The Christmas spirit is finally reaching Dublin, with lights going up around the city center the buskers are exchanging their familiar tunes for careful Christmas songs. Luckily they seem to have collectively decided that Last Christmas is still too soon. One building on Grafton Street is wrapped up in a big bow of lights like a giant present the same way it was last year, which makes the fact that a whole year has passed since my first Dublin winter even more unbelievable. It is once again the time of year when people think of Feliz Navidad when they meet me, the way I know Christmas is coming no matter where I find myself in the world. The Trinity Christmas tree will soon be lit, towering over Front Square as students rush across it to catch their last lecture of the year. December and revision week are upon us.
Michaelmas term has gone by in a flash, it seems not so long ago we were still enjoying the last mild September sun at the tables in front of the Arts block. As the campus is enveloped in darkness, the warmest of the winter months has begun. The French café off Dame Street serves mulled wine under their heat lamps, and student societies rent out top floors of pubs to throw loosely organized Christmas parties. The laughter and pints allow us all a little escape from the pile of essays and coursework that somehow always manages to take us by surprise at the end of each term. Responsibilities ease a little as everyone sways and sings along to the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, this year with a tad more nostalgia in memory of Shane MacGowan. Some are in Christmas jumpers or hats, while others carry the traces of the last-minute decision to leave their books on their desks for the evening, only to return in the morning with a slight hangover and another happy memory.
Christmas may be just around the corner, but it’s also exam season. Library spots are hard to come by as students feeling the weight of their terrible time management scramble for one of the tables with a socket. Each morning, after a hasty coffee, I take my seat on the second floor of the main library that hasn’t quite managed to wrestle the name Berkeley from the habits of student language even though it was recently de-named. Among the selection of history books and journals organized by era and geographical region, I work my way through the day’s pick and stay each night until my eyes go blurry and the names and events of the Russian Revolution turn into an impenetrable socialist soup.
Most afternoons I give in to the Christmas spirit, and continue my reading at a nearby café over another cup of coffee or a hot chocolate. Around me, the city is alive with protest marches, students staging actions, and the memory of the recent Dublin riots, all of which are discussed in hushed tones at the tables around me. The growing sense that history is unfolding in front of our eyes is hard to shake. But the coming exams draw my focus away from the conversations as I somewhat reluctantly put on my headphones, disappear into the revolutions of the past, and let the tidal wave of current events thunder by.
On Thursday I went to a play that my friend was acting in, It’s Time to Get off the Train, a beautiful two-hour performance written and directed by another student in between lectures. As my friend’s character aged ten years in the span of two hours, moved through insecurities, feelings, Christmas eves, and relationships, we were left to reflect on how quickly December comes around, on how we change, and how much things change around us even if we do nothing at all. On the way, time doesn’t really care if we’re hanging on or if we’re alright, and how that’s scary and comforting at the same time. It was a really good play.
I’m heading home for Christmas soon. But until then, I delight at the thought that the number of people blasting Danish Christmas classics as they walk along the river Liffey in the Dublin rain must be in the single digits. And I’m grateful that I’ve found a city, a university, and a history course that I have no desire to move on from just yet. I’ve brought over the ingredients for risengrød and Christmas cookies, so I can stall my Nordic nostalgia from our cold student house in the Dublin suburbs. I do what I can to fend off the last couple of weeks of longing for Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ with the same familiar traditions. Where my brother, our two cousins and I will always be the kids, no matter how old we get, how far away we move, and how much we change.
By Felice Basbøll,
President of NSAC