Holiday connection: Archer community celebrates annual Winter Wonderland

Students+participate+in+the+gingerbread+house+decorating+contest+in+the+courtyard+for+Winter+Wonderland.+Four+students+from+each+grade+competed+for+spirit+points+and+the+junior+class+won+first+place.

Photo credit: Lizette Gonzalez

Students participate in the gingerbread house decorating contest in the courtyard for Winter Wonderland. Four students from each grade competed for spirit points and the junior class won first place.

By Lizette Gonzalez, Senior Reporter

Hot chocolate, latkes, ugly holiday sweaters, pleated skirts and deans in wrapping paper. Archer’s one-of-a-kind Winter Wonderland celebration returned to the courtyard on Friday, Dec. 10.

Winter Wonderland is an annual community celebration before students, faculty and staff head into the two-week Winter Break. Student Body President Langdon Janos said that she hopes students take time to enjoy the cheer that comes with this event.

“This semester has been tough because although being back on campus has been amazing, it’s been a tough transition going from a completely remote year to a completely in-person year,” Janos said. “We wanted this event to give people a chance to relax and enjoy and have that competitive Archer spirit back.”

This year, the Winter Wonderland event had two main activities: the traditional gingerbread house decorating contest and a new competition where each grade wrapped their class dean in wrapping paper. The junior class won the gingerbread decorating contest, and the eighth grade won the dean-wrapping contest.

Tables offering latkes and hot chocolate to students were arranged in the courtyard per tradition. The latkes were made fresh by student council representatives. Students were encouraged to bring in their own mugs for hot chocolate to earn spirit points.

“I’ve learned that with Winter Wonderland, [Archer] tries to bring in different cultural aspects of people’s holidays,” student council advisor and Dean of Student Life, Equity and Inclusion Samantha Hazell-O’Brien said. “Here it’s tradition to have latkes, so the students were telling me that they really try to honor the source of latkes. I was also informed that we do carols and have students from choir sing carols from different holidays associated in the winter season.”

Student council members spent two weeks preparing for this event. During Winter Wonderland, each student council member was assigned a contest or booth to oversee. For junior class representative Alyssa Ponrartana, this was her first Winter Wonderland as a StucCo member.

“As a class rep, I was able to see everything that goes into planning events like Winter Wonderland,” Ponrartana said. “I now have more appreciation [for] each little holiday and the connection that we have because of them. I now understand why student involvement is so important for every event.”

This event just brings out community, celebration and so much joy.”

— Lily Guggenheim ('23)

Junior Lily Guggenheim said that she enjoys Winter Wonderland because of all the memories that she has from past years.

“My first Winter Wonderland was so amazing. I still have the photos of my friends and I,” Guggenheim said. “I missed it last year. I love the hot cocoa and latkes and waiting in line for them with friends and music in the background.”

Sophomore representative Amelia Hines said that she loves the sense of community this event promotes.

“I love [how] everyone is able to be in the courtyard and in one central spot,” Hines said. “There [were] so many stations and I loved seeing everyone decked out in their holiday gear.”

Hines said there was an added emphasis on having the event be more inclusive and one that can unite the community after being remote last year.

“We did a lot of activities that aren’t specifically just Christmas-related. It was important for us to do that,” Hines said. “This year, so many people were excited to be here because previous Winter Wonderlands were cancelled for fires or for COVID, so there was an extra sense of joy to be here again with one another.”

The celebration fell a week before upper school final exams and before the end of first semester. Hazell-O’Brien said that she hopes students found time to have fun and be in the community during this celebration.

“Our goal for this event was to have a fun time because we’re finding the timing of Winter Wonderland [to be] right before the end of the semester — everyone is looking for fun,” Hazell-O’Brien said. “[Another goal was] to build community and show these different cultural elements for people to learn and engage in a way that is still authentic.”