The Christmas Inflection Point

Design by Claire SooHoo

People unfairly hate on TD. Go ahead, enjoy your meals in Silliman or Berkeley, waiting ages in line only to be left fighting to secure four seats at one table. If you ever hear a whisper of discontent coming from within, and you’re desperate for a meal that doesn’t feel inescapably cafeteria-like, then head to TD. With ample table space and the ability to actually hear your friends across the table, the TD dining hall offers an escape from the rest of this frantic campus. It even has booths, and everyone knows that dinner is always more pleasant and healing when you are eating in a booth. 

Dinner in TD is refreshingly quiet, a necessary counter to Yale’s unending social liveliness. Or, rather, it used to be quiet. 

On November 2, 2023, around 6:00 p.m., students in the TD dining hall were ambushed by Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” screaming from above. I was there that day. I had arrived in a state of exhaustion at 5:20 p.m. after my 4.5-hour block of classes and was longing for the reprieve that I had come to expect from TD.

In a second, this haven was stolen from me by grossly premature Christmas tunes. “It’s too early,” I wanted to scream back, “I’m not ready!”

My heart was torn as it struggled to reconcile Mariah’s lively Christmas voice with the fact that I was in the thick of mid-semester drudgery. Thanksgiving break was but a carrot-on-a-stick convincing us that constant labor and commitments have an end; frankly, I was in no mood to listen to Justin Bieber sing about mistletoe. I did my best to suffer through the rest of dinner and ignore the blatant disruption to the order of holiday celebrations. 

When the time actually comes, I am all for commercially and aesthetically embodying the Spirit of Christmas. I’ll decorate the tree with ugly hand-made ornaments from elementary school, trade cheap but heartfelt gifts, and drink hot chocolate while passively watching Elf with older relatives who enjoy the movie more than I ever could. When I feel the season has hit, at some random point in the amorphous weeks following Thanksgiving, I listen to Christmas music with my heart and chest. I hit shuffle on my “christmas baby!!” playlist and let it roll until December 25th. I merrily drive home to Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree,” joyfully study to “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” by *NSYNC, and turn on Wham!’s classic version of “Last Christmas” any time I’m in the kitchen. 

Crucially, though, the exact start of Christmas Time is an extremely personal assessment. I have decided the season has begun, so now I will listen to the appropriate tunes. There is some internal switch that controls the flow of holiday jolliness. For those of us who participate in the holiday, our Jolly Switches are extremely variable thresholds; some can handle a post-Halloween dive into the green and red, but others can’t look at tinsel or candy canes until Christmas Eve is upon them. 

The external imposition of Christmas—particularly the onslaught of advertisements and special drinks—is wholly undemocratic, invoking holiday emotions before a person may feel ready to slip into the strange ritual that ends our calendar year. The start of Christmas can’t actually be forced. Although I observed some Christmas-ready diners in TD that day, singing along and tapping their toes, springing Christmas music upon unsuspecting, tired college students failed to consider our individual perceptions of the holiday’s beginning.

If you are so inclined to celebrate Christmas once November 1st arrives, the right thing to do is to put in some earbuds. Let Michael Bublé croon to you about the magic of the holiday season and let me eat my dining hall stew in peace. We can each maintain some comfort then. 

To the TD dining hall: If you must play music, put on some piano covers of 2000s pop. The diners’ passionless recognition of the songs would never clash with the pleasant comfort of your booths.

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