December 5, 2022

Christmas Stories by the Fire Brings Holiday Cheer to Stressed Students

Mary Stuart Murray '22

Amidst the hectic final weeks of the semester, filled with dwindling dining dollars and far too many Canvas assignments, the staff of Jenks Library designed a simple but meaningful event to help students take their minds off the end of the semester craziness: a series of fireside read-alouds conducted by beloved faculty and staff.  

Sarah St. Germain, a librarian and Archives specialist at Jenks Library, said, “We were trying to find fun and easy Christmas-y things for people to do. We didn’t want to do anything that was too time consuming or strenuous…. [We figured] a quick fifteen to thirty minutes with a Christmas story would get everyone in the spirit and give them a nice study break as we enter finals.” She added, “we wanted to add cheer to the atmosphere.”  

After emailing a number of professors and staff members whom students adore, the library compiled a dream team of readers from a variety of departments: Dan Tymann, Caroline Dixon, Amy Hughes, Chad Stutz, Yicaury Melo, Norm Jones, Sharon Ketcham, and Russel Tuck. 

“There are a lot of faculty and staff who students really enjoy, and who really enjoy doing things for students,” St. Germain said. 

This past Wednesday, students gathered around Dan Tyman as he read The Night Before Christmas beside the fire. This event was perfect for students stressed with finals, since the fifteen to twenty minute window of rest it created was the perfect length for a study break.  

Hannah Hartman (’24) said, “It was Dan Tymann, so that’s why I came. I love Christmas stories … and The Night Before Christmas is a classic; Dan read it really well. It was a very short mini break in the midst of everything.” 

The gathering of students and staff together around a fire represents a return to normalcy, even if a small one, after a difficult season of life.  

“I liked this a lot because it was so cozy, right here by the fire and couches … it felt normal, you know? We didn’t have anything like this last year because of Covid,” said Thomas Friedrich (’23).  

Other students, while appreciating the break from schoolwork, were able to consider how this new tradition related to things they recently studied.  

Emily Butler (’22) said, “Recently, I’ve been studying what it’s like to take on the humility of a child— I’ve been writing a paper on that … this really helped me think about what it’s like to not be childish, but to be in the position of a child … I really enjoyed the experience.”  

Above Tymann’s shoulder on the mantle sat Hermey the Christmas elf. Students who take a photo with Hermey and post the photo to their Instagram story and tag the library will be entered into a Christmas-themed raffle. Hermey has been a hit with students, who hunt him down in the library each day after his location changes overnight. 

“It is only with slight irony that I say that Hermey is the most exciting thing to happen this semester,” said Maddie Miyares (’23).  

Overall, these new holiday traditions the library has created are a hit, and students greatly enjoyed the relief from academic stress.  

“I’m really far behind in some of my classes right now, but I do not regret just sitting and listening. It was the best part of my day. It was a good bit of escapism,” Friedrich said.  

If you haven’t managed to make it to any of the readings, you’re in luck! Three more stories by the fire are left to go. Norm Jones will be reading Tuesday, Dec 7th at 2pm, Sharon Ketchum on Wednesday, Dec 8th at 3pm, and Russell Tuck on Friday, Dec 10th at 12pm.  

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