceylon black tea promptly at 2:30pm every afternoon with Dutch spice cookies and either a game of “Rumikub” (a Dutch game) or gin rummy, the card game. I asked for socks for Christmas, and my family dutifully delivered. On New Year’s Day, I traveled to Colorado to visit Arjuna ’19 (Charter), and tried both downhill and cross-country skiing for the first time, which was a blast. I look forward to going skiing again before long!

Madhumitha Shridharan ’20

Madhumitha Shridharan '20

I look forward to the holidays each year because its a chance for me to escape Princeton’s biting cold and go back home to sunny Singapore, where its much warmer. My family and I like spending time together at home, so that includes three hour long lunch and dinner conversations where we discuss anything from updates in the lives of family members to school and work. I particularly look forward to having one of my mom’s speciality dishes- a delicious South Indian gravy whose recipe is only known to people from two villages in the entirety of South India. Thankfully, my mom’s family is from one of the villages, and my dad’s family is from the other so it’s really fun relishing the dish together with family! Holidays are a time to reconnect with friends and family and cherish one together- it’s always difficult leaving home and coming back to school!

Sabina Hlavaty ’13

The holiday break, as any break does, felt too short. My fiancé Adam and I had the chance to go home around Christmas time, since as a resident physician he has to work part of the holiday block. Adam’s mom always puts on a great feast in the days leading up to Christmas, and this year was the first year that my dad’s side of the family joined for the celebrations. My grandmother even partook in the annual beer tasting put on by Adam, his brother, and his dad! We host Christmas Eve, which in Poland is called “Wigilia”. We don’t eat meat on Wigilia, so my mom prepares a delicious fish and various side dishes (tradition calls for 12), including pierogi and herring. We share ‘opłatek’, a traditional wafer, and break it as we say our wishes for each other in the new year before the feast. Normally we would head out to midnight mass at our local Polish church, but this year we were too tired to make the drive. I am really happy for the students who will have the new fall exam schedule in Fall 2020, as I personally thought the old/current schedule caused more stress than good. I didn’t have exams before winter break until I went to veterinary school, and I can now confirm that it is great to be done with everything when you go home for break! My biggest resolution this year is to adopt a dog, as anyone close to me knows all too well, so if any Charter alums out there have leads on bichon/poodle/mixes, let me know! 🙂 Maybe we will find one before reunions, and I can bring him or her to the P-rade to meet current students and alums!

Santiago Aguirre ’18

For the holidays I spent Christmas with some friends that didn’t go back home for the holidays, then my parents flew up to Boston from Mexico City and we drove to Maine for New Year’s. For holiday traditions we don’t really do anything too out of the ordinary, but my favourite one is a Yankee swap where all the gifts are gag gifts. The creativity of some of those gifts is just amazing. In regards to the schedule change, it’s nice that students will be able to finally fully enjoy the holidays without the pressure of having to go back for finals. It must be nice that they will finally have a chance to wrap everything up before going back home. My New Year’s resolution is to remain employed (ha ha) oh and to go camping at least twice this year.

Hannah Miller ’16

I’m in my first year of grad school, and it was a welcome change from my time at Princeton to be done with all of my final assignments before winter break. I enjoyed spending the holidays with family and friends and relaxing without finals hanging over my head. Every year, my family has a cousins-only Christmas party at the beginning of January, which I had to skip my senior year in order to get back to Princeton to work on final assignments. I am pleased to know that future students will not have to make sacrifices like this with the upcoming academic calendar changes. Break after finals will allow students to truly relax and enjoy quality time with friends and family, and help them come back to school refreshed and ready for the new semester.

Dan Dore ’16

Hi Charter! I just returned to San Francisco after two weeks visiting my family in Philadelphia. This visit was extra exciting because my newly-engaged sister flew in from France. We spent New Year’s Eve in the mountains playing beer pong, board games, and Smash – just like my average night living at Charter! One tradition I really love happens on New Year’s Day: we make a big fire, roast marshmallows, and reflect on our year. We write down things we are proud of from the prior year, burn unpleasant memories, make predictions, and set resolutions for the coming year.  It’s a lovely way to introspect, find closure, and think about some big-picture questions in our lives. One of my resolutions is to spend more time in nature. I’d like to hike at least once a month in 2019 (Bay Area Chartans hit me up!). I haven’t heard about Princeton’s new schedule, but I’m one of the weird minority of people who loved having finals after break – it gives you a chance to recover from being hopelessly behind in week 12! Here’s hoping 2019 is a great year for the Indestructible. Can’t wait to see everyone at Reunions – Huzzah!

Zack Garcia ’14

I flew to Germany over the holidays to visit my girlfriend Lily’s family, then visited my sister in Washington D.C., then drove down to Virginia Beach to see the rest of my family. We have a tradition of watching It’s a Wonderful Life every Christmas Eve. I am aware of the new schedule but wasn’t following the exact timeline when it would go “live”. I just remember hearing about the announcement in the past year or so. With the old schedule, my schedules were never aligned all that well for seeing friends at home, doing internships, taking vacations, etc., and imagine it will mostly be a positive change for the students at least. One of my resolutions is to keep in better touch with my Princeton friends who live in different cities (talk and visit not just at Reunions!)

One thought on “Charter Members Celebrate the Holidays!

  • January 28, 2019 at 10:37 am

    This was a great format for hearing what the young folks from Charter are doing with their downtime. It was particularly interesting to note the focus on family. When you think about it, no one has known you longer than your immediate family. This gives you so much to nourish your inner core.
    Sincerely, Gordon Mackenzie ’57, and father of Scotty Mackenzie ’96 and Tim Mackenzie ’04, all “Chartans”.


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