Just about a year ago, I was an anxious fresher leaving home with my pots and pans, duvet and towels. I was ready to trade my cherished baguette and cheese for tea and scones. I was a fearless soldier ready to survive at Imperial. Here I am a year later after having proudly honoured that red lanyard and currently on my way home for Christmas. On top of the smell of mulled wine and roasting sweet nuts, there definitely is something magical in the London air around Christmas. Magic that is definitely worth sharing.
Christmas mingling at Imperial
For many students at Imperial, the weeks leading up to Christmas are associated to exams and coursework deadlines but are paradoxically not restrained to indulging endless cups of coffee at the library. Something that still continues to amaze me to this day is how different entities of the College come as one to spread the Christmas spirit. The students wearing their santa hats and woven Christmas jumpers, the gaudy Christmas decorations in departmental common rooms and the university’s bars (H-bar and Union Bar), the beautiful gold and red Christmas trees around the Campus (main entrance, Sir Alexander Fleming building, Sheffield)… Even the library participates through their traditional “feedback Christmas tree” where students can write up some of their wishes on colourful paper and hang them up on the tree. The College’s cafés and restaurant serve limited edition Christmas snacks, refreshments and food such as ginger based cakes, minced pies, cinnamon hot chocolate, sausage rolls filled with cranberries…
On top of the food and decorations, the clubs, societies and constituent unions host a myriad of social events to allow students to unwind and catch up just before the Christmas break. What’s great about all these hosted events is that there definitely is something for everyone. Whether you prefer cozying in watching Love Actually with a mug of hot chocolate or attending a formal dinner. Recent events I’ve attended for example are ice-Skating at the Natural History Museum (Yes we have an ice skating rink 5 mins away from college) and Christmas Curry night with the Biochemistry society as well as the RCSU Christmas movie marathon (Royal College of Science Union, the constituent union for the natural scientists). Other Christmas events include gingerbread decorating sessions, karaoke, formal dinners and concerts!
London for the Christmas lovers and adventurous minds
Living in such a lively city means that there is just so much to discover even right next to South Kensington! Here is shortlist of classic highlights (to name but a few):
1. Ice-skating at the Natural History Museum
Embarrassingly despite Imperial College’s ideal location near well-known museums, it has come to my attention that many students have never actually been to the Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum or the Science Museum even though they are a mere 5 mins walk away. The ice rink at the Natural History Museum has been successful in attracting many owing to their competitive student price tickets (10 pounds for an hour of skating and a free hot drink included).
2. Christmas street lights
“This little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine”. In this case its not just a single candle but whole streets which are illuminated by spectacular lights all around London. My personal favourites this year include the 27 LED light curtains in Oxford Street, the recycled underwater scenes in Carnaby Street (collaboration with Project 0 an ocean conservation charity showcasing jellyfish, whales and squid) and the 115 000 lights in the Covent Garden Piazza.
3. Winter Wonderland
Located in Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland is a classic Christmas destination with a free entrance policy. It plunges its visitors in the winter magic with its Christmas markets with food (such as mulled wine, pretzels) and attractions for adrenaline rising experiences or winter vibes. Some of London’s and my favourite attractions include the open-air ice rink, observation wheels, the après ski at Bar Ice and acts at the Circus MegaDome.
4. Churchill arms pub decorations… Breathtaking
I have to say that I was blown away by the decorations at this infamous pub known for its Winston Churchill interior theme and impressive floral decorations replaced by extravagant Christmas decorations closer to the festivities. Interesting fact, on top of being coined “London’s most colourful pub” it is also a Thai restaurant!
Christmas is really the time of the year where we give back to those we cherish and spend time with the ones we love. Secret santas, ugly Christmas jumper competitions and eating raclette or fondue are just examples of how we individually enhance the Christmas spirit with our own cultural traditions.
With that being said, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New year! May all your dreams come true!