Your York Christmas Memories

We asked for your stories about how you celebrated the festive season at The University of York. Alumni Voices looks back at your favourite festive memories and reflections.

“I was living in Wentworth College and I quickly took over the cooking duties for me and my flatmates, one of whom was involved in the student union. As Christmas 2009 approached, he asked me if I would be willing to prepare a Christmas dinner for the graduate students not going home or traveling during the break, indicating that previous years the numbers had been around 12-15 people. I agreed to do so since I was not returning to Canada or traveling during the time, and an email was sent out to find out how many students would be interested and what their dietary concerns were (vegan/vegetarian, nut allergies, halal, etc.). In the end, it was not 12-15 people – it was 65. As the numbers went up, my friends came to my aid and there were about eight of us that worked on the prep and service in total, including four other flats that volunteered ovens for turkeys (we prepped and cooked 4 in total). The dinner went off without a hitch thanks to the help of everyone involved and the students got to share in the Christmas spirit with a traditional turkey dinner (we even made sure the Porters got fed). A lot of hard work, but so very worth it.” – Robin Dahling, 2010

“Walking into town through the snow for tea at Bettys!”

Sarah Phillips-Richey, 1987

“Being in York over the Christmas period amid the second lockdown was quiet but beautiful. One of my flatmates at Ustinov chose to stay at the college for an extra week so that I wouldn’t be left alone in the flat. My brother opened his house to me for the few days surrounding Christmas and we shared Christmas dinner with family over Google Meet and walked the streets of the city. It is a memory I will never forget.” – Charis Chislett-McDonald, 2020

“2010 saw heavy snowfall, the picture below was taken from the Minster Tower of that year.”

Oliver Chapman, 2004

“Spent three Christmases in York Minister as a choral scholar…a lot of services, all memorable experiences as part of the Minster family.” – Richard Evans, 1967

“The highlight of the end of my Autumn term would have been the end of term concert, I sang both in the main choir and in the chamber choir. I think that Peter Aston ran the choir and certainly I have a copy of ‘SING NOWELL’ – a book of 51 new (in 1966!) and arranged carols which contains Peter Aston’s ‘Dormi Jesu’ which I think we sang.” – Mary Stapleton, 1969

“I worked on projects all Christmas – alone but happy with my research.” –

Olivia Catalan Calvillo, 2012

“I have so many good memories from that year at the University of York. Below is a Christmas photo of me and my friend, Emma, prepping dinner for us and our friends from class. I can’t describe how grateful I am to those guys and to our teachers. It was so epic and memorable! I hope I can meet them all again for a reunion. Next year is going to be 10 years since we graduated! Unbelievable *_*” – Guilia Ballone, 2013

“I have strong memories of attempting to cook a full Christmas dinner for a group of friends in 1968, using only the Baby Belling provided in the Goodricke kitchen space adjacent to my room. At least we didn’t die of food poisoning!” – Jill Pepper, 1969

“The unforgettable tea towel dances of Derwent D Block Christmas 1986…. using tea towels we pretended to be morris dancers to the sounds Mike Oldfield’s In Dulce Jubilo.”

Paul Watson, 1989

“My flatmates and I created a lovely festive cheeseboard in November 2020 and shared it with each other over a few glasses of mulled wine!” – Naomi Davis, 2020

“My favourite Christmas memory was attending the Vanbrugh ball at the National Railway Museum in 2012. It was my first university ball, the end of a very exciting first term and a spectacular venue to eat, drink and dance the night away.”

Nicola Harrison, 2015

“I remember taking part in the Music Department Christmas pantomime – Cinderella – in the early 70’s. Professor W.M. was the Fairy Godmother – in drag, dressed in a ballet tutu borrowed from one of the students. Two lecturers were ugly sisters, also in drag, sporting trumpet mutes serving as prosthetic ‘appendages’. Our delightful department secretary was Cinderella, and I was Prince Charming in double drag – a young male playing a girl playing the Prince – decked out in fishnet tights, long boots and short tunic. (I had nicer legs and long hair in those hippie-influenced days!)” – Kevin Aston, 1973

“Christmas markets! I was working in a tea shop during my course at York and I remember everyone coming in for a tea or chocolate as a break from their shopping in the city centre.”

Danielle Tryonski, 2011

“In around 1974, our friend Clive who was in the Swedish Society, was arranging a Santa Lucia celebration for local Swedish people. He persuaded my friends and I to become his Swedish Choir for the day! We had the Swedish words all round the kitchen walls in our Wentworth corridor, and had an amazing time singing to grateful elderly ladies, eating spiced biscuits and making woven hearts. I can still remember some of the the words! (Hej Tomte gubbar….)!” – Helen Trippier, 1975

“Derwent Christmas Ball 1977 – Victoria Wood was the entertainment.”

Karen Jepson, 1980

“I remember one year a group of us went to a carol concert at St Michael Le Belfrey, a church built in the 1500’s which is adjacent to York Minster. This was advertised on campus by the University of York Christian Union. The atmosphere inside the church was unforgettable, and gave a real sense of majesty to the occasion. Whether it was the church, the service or the worshippers, it was a carol concert which has been etched in mind ever since. My advice to students of whatever faith, religion or sect – try and attend one of the carol services in the City. The shared experience may give you a lifetime memory of your time at York.” – John Lumbard, 1986

“Celebrated at the History of Art Society Masked Ball for Christmas 2021” – Phoebe Frances-Chi, 2022

“I recall the cold winter of 81/82, with piercing cold fog and freezing lakes. I believe the Ouse partially froze over too.”

Peter Hassall, 1982

“I was in catered accommodation so we had very small kitchens. We gathered nearly 20 people together, moved all our desks and chairs into the biggest bedroom on the floor then cooked a massive Christmas dinner. This meant using 4 kitchens in our block to prepare all the food. Everyone in the group had a job to do.” – Victoria Wilkinson

“I had my one and only best Christmas in England as a person who was born and grew up in Iran, a very Islamic country that never celebrates Christmas. I enjoyed the Christmas shops in York. I spent the holiday in London but I never forgot the most beautiful decorations of York. For me they are not just memories, they are the best days of my whole life and now a dream. I started learning English when I was four years old. I would always wish to see a real Santa or taste ginger biscuits and finally it happened in my 30s. Three years since my graduation, I am again in my home country seeing the most cruel things that ever happened in the world. Women in Iran have started a great revolution and are giving their lives for freedom. I wish one day I will be able to see my home country as peaceful and as free as York.”

Anonymous, 2020

“I remember coming for the interview not long before Christmas: I got off the train at York station having gone up from London, and never having been that far north before. As I came out of the station, I looked up towards the city wall and Minster. It was floodlit and snowing, and absolutely magical! I decided at that moment, ‘I don’t mind what the course is like, I’m coming here’! I stayed at ‘Young’s Hotel’, which is Guy Fawkes’ birthplace. The floor of the bedroom was uneven, and propped up with books, and we had Christmas pudding for dessert after dinner. When I was a student, a friend and I took pictures of each other standing on the frozen lake just before Christmas.’ – Jane Pickford, 1977

“Had a wonderful time when my supervisor invited me to his house for a Christmas dinner.” – Feng Xue

“We called it ‘Operation Sandcastle’ and hit the beach at noon, 10th December 1983. A date impressed on the hearts and minds of all veterans of the SAS (the Scarborough Appreciation Society). This was our first expedition to the Yorkshire coast since the forming of the society by Christopher Hall, Jon Fogden and Jason ‘George’ Robson (all undergraduates at Wentworth College) in October. Highlights of the day, for the expeditionary force transported by York Pullman coach, included being welcomed by the Mayor of Scarborough, a sandcastle building competition, fish and chips at ‘Brad’s’, cliff-top walks at pace (to try to keep warm) and a tour of many local hostelries.” – Christopher Hall, 1984

“I was a social policy student and volunteered in a senior club called ‘Tea and Coffee Club’. The organisers of the club (I remember she was also an alumni or student of the University of York) brought me and the seniors to a local church to celebrate the holiday. It was my first time to taste mince pies and mulled wine. The seniors taught me the culture and history of the pies and wine. It was warm and fun. I am now a geriatric social worker in the hospital in Vancouver and I still remember how this experience influences my practice – be warm to people around you. The seniors in ‘Tea and Coffee Club’ taught me a lot.”

Karen Wong, 2011

“As a member of Derwent College, Christmas brings our annual meal, where students, staff, alumni and friends can enjoy a special meal together. I’m feeling blessed to share the next Christmas meal with Derwent, for the first time as an Alumni. To all our friends and family at York, wishing you peace, love and blessings.” – Stephen Donegan, 2020

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading through these festive memories. If they have stirred any of your own Christmas memories there’s still time to share them here.

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