A long-standing BVU campus tradition is the Christmas Dinner. For those of you who may not know, every year, on the Thursday before Finals week, the entire campus community comes together to celebrate the holidays. Students are encouraged to dress-up whether that be in suits and dresses or ugly Christmas sweaters, and everyone gathers for a sit-down plated meal. Carols are sung, Christmas trees are lit, and many students’ favorite parts comes when faculty, staff and administration serve the students. It is a time to relax, unwind and enjoy the holiday atmosphere with one another as the campus prepares for the stressful Finals week. However, COVID-19’s physical distancing measures has restricted the number of people allowed to gather in one place, thus making the normal Christmas Dinner impossible and most likely to be canceled along with other traditional campus activities. At least, that’s what many students thought.
Last week, a BVU News email announced that the Christmas Dinner will be taking place on November 17, but it will look a little different. Vice President of Student Success, Dr. Lucy Croft, explained the process of deciding how the campus tradition would happen, if it even could. “First and foremost, we always keep safety at the forefront of our decision-making process, and so we have taken a lot of precautions to have our traditional Christmas Dinner. For those who have been participating in the past for Christmas Dinner, it will look very different than what has happened in the past. However, for our new students, clearly this will be their first-time experiencing Christmas Dinner, so we’re excited to still offer a Christmas Dinner reimagined,” said Croft.
The Christmas Dinner committee, consisting of staff members from Student Success, Event Services, Admissions and Sodexo Dining, began planning in September. BVU’s Chaplain, Dr. Melanie Hauser, the Christmas Dinner committee chairman, noted the uncertainty surrounding the campus tradition even happening with all the changes that had to be made. “We thought about how the Christmas Dinner traditionally went, and then about all the things we would need to change because of COVID, first…We obviously cannot all squish into the Serve at the same time…We were debating whether we could even have Christmas Dinner in person, or whether it would have to be virtual or what we could do,” Hauser said.
The committee’s solution was to expand the dining spaces throughout the entire Forum, including Cru5h Dining, the game room, and the various lounges. In addition to that, students will have to sign up for shifts to attend. BVU’s Chaplain, Dr. Melanie Hauser, the Christmas Dinner committee chairman, outlined what steps students should take to sign up for the Christmas Dinner. “We’ve set up a website on “SignUpGenius” that has all of the time slots listed, starting at 5:00, 5:30, 6:00, 6:30, and 7:00. And there’s also a maximum number of people for each time slot…We’re going to have our tables spaced so people are not on top of each other, so you might not be able to fit as many people around a table as you normally would, but you can generally sit in the same area with your friends. The sign-ups start November 1, and it goes all the way until November 10, so you have ten days to get together with your gang and decide what time you want to eat,” said Hauser.
The sign-up page also has a space for students with dietary restrictions to specify what accommodations they need.
Other safety measures that have been implemented leading up to the Christmas Dinner are changes to how students receive their meal. Instead of faculty, staff and administration members serving students, during one’s assigned shift, students will go through the buffet lines in the serve. Faculty, staff and administration members who volunteer will instead act as hosts and hostesses for the evening as well as directing traffic. To reduce potential COVID-19 exposure for both the Sodexo staff and the BVU volunteers, meals will be served with disposable dining ware.
Hauser spoke about the excitement of campus remaining open, allowing this beloved campus tradition to happen in-person rather than virtually, which was their backup plan. “Since we are able to stay on campus and it looks like we are going to be able to pull it off, I’m just excited that we can provide this opportunity for students, especially for people who are graduating and seniors,” Hauser said.
Although the night’s events won’t be the same as before, with no choir or group Christmas carols, Dr. Hauser will go around to various dining areas throughout the night, explaining where the Christmas Dinner came and why it is so important on the BVU campus. Formal dress is still encouraged, and the University has reintroduced the annual Christmas Dinner ornament to be given to each student that night.
Living through a global pandemic, specifically when in college, has proven to be a challenge. However, it should not keep us from trying to keep a sense of normalcy in what we do, and the Christmas Dinner is proof of that. Even though it will not be exactly as it has been in year’s past, it is still a time for BVU’s campus to come together before the end of the semester when we all go our separate ways until January. Croft emphasizes what she hopes students will do when November 17 arrives. “Come with an open mind, especially for our returning students. Come and just embrace what this is, it’s reimagined, it’s going to be a great time. Dress up, have fun, be with your friends, celebrate. If, by chance, the time that you wanted to sign up for is full and you can’t sign up, find another time. Don’t be discouraged and don’t let it be a negative thing. If, by chance, you don’t get a chance to sign up with your friend because it’s full, then make friends. The holidays are such a wonderful time to meet new people and have new experiences so enjoy that too. However you choose to celebrate, just keep the joy of this season in mind with the Christmas Dinner and we’ll have a great time,” Croft concluded.