I did not have high expectations for this this year’s Christmas Day. I was in Toulouse, which is over 1,000 kilometres from Galway. It turned out to be very special.
Redmond O’Hanlon (“Red”) was one of the Erasmus students who organised a special Christmas Day for us in Toulouse.
“The festive spirit, the comradeship, the boozing and of course the token Christmas dinner,” Red replied when asked why he arranged it, “what is there not to love?”
“It’s a great opportunity to celebrate Irish culture,” Molly Donnelly said, “and to celebrate Christmas”.
“Explaining it to our British and Northern Irish counterparts was a strange one,” Red declared, “I still don’t think they exactly understand what was going on”.
The day was enjoyed by all, even though some may not have understood the concept.
“With every person who showed up came an extra added bit of excitement,” Red said. “Spirits were high, laughs were loud,” he continued, “and not a single Toulousain knew what was going on.”
The event was sort of a small secret for those from Ireland and the UK. It was also nice to not have to compete with the whole of Galway to buy the best Penney’s Christmas jumpers.
A turkey was the one thing that was missed. Madi Hayes and Emily Crowe, however, saved the day with rotisserie chickens.
“I think having the Christmas dinner with the six people that I came over here with was really fun,” Molly said.
Unfortunately, the dinner had to be prepared, devoured and cleaned within 90 minutes between mandatory classes. “Short and sweet would be how I would describe it,” Róisín McGrath said.
It was a unique Christmas Day in Róisín’s opinion because it was “very much a student celebration rather than just an Irish thing.” Erasmus students from all over the UK and Ireland got involved.
Alexander Gavin (“Gav”) studies at the University of Sheffield. He has Irish roots but had never heard of College Christmas. Gav was delighted to experience his first one in Toulouse.
“It has been a lot of fun,” he said, after agreeing to be interviewed at midnight. However, he remarked that it was “a bit odd having celebrated Christmas Day on the 17 November.”
Gav is committed to bringing the College Christmas concept to Sheffield, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham where he believes people “will embrace it wholeheartedly”.
“It’s so fun,” he declared enthusiastically. “It’s obviously not good for our health,” he said, “but it’s good for our soul.”
Gav thoroughly enjoyed the prize giving organised by Red. “I should have won the ‘Worst at French’ award,” he noted though, “because I can’t actually speak French.”