Sick of staring at blank walls? Add holiday flava to your drab dorm or apartment

by Beacon Staff • November 29, 2006

Nordkye, a junior TV/Video major, is spending her first year out of the dorms, and she is thrilled to be able to string holiday lights around her apartment.

"This is my first year really decorating," Nordyke said.,Like many Emerson College students, Clare Nordyke is prepping her apartment for the holidays.

Nordkye, a junior TV/Video major, is spending her first year out of the dorms, and she is thrilled to be able to string holiday lights around her apartment.

"This is my first year really decorating," Nordyke said. "I had a few things in the dorms the past few years, but in such a small space, you don't want to have too much around. Plus, there are so many rules about what you can and cannot have."

Last year, Nordyke helped her boyfriend decorate his apartment in Brookline. She took a trip to Target and purchased holiday decorations including a fake mini-Christmas tree and ornaments.

"This year is extra fun because I can put up whatever decorations I want, wherever I want and no one can object to its cheesiness," she said.

To get in the holiday spirit, Nordyke has decorated her tree with lights and ornaments, including a stuffed kitty tree topper. She will also hang stockings, place electric candles on her window sills and, of course, blast holiday music.

Students are also decorating in the dorms this year.

Heather Vitale, a junior political communication major, and her suitemates in the Little Building have already hung white paper snowflakes around their suite common room.

The suitemates also plan to hang individual stockings with each of their names and purchase a Hanukkah Harry doll, based on a fictional character who wears a blue and white suit similar to Santa's red and white suit.

Besides decorating, Vitale has other holiday rituals.

"I listen to Christmas music, I organize secret Santas between friends and I finish my Christmas shopping super early so I can brag about it," Vitale said. "I also [send] Christmas cards."

If you want to take a break from studying and decorate your apartment or dorm this holiday season, here are some ideas to perk up your apartment or dorm room for the holiday.

Candles are forbidden in dormitories, but electric menorahs will look festive in a window or on top of a bureau. You can find them starting at $20 at amazon.com. Urban Outfitters has one on their Web site for $30, and there is an extensive selection on eBay.

Kwanzaa, an African-American holiday, is simple to decorate for as well. The symbolic colors-green, red and black-can be used in a variety of ways to add some cheer to your dorm. The holiday originates from an African celebration of the first harvest. Try this simple, traditional Kwanzaa centerpiece found on the Web site of Better Homes and Gardens.

Find a mkeke, or a straw mat, and choose some wooden bowls or baskets to place fruits and vegetables in. Crumple up old newspapers, place them in the bowls/baskets, and place the selected fruits and vegetables on top. Place one ear of dried decorative corn in the display to represent your posterity. Finally, add a kikombe cha umoja, also known as a Unity Cup, which is used to "pour a libation to the ancestors," according to the Web site.

There are other uses for computer paper besides assignments. Spend some time with friends and make paper snowflakes. It's an extremely easy way to lighten up a room or add color to windows. If you are still snowflake-making challenged, check out the Web site papersnowflakes.com for some extra help. You can also purchase colored paper and cover the snowflakes in glitter for an extra effect.

Get together with friends to make a tasty gingerbread house. You can buy a kit for under $20 from grocery or craft stores. It makes a nice centerpiece for your suite common room table. It's also a great way to spend some time with friends.

Pressed for time? Buy a pack of holiday window decals. It's an easy way to add some holiday cheer to your dorm room windows. CVS and Target have packs for under $10.

Christmas trees and wreaths are not allowed in the dorms, but you can decorate your space with a festive paper wreath instead. Check out the craft and stationery store Paper Source at 338 Boylston St. and purchase an assortment of paper to make snowflakes or greeting cards for your friends. Paper Source has individual and colorful craft kits to make your own holiday greeting cards, envelopes and wreaths.

If you live in an apartment, hang wreaths from your door or around your apartment living room.

Real Simple Magazine has some excellent decorating and gift ideas in its December 2006 issue. The magazine suggests using pinecone wreaths to spruce up your home. Look for them at florists or at craft stores.

If you're feeling adventurous, take the T to the Arboretum at the Forest Hills stop on the Orange Line in search of pine cones to make your own wreath. Use different colored ribbons to hang the wreaths, weave the ribbons through the wreath or make bows.

A pinecone wreath also makes a great picture frame and a unique gift. Take one of your favorite photographs and attach it to the back of the wreath using wall-mounting squares.

For off-campus dwellers a cheaper and safer alternative to purchasing holiday-scented candles is electric wax potpourri burners. You can fill your apartments with the scent of vanilla, pine or peppermint courtesy of the Yankee Candle Company. The company's electric potpourri burners plug into wall outlets and gently melt potpourri tarts.

The electric burners cost $20, and tarts are cheaper than candles, costing only $1.79 each. Yankee's festive fragrances collection features Christmas cookie, cinnamon stick, mistletoe and pumpkin pie scents, among others.

Too Busy to Play Martha Stewart?

Even if you don't have time to decorate this year, there are other ways you can get into the holiday spirit.

Spend a night ice skating at Frog Pond in the Boston Common. Dedicate a song to someone, drink some hot chocolate and take in the sights and sounds of the Boston skyline for only $4. Rental skates cost $8. The rink is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sundays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays.

Plan a potluck holiday meal with your friends. Have each person bring something to the table and serve buffet style to cut down on costs. End the night by watching classic holiday movies including A Christmas Story, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and It's a Wonderful Life.