“A lonely stranger in a strange land I am cast, I miss my family all the more on every festive day.”
Quote from Du Zai Yi Xiang Wei Yi Ke, Mei Feng Jia Jie Bei Si Qi （独在异乡为 异客，每逢佳节倍思亲)”.
This extract from the famous Chinese poem ‘On the mountain holiday thinking of my brothers in Shangdong’ by Wang Wei gives insight into the thoughts and feelings of many international students who choose to stay in the UK during Christmas. Homesickness and loneliness can easily take control as most domestic students and others who celebrate the festive season head home or travel to see their friends and families. All of a sudden, the bustling streets, shops, and cafes in Durham are met with a quietness that transforms the vibrant student city into a much quieter town.
A festive highlight
Luckily for those staying in Durham, the University offers students the chance to get together and celebrate in style, with a traditional Christmas Lunch on Christmas Day in the stunning Great Hall of Durham Castle. This will be the sixth year that the University had hosted the event, which is incredibly popular and something students look forward to with excitement. I was lucky enough to enjoy Christmas Lunch in Castle last year and can’t wait do do it all again!
An extra special venue
The lunch was served in Durham Castle, which along with Durham Cathedral is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site and has a history stretching back to the 11th century at the time of the Norman Conquest. Today, the city built around the castle is as stunning and picturesque as one could dream of when thinking of a typical historic English city. Every corner could easily be the scenery from a historical or magical blockbuster set in England.
A warm welcome
Professor Elizabeth Archibald, Principal of St. Cuthbert’s Society, one of Durham’s colleges, delivered a speech before the start of the lunch. She warmly welcomed the guests, wished them a Merry Christmas, and hoped that the event could be a cherished memory for the students who attended. She talked to the international students one by one, and got to know many new faces while passing on lessons about the spirit of Christmas. In particular she gave special thanks to the staff of the University who sacrificed their Christmas family time to help out.
In order to give international students, who don’t celebrate Christmas a better understanding of the fun activities associated with the season, Professor Archibald introduced us to the fun game of ‘pass the parcel’. By passing the parcel and unwrapping different layers, the smiles appeared on the faces of the guests, adding to the already delightful atmosphere.
Through the enjoyment of tasty food and the fun activities, all of the students in attendance, both British and international spent an unforgettable Christmas Day at the Castle. Many friends were made that day and a feeling of pride and thankfulness was instilled in the hearts of the students towards the University. I hope the University can continue to expand upon this success in all of their future Christmas lunches.