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2020 has been a year of uncertainty, challenges, adjustment, loss and new norms for most people. In the season of advent and coming closer to the end of the year, it can be difficult to get together with loved ones. However, it is encouraging to know that despite the pandemic, people can choose to have joy this season.

Ben Taylor is the manager of student engagement programs at the University of Northwestern–St. Paul and works with CORE. With the assistance of his student leaders, he plans student events that cultivate opportunities for relational engagement. He is originally from Des Moines, Iowa, and is a Northwestern graduate. He stated that “winter in Iowa isn’t much different than Minnesota.” The slight difference is that it is a bit less cold. The small towns in Iowa often decorate the town centers and main streets with Christmas trees and lights. He mentioned how they have parades and performances throughout the season.

Taylor’s favorite winter holiday is New Year’s. He explained that he enjoys New Year’s because it was the “chill holiday” in his family. At midnight, they bang pots and pans on their front porch to welcome in the new year. Within the past few years, he has gotten together with other family members for a long evening of eating dessert and playing table games.

When it comes to being indoors or outdoors, he prefers to be indoors. “To me, winter is the perfect season for sprawling on the couch with a good book or movie and a mug of cocoa.” Taylor’s ideal winter involves snow for exactly seven days during the week of Christmas and New Year’s.

Willow Skidmore is a sophomore vocal performance major. Like Taylor, she comes from a small town where neighborhoods are decorated with lights, and children play in the snow. Her favorite winter holiday is Christmas. She said, “It’s normally the time when we travel to see all of my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents who we have been apart from all year because they live across the country.” When they are together, they have Christmas dinners over and over.

Skidmore prefers to be indoors. She said, “It’s a great excuse to spend time with the people I care about, to read and [to] drink hot chocolate in front of the fire.” In addition, she enjoys tubing, skiing and skating. Her ideal winter involves a combination of enjoying time outside but also a good amount of quality time with her loved ones, lots of literature and hot chocolate.

No matter what situation people may find themselves in this year, it is valuable to be intentional with time and the current season, and to get together with loved ones and find joy.