Hoot’s winter in …

Iceland 

Sabrina Chow

Don’t get me wrong. I love being from the Midwest. The overly-polite stereotypes, flat lands and four lane highways are some of my favorite things to return to after being in Massachusetts all semester. But I also love to travel. Logically, people traveling during winter break would want to escape the cold and go somewhere warm, right? But where in the world did I go this time? Iceland. And it was great.

And even though like 75 percent of the country is surrounded by ice, those 360,000 people that call Iceland their home really love their home, which made the trip even more enjoyable. And you would think that Iceland is just all ice, right? Nope. They have some of the largest, and still active, volcanoes in the world. I got the chance to go down into a lava tube, channels of caves that are created from lava rivers, and it was pitch black and amazing. My tour guide jokingly said will be there in another 200 years when that volcano is supposed to erupt. 

But here’s Iceland in a nutshell. Was it cold? I mean, I guess it was. But it was in the mid-30s the entire time we were here. I think it was colder in Waltham! Did you see the Northern Lights? You betcha! It only took me 10 hours, and I couldn’t see it without my camera, but I saw it and I have photo proof that they exist! Did you learn any fun Icelandic traditions? Yup. They have 13 Santas and eat horses.

Ukraine

Sasha Skarboviychuk 

When I come home for winter break, I really do not want to leave the house, so much so that I am pretty sure half of my high school friends weren’t even aware that I was home. I pretty much spent the entire break on the couch with my mother.  

There is one thing, however, that I was willing to leave the house for: ice skating. I’ll go as far as to say that ice skating is the best winter activity and—maybe with the exception of snow—is the best part of winter. You’re like a penguin slipping around in the sun—what could be better? The wind going through your hair as you skate away from all your problems: a welcome change from running. Also, it’s a great way to spend time with your family without awkward conversation, or any conversation at all. 

But, of course, nothing in life can be perfect, so there will always be some people that ruin the experience. You know who I’m talking about, the ones who can’t skate to save their lives but still insist on skating in the middle of the rink. Is it that hard to be polite and stay next to the edges, even just to have something to hold onto? But new year—new me, so I’m trying to focus on the positive.  

And, of course, the best thing to do afterwards, is to have a nice cup of peppermint hot chocolate. Christmas may be over, but it’s still the most wonderful time of the year! 

Gaming Tournament

John Fornagiel 

When you think of winter break, what activities come to mind? Most people probably think of things such as spending time with family and old friends, decorating the Christmas tree, building a snowman or going on a ski trip. However, if you were to ask me how my break went, I’d pitifully say that the climax of my winter break was a gaming tournament involving me and four other friends.

If you’re wondering what game I’m talking about specifically, it’s called “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (CS:GO). Anyway, the 10 fateful days before the tournament, I was practicing with my friends for the tournament, which would later prove to be very effective. We knew we had this tournament in the bag.

Great, fast forward, now it’s game day. We are all responsible young men, so we decided to leave very early to make sure we definitely weren’t late: a whole 40 minutes early for a 35 minute drive! My friends made a terrible mistake in deciding that I should be the one driving. “You drive an ambulance, what’s driving a car?” Well, let me tell you that it is very hard to get somewhere when the person telling you where to go does not know the difference between left and right, let’s call him Dave for privacy reasons. So instead of turning off the highway into whatever is south of the airport, we ended up in Logan Airport. Logan Airport for a gaming tournament. The only thing I wanted to do at that moment was to get on a plane and leave those dumb*sses. 

After confiscating the maps from Dave, I quizzed my next guide on his lefts and rights (he shockingly got five out of six correct). I decided that that was good enough. Miraculously, we somehow arrived at the tournament in one piece. We walked into the place, got all set up and ready and began to warm up for the big match (for some reason Dave decided to do push ups). We hopped in the match, waiting for our opponents to enter the lobby, positive of the fact that we were significantly better than the team on the other side of the room.

This was it: We were about to show that, through teamwork, cooperation and raw skill, we were a force to be reckoned with. We had only been playing for four minutes, when Dave decided that it was time to have his super ultra mega-beefy protein powder lunch and accidentally turned off half the team’s computers. Long story short, we got dead last. I’m inclined to blame Dave, but I was thinking, maybe it could have also been the fact that we kept shooting each other at the beginning because we were so mad for being an hour late? Still debating that one.

Florida

Emma Lichtenstein 

Ah, winter, my favorite time of year! It’s the time of year that I break out my flip flops and shorts that have been sitting in my closet since September, just waiting for me to go back home to Florida. I step out of the airport and am immediately hit with temperatures above 75 degrees and humidity above 75 percent. It’s good to be back. 

Now, I know I wrote an entire article about why I think the beach is overrated back in September, but I do like to go once or twice while I’m home. I usually stay far away from the sand, choosing to eat an overpriced and bland brunch, enjoying the view of the water and the smell of the sea. Despite my best efforts, I usually still end up with sand on my feet. I guess it’s a small price to pay, all things considered. 

Usually Florida will get one or two cold fronts during the winter, bringing the most beautiful weather and the strangest outfits. A Florida cold front is in the low 60s during the peak of the day, getting down to maybe the high 40s in the middle of the night. This chill is the one time of year that Floridians can break out their boots, scarves and other winter apparel, so expect to see a lot of them! It’ll be like you never left Massachusetts. 

Hong Kong

Candace Ng

It is currently “winter” in Hong Kong, or so people say. It is hard for me to refer to this as winter, especially coming from Boston. At 68 degrees Fahrenheit—or 20 degrees Celsius for Hong Kong natives—this is an especially mild winter. Yet the people on the streets are dressed like it is about to snow, breaking out their down jackets and leather boots, which I find absolutely absurd. I, in contrast, look out of place in a long-sleeve tee and a sweatshirt or a cardigan. I even wore my Birkenstocks on one of the warmer days.

Despite the warm weather, I still got to enjoy all the “winter foods” in Hong Kong. Food brings people together, as they say. It’s a bonus that I love food, and Hong Kong has plenty. On winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, my extended family shared a meal together and had sesame glutinous rice dumplings for dessert. The dumplings, known as “tang yuan,” symbolize family togetherness and are a must-have on winter solstice, as well as other Chinese festivals. Another winter favorite of mine is hot pot. Basically, you have a pot of broth or soup cooking over a portable gas stove or hot plate, and different ingredients are put in and cooked in the pot. My family always cooks thinly sliced beef, seafood, vegetables and noodles. Besides the beef, the best part, in my opinion, is drinking the broth once everything has been cooked. The combination of meat and vegetables comes together beautifully, especially when we add the sweetness of corn to the mixture. There are restaurants that serve hot pot in the Boston area, and I highly recommend giving it a try this winter. 

Britain 

Josh Aldwinckle-Povey

Any Brit in New England, like me, might notice that the weather in and around Boston isn’t all that different from back home—there’s still the fair share of rain, and we don’t get snow like Bostonians do, but it certainly dips to the same kind of temperature! Yet, I knew what was going to be waiting for me on the other side of a plane ride back to London; not the weather but spirit. 

We Brits take this season very seriously. Christmas is the dominant celebration at this time of year, and it’s common to see towns and cities adorned and aglow with Christmas lights, with ceremonies complete with D-list celebrities to light the street lights. You’ll also find plenty of local theatres packed with families at pantomimes—hard to describe, easy to love. 

Winter in Britain isn’t always picturesque. You don’t come to see us for snow-lined streets and whilst Birmingham puts up worthy competition, stick to Germany for the Christmas markets. But you’d be hard pressed to find people with higher spirits at this time of year—as well as people always just a little too underprepared for our famously sporadic weather!

Massachusetts 

Tim Dillion

One of several things that I enjoy about living in New England is that I get to experience all four seasons, including winter. Though perhaps the most often maligned of all the seasons, I happen to enjoy winter and would like to write a few words to make a case for it.

First of all, snow is a wonderful thing. Yes, it looks nice on the ground; there are few things more beautiful than a freshly blanketed landscape, against which colors are all the more vivid, but there’s more to it than that. Whether it comes down meanderingly or in rapid flurries, snowfall has a gentle, silent beauty unique among natural phenomena. These sensations are joined by the crisp crunch of snow underfoot, bright starry skies and appealingly brisk temperatures.

Against this backdrop and no other, all sorts of activities are possible: snow alone can be thrown, shaped and traversed. Hiking and camping take on new dimensions during wintertime. Even shoveling snow, while occasionally tedious, has a relaxing and pleasant quality to it. Of course some, myself assuredly included, might prefer most of all to settle ourselves in a comfortable perch with a good book.

However you chose to spend it, enjoy your winter.

New York City  

Victoria Morrongiello  

Winter in New York City is truly something special. Sure, we don’t usually get a white Christmas or have a quaint, Hallmark Channel-inspired, small town celebration, but we do have some pretty spectacular sights. There are the Rockettes, the Rockefeller Christmas tree (and ice skating rink), the department store display windows, the Botanical Garden Train show, the Lantern Festival and the giant red Christmas ornaments. All of which are iconic. 

The best part by far of a winter in New York City are the light displays. Everyone from the Department of Parks and Recreation to department stores to entire neighborhoods go all in with their light displays. 

The NYC Lantern Festival, held at Snug Harbor, has over 40 different light displays with some as fall as 30 feet. The festival welcomes over 150,000 guests over the two month span which it’s open for. Then there’s Saks off 5th Avenue, which covers the exterior of its building in over 225,000 lights to create its winter castle light display. Let’s not forget about neighborhoods like Dyker Heights, which are known for their elaborate displays. Dyker Heights has been dubbed the most festive neighborhood in New York City. In this neighborhood, people go as far as to synchronize the color changes of their lights with Christmas music radio stations, so that the lights change with the beats of the music. It is really nothing short of spectacular; the lights in front of you dazzle as they shine in the dark.  

But perhaps the best take away from all of this is the sense of community the holidays create for everyone. New Yorkers aren’t known for their friendliness; however, there is something about the holidays that brings everyone together. I mean there are entire neighborhoods who come together and decorate their houses for others’ enjoyment. Yes, the lights are pretty to look at, but the meaning behind them is even more magnificent. So come to New York City during the winter some time, I’m sure you won’t fuhgeddaboudit*. 

*“Fuhgeddaboudit” is what appears on the sign as you leave Brooklyn. Translated into normal speak it means “forget about it.” This is very funny to me, however, I understand this may not be amusing to other people.

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