Northwestern students reflect on giving back during the holiday season

Rhys Halaby, Reporter

As snow begins to fall and the last leaves hit the ground, many store windows are also newly decked out with a surplus of clothes, toys and merchandise.  

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail spending totaled upwards of $886 million last year. Though several December holidays center on spending and gift giving, some Northwestern students said giving back to their communities is also a key part of their holiday traditions.

McCormick junior Dimitri Hatzisavas said his family emphasizes giving back during the holidays.

He celebrates Christmas for its religious significance, Hatzisavas said, and said giving is “part of the holiday.” 

“Knowing there are others less fortunate makes you want to give as well,” he said.

Hatzisavas said he has enjoyed contributing to local food pantries because of their outsized community impact. While pantries and soup kitchens are mostly focused on distributing food, he said they also provide shelter from the cold and serve as community events. For Medill freshman Natasha Marangu, Christmas is more about family. 

Marangu said Christmas is the only chance she gets to see her older brothers all together, so she loves surprising them with gifts. She also emphasized the importance of supporting local community.

“I also know this time of year … a lot of schools are asking for donations along with other companies, organizations and nonprofits,” Marangu said. “Especially when there are people who are doubling that money, I feel like it’s the best time to give.”

Spending time with loved ones is also a primary appeal of the holidays for Weinberg freshman Junho Son. His family does not typically exchange gifts and instead uses the days off to spend time together, Son said. While the tradition is less tangible than gift giving, he said it feels just as valuable.

An international student from Korea, Son said giving back is also part of the culture at home:  he’s used to seeing charity organizations campaign during the holiday season.

Son added that giving back can brighten the darkest part of the year for many people.

“It’s a culture…it became a tradition,” Son said of donating and giving back. “I participate in that, and doing so is another way to remember that there are less fortunate people than you are.”
Email: [email protected]

Related stories

NU student guide to volunteering this holiday season and in the new year

Upcoming Campus Events This Holiday Season

5 Christmas presents not to give