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Tempe kicks off winter season while students make last dash

Holidays not just sugarplums for students who stress about finals, gifts

 by Jonathan J. Cooper
 published on Monday, November 27, 2006

Santa Claus turns on the Christmas tree lights after the Fanstasy of Lights Parade Saturday in Tempe. /issues/news/699037
Courtney Sargent / THE STATE PRESS
Santa Claus turns on the Christmas tree lights after the Fanstasy of Lights Parade Saturday in Tempe.
 

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For many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the country's holiday season. But for students, it's a short breather before a doubly stressful time - finals plus Christmas.

Without the right mindset, the holiday pressures can intensify end-of-semester stresses, said Megan Drechsel, an anthropology graduate student who attended the Tempe Fantasy of Lights parade and tree-lighting event Saturday.

Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman and local families officially celebrated the start of the holiday season on Mill Avenue with fireworks and Christmas lights.

Thousands showed up to watch dozens of colorfully lit floats and the arrival of Santa Claus.

Meanwhile, thousands of ASU students prepared for the twin stresses of final exams and holiday gift buying.

Christmas is sometimes a "commercialized phenomenon," so notoriously poor college students can get stressed trying to make ends meet as they buy gifts, Drechsel said.

The holidays can be less stressful if you treat them as "an opportunity to get together with the people you care about instead of gift-giving," Drechsel said.

To save money, Drechsel makes gifts for her friends instead of buying them, she said.

Katie Valadez, a music performance senior, said she doesn't let holiday obligations add stress to finals season.

"I just wait to go home to buy my presents," she said. "I don't shop until I'm done with school."

The end of fall semester is more difficult to handle than the end of spring semester because of "family pressures," said Melissa Williams, an anthropology and political science sophomore.

The short Thanksgiving break makes it hard to get back in the finals mindset, Williams added.

"It's really stressful because kids leave at break to go home," she said. "Then they come back and they've got projects due. It's hard."

Drechsel, the anthropology graduate student, disagreed, saying the Thanksgiving break is a welcome reprieve before the last rush of work.

"I think of it as the final push that you have to do," she said. "It gives you a break, a little taste of freedom before you get to that long break."

Students should get a fall break like they do in spring to split up the semester, said David Nischwitz, a music performance graduate student.

"By the end of the [fall] semester you're completely worn out," he said. "You need a chance to breathe."

The holiday season is "all about the family," said Jon Miller, 28, of Mesa, as he looked up at fireworks exploding over Hayden Butte.

Miller brought his wife and 3-year-old son to the Tempe parade to get in the holiday spirit as early as possible, he said.

"You gotta make it last," he said. "Especially for the kids. You can never start too early."

Reach the reporter at: jonathan.cooper@asu.edu.



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