Christmas–even in medical school, Christmas is the season of joy, laughter, company and parties. Regardless of which religion you find yourself affiliated with, Christmas is a celebratory event in St Luke’s. Every year, the first years spearhead the organization of the school-wide Christmas party meant to foster camaraderie through festivities.

What started out as a simple tradition, however, has turned into an elaborate effort to impress. From their entry into St Luke’s, the first years are immersed in preparations. The vice president’s primary role is to head the arrangements; committees are formed to aid in the effort; a budget plan is devised; lengthy class meetings are held; money is shelled out; decorations are constructed; deadlines are set; each batchmate is required to participate in the name of solidarity—all with the unspoken expectation that the party must equal, if not best, the merriment of the previous Christmas.

There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark, friends.

At best, first years are made to spend precious time to plan for a single night’s festivities instead of being more productive—studying more for exams, spending time with family, getting to know other schoolmates, figuring out what they want to do with their lives during/after/in spite of medical school. More often than not, the words, “med students ba tayo?” have been uttered by confused first years in an attempt to understand why they’re selling pastries during breaks instead of reading for the next lecture. The confusion turns to frustration when students traverse to Timog in search of a party venue, or spend the days before exams calling companies for sponsorships, or spend the nights before exams making posters and organising publicity photoshoots.

At worst, the efforts to prepare for a large scale party can take its toll. Twenty-four hours in a day don’t seem like enough time to balance the necessary and the luxury. Compounding the stress of medicine with the stress of preparing for the event is not something we should just shrug off as something first years can balance.  In fact, preparations may take precious time away from students who need some R&R. Amid adjusting to the trials of medical school, the first years are coerced to cooperate in this elaborate class production whose meaning is perhaps already lost in the middle of the noise.

Furthermore, when valid concerns are raised with members of the upper class, their response (though sympathetic) is almost unanimous: “we went through the same thing, so you guys can get it done as well.” In other words, it has become a rite of passage. Here’s some of the things that may help to balance perspectives regarding the Christmas Party – and this applies to all members of the SLCM family, from the administration, upperclassmen, and to the incoming second year students who will be the next leaders of our school.

  1. The challenge to the student council and the upperclassmen is to refocus the image of the Christmas party as a less burdensome task to bear by (a) encouraging simpler tastes in venue and theme without sacrificing fun, and (b) requiring all first to third year batches to have committee roles in the organizing process whether it be promotion, food, finance, or what-not. A concrete step would be: don’t push the burden as early as FOP and making it look like it is, indeed, a sort of rite of passage.
  2. An improved system of generating monetary requirement to cover expenses. Equalize the burden by rendering all parties that will benefit more actively accountable in the expenditures. Furthermore, part of the SC’s encouragement to do a simpler party is to reduce the exorbitant expenses made just to organize a school-wide Christmas party (six figures is too much for mere students!). A suggestion would be: do it within the SLCM building instead just like the Halloween party, FOP, and other school events. This is where creativity plays a bigger role than having bigger pockets!
  3. Emphasize more on the batch presentations and free-mingling over unnecessary gloss and luxury that is intended to attract attendance – let them come because members of their batch directly participated in the organizing process.
  4. The equity of task distribution + a simpler overall structure will provide a leeway for the SC committees to lead the way in making this a one-shot event for massive school bonding. One aspect to do this is to let the Outreach Committee rebrand the Christmas party as an event for a specific cause. It is Christmas after all and it is only appropriate given the recent slew of natural disasters plaguing our country. Furthermore, it will help attract sponsors for their corporate social responsibility. Why not try making this more oriented to the season of giving?

The Christmas party isn’t merely an issue of how first years deal with the unjust load of party preparations. It is an issue of how St Luke’s College of Medicine as a community looks at a single momentary event. Perhaps it is time for us to re-evaluate the way we celebrate Christmas collectively. There is, after all, no time like the present.