First-Year Reflections: Celebrating Community & Holiday Traditions at Yale

Class of 2026 at the First Year Holiday Dinner
December 21, 2022
New Haven, Conn. — When the drumbeat began, a certain hush fell over the room as we scrambled to find a place in the crowd. Then, jaws started dropping left and right. Stilt walkers. A seafood sled. Watermelon with “YALE” carved in it. Each part of the procession, whether it was the residential college flag bearers or the giant yule log cake, was met with cheers and gaping mouths. Most prevalent, however, were the smiles on everyone’s faces as joy permeated the room. 
The Parade of Comestibles was just one of the many highlights of the First Year Holiday Dinner, which took place in a beautifully-decorated Commons on December 10, 2022. Before coming to Yale, I had seen photos and videos of the dinner on social media, so I couldn’t wait to take part in this event that was integral to the first-year experience. 
And now actually a student here, I was also anticipating the dinner as a way to celebrate a colorful first semester at Yale. I met people from all over the world, from Los Angeles to Tijuana to Delhi. I read and discussed Plato for the first time. I began to train with the fencing team and continue to be inspired by their talent and dedication. And I was able to combine my passion for food and storytelling when I joined the Yale Hospitality team as a Junior Editor.
Rayhan Negedu, a first-year photographer on our team, also has much to celebrate about his first semester: “Looking back at my first semester, I want to celebrate the moments that I have been able to experience through clubs, classes, and interactions with new people. I appreciate the many available opportunities here at Yale. The ones I have been able to take advantage of, like photography with Yale Hospitality or building rockets with the Aerospace Association, have been some of the best parts of this semester.” The anticipation for the holiday dinner was palpable among my first-year friends as well. “I’m really excited to dress up fancy and eat amazing food,” said Jada Alleyne. “But [most of all], I’m excited about seeing all my friends from different colleges come together.”
Martine Dosa was also looking forward to the mixture of community and food at the holiday dinner. “Speaking to upperclassmen, it sounds like it’s a true tradition of Yale that I’m excited to experience,” Martine described. “It is an opportunity for our class to be together before being away for a month in such a special way.”
The event provided just that: time together with classmates. As soon as I entered the room illuminated by snowflake lights, I ran into friends that I hadn’t seen in weeks due to our conflicting schedules and finally got the chance to catch up. Then, before the parade, I explored the myriad of food stations with another group of friends, where we feasted on bao buns, carved rotisserie beef, pasta, roasted winter vegetables, paella, bread & cheese, and an assortment of desserts. We took photos all around the dining room—in front of the giant snow globe, under the snow machine, and in the gondola cabin—before we went to view the Parade of Comestibles. After feasting with our eyes, we enjoyed a culinary feast as well on the fresh sushi, roasted chicken, a rainbow of fruit, and other delights. 
The Parade made a mark on many people’s nights. “I really love how the Parade of Comestibles brought everyone together to share food,” shared Graham Litz. “Everyone was living and enjoying the environment.” 
The aspect of bringing the community together was appreciated by first-years all around. “It was great to eat amazing food, especially to share it with people who I don’t necessarily get to see that often,” recounted Sophia McManus. “It was really fun to get all dressed up, take photos, introduce friends to each other, and just have one big memory together with people that we normally don’t get to see in one place.”
With the Holiday Dinner and our first semester coming to a close, we are now looking forward to the future opportunities and joys we will encounter next semester. “Now that I understand the school environment better, I want to continue pursuing activities that I enjoy doing, such as photography and doing hands-on builds, and find newer ones, like music performance groups,” said Rayhan. “With Yale Hospitality, I want to continue celebrating the community by showing the various people that make this school through the art of photography. Being able to capture moments is a beautiful thing that I think not only keeps those moments alive but also the communities that built them.”
Ultimately, our first semester of college was anything but easy as we navigated academics, clubs, friendships, and more in a new environment. But in the end, the wonderful community here made this semester something we could celebrate—and I’m glad we could celebrate together as a class at the First-Year Holiday Dinner with food and joy. As we begin the second semester, I am excited to see what future joy awaits.  

[Words by Olivia Ren ‘26. Photos by David Zheng ‘23]

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