Christmas Story Collection from Pen’s Den

Trinity Hall’s Literary Magazine, Pen’s Den presents their first-ever Christmas Story Collection.  Every week, Pen’s Den’s resident writers will be adding to a Christmas narrative. Visit this page every week to see the newest addition to the narrative below! 

Entry #1
Written by Annaliese Heidelberger ‘22


Louisa was not someone who could be considered highly sentimental about the winter holidays. During a typical school year, she looked forward to going home to see her family. She was by no means opposed to participating in the regimental Christmas traditions, however, she struggled to emulate the over-the-top light and cheeriness the holiday was meant to inspire. In a way, she was glad her study abroad prevented her from returning home for the holidays. Embroiled in the infamously arduous third year of her college studies, Louisa could think only of the intense anxiety being away from her work would induce. And while she would yearn for the laughter and support of her family, she felt relieved to dodge pervasive questions about her future, the obligatory watching of a Hallmark marathon, and the glaring inability to fill the space left by loved ones who could no longer sit at the long, scorched marked table. Besides, she was ensnared by the unexpected beauty of a winter in Boston. The firm crunch of the snow beneath her boots was satisfying as she trudged from class to class, sun reflecting off the broad windows of the modern buildings. Throughout her life, Louisa had never felt tethered to anywhere. Her parents did not define “home” as a place and frequently whisked their family off in pursuit of unique opportunities. And for this, she was grateful as it allowed her to see the world, yet at the same time a sense of community and heritage alluded her. Strangely, she felt more grounded in the lively and chaotic heart of the city than she ever had in a quaint English suburb or warm sparkling island. Perhaps, it was the desire to fill the gap in her identity and embrace her energetic surroundings that the idea first entered her head. Or perhaps more likely, she was in the middle of her second class of the day and her thoughts were clouded by hunger-induced daydreams of holiday foods. Whatever the true motivation, Louisa found herself moving swiftly in the direction of the Library to retrieve her freshly minted flyers she had eagerly designed. For the better part of an hour, she plastered every common space and hall she encountered with her eye-catching work. Contented, Louisa turned her back to the last shiny scrap of paper and stalked off to her apartment.


Winter Holiday Celebration in the Quad!


Come to enjoy music and food!


Please bring a dish that you enjoy and want to share.




Entry #2

Written by Fiona O'Brien '23


Merril strode down the walkways of her college campus heading to the library holding the gratitude Holiday card she was about to give to the librarian. She had already completely given all of the college staff their warm Holiday card displaying how grateful she was for them. As she walked down the path she admired the bare trees. It reminded her of the yearnful days looking at the colorless trees out her orphanage window. Merril’s holidays as a child have always been a lonesome season. Outside of her orphanage she heard the carols of cheerful children and she always wished to be a part of something as joyful as that! Ever since she has gotten admitted to college to pursue an education she has been given so many opportunities to spread the holiday cheer she always wanted! Merril’s favorite Christmas tradition is to spread holiday cheer to everyone throughout with acts of service and kindness. When she arrived at the library she handed the card to the librarian and the smile that showed upon his face fulfilled Merrill with an abundance of joy. As she walked back to the library doors to exit she noticed a festive flyer posted on the bulletin board. 


Winter Holiday Celebration in the Quad!


Come to  enjoy music and food!


Please bring a dish that you enjoy and want to share.


“Wow” she thought. “I’ve never been to a holiday celebration like this. I mean I've been to Holiday food drives and Christmas caroling for the less fortunate but never an actual Holiday celebration! This is so exciting!” She had the instant thought to bring lyrics of her favorite Holiday songs that she had sung to the less fortunate to the celebration! She decided to turn back around into the library and start printing! As she was printing out her song lyrics she contemplated, “well what kind of food do I bring?”. When Merril was in her dormitory later that night she saw a jello commercial with the characters from the movie “Elf”. The jingle “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear” appeared across the JELLO packaging on the television screen. That was it! She knew exactly what tasty snack to bring.


Entry #3

Written by Roselyn Jose-Ruiz '22

Lupita stared down at her cup of hot chocolate and drowned out the noise of students singing along to All I Want for Christmas is You. They all went feral for that song; Lupita always thought it was a fun song but she’d just hum or sing quietly to herself. This was her first holiday season away from her friends and family in Oaxaca, Mexico, and she was feeling homesick. This time last year she was helping her mamá prepare for the day of La Virgen de Guadalupe by making tamales for the neighbors, all while drinking her cup of warm, thick, cinnamon and chocolate champurrado. Now here she was, clutching onto her warm paper cup and deciding she really doesn’t like the taste of marshmallows in her drink. The holiday season culture in America was very different from her village and she didn’t know what to make of it. Everyone was laughing and doing silly little dances with friends and taking pictures in front of the grandiose Christmas tree that the university was able to bring in. “What am I doing here?” she asked herself as her heart started to race, noises muffled, and lights became blurred. Was it a mistake to come here? The poster she saw earlier made it seem like she’d get to take a mental break from all her nerves.

Winter Holiday Celebration in the Quad!

Come to enjoy music and food!

Please bring a dish that you enjoy and want to share.

She dedicated her entire life to studying to get into a prestigious university, and she was awarded a scholarship for a study abroad program in Boston. ¡Échale ganas!” her village cheered when she drove off to the airport—to a new chapter of her life. She called her house just before coming here and she talked with her abuelita who tried suggesting what foods to bring to the party. That was when she settled on bringing her family’s hot chocolate recipe; the same hot chocolate she held that was soiled with marshmallows. Her abuelita could sense that she was feeling lonely and so she tried to assure her that she was so proud of all of her for pursuing her dreams and to embrace the festivities her school offered. Lupita smiled as she remembered this and she took a chug of her hot chocolate. Her abuelita was right; she decided then and there that she wasn't going to restrict herself to a small box. She was going to explore and try out everything. She found a group of friends from her sociology class that she was supposed to meet up with and so she ran to them, almost spilling her drink. They hugged and gathered around the tree to take a picture. Lupita looked around at the warm and bright lights and she couldn’t tell if the goosebumps were from the cold or pure excitement. She’d definitely bring some pan dulce and champurrado to share for her next adventure.

Entry #4

Written by Alex Talamayan '22


Lea had always envisioned the day of her “first snow” with her pamilya, never once thinking about the possibility of being the only one to lie in the powdered snow of Boston. Her lonely three months in Boston had been nothing short of exhausting. She had quite the cultural shock regarding the shortness of an American Christmas. Thus, her homesickness only grew with how she missed hearing a random Maligayang Pasko in the middle of September in her hometown of Marikina. As Lea yearned for the familiarity of home, she realized she was still lying in the frigid cold with ungloved fingers. 

“Brrrrr…” Shivering was a sensation she never really experienced. Her eyes lit up with curiosity before it was quickly  drowned out by the discomfort of the weather. “Brrrr….” Luckily, she remembered her friend had bought her a pair of heavy duty gloves, now stashed in her coat’s side pocket. She quickly shoved them on when she received a picture message from her mother. With the gloves already on, Lea went through her phone using the tip of her nose until she could clearly see the message. The message read: “Jacob drew for the first time. He asked his teacher to help him make a snow angel so you could make a real one in Boston.”

As Lea began to mass-produce snow angels to curate the perfect one, she thought to herself of how lost her kapatid were without their eldest sister. She especially missed the sound of their affectionate calling of her name as “Ate Lea” whenever she became perplexed at how her roommate called her mother “Jess” in a sarcastic tone every Tuesday morning. Around this time of year, she would have crafted parols, assembled the belen, and attended Simbang Gabi. Her friends would have dragged her to carol, by now, for a few pesos to spend on random knick knacks at the mall. There was so much Lea was missing. Nonetheless, the cost of plane tickets and her finals had left her stranded in Boston for the holiday season.

Despite her missed chance to go home, she remembered how fortunate she was to study abroad. Her mother had dreamed of a life in the United States for her, ever since she had watched teleseryes about the opportunities beyond the islands of the Philippines. Lea had known her mother’s wishes from a young age. However, her vision of her life in America was more of an idolization of Lea Salonga, in the hopes of also becoming a Broadway star. This was wishful thinking, at least in Lea’s present state, since her study abroad program took her to Boston instead of New York City. 

A gust of wind later disrupted Lea’s thoughts, reminding her of her eager brother waiting for a remake of his masterpiece. Approximately thirty snow angels later, she had finally crafted a singular, un-misshapen winged being. The wind, once again, interrupted Lea’s joy when it ruined the wings of her snow angel and tossed a random flyer onto its remains.

Winter Holiday Celebration in the Quad!

Come to enjoy music and food!

Please bring a dish that you enjoy and want to share.

Although Lea had wanted to rip the flyer out of frustration for the death of her snow angel, she was delighted at the possibility of having a piece of home to share with others. Choosing her dish would be thankfully less time-consuming than her terrible snow sculpting. Chicken adobo was her go-to meal  at home, obviously with multiple rice paddle servings of white rice. Plus, Lea figured that, if Bruno Mars and the Try Guys enjoyed chicken adobo, everyone would. 



Entry #5

Written by Hannah Bates '22


A kind friend might have called Louisa’s decorations festive. An honest one would have laughed her all the way back to her dorm room. After countless hours of trying to come up with some clever way to stretch her college student budget into enough for a Holiday feast, Louisa recognized she lacked a few rather important items: primarily, a stove, oven,  and most essential cooking supplies. Which only slightly overshadowed her overall lack of ability to actually cook any of the dishes in her imagined Winter feast. So in the end, Louisa decided to pick up a pre-made rotisserie Chicken, some rolls, and a few Christmas cookies from the grocery store. Before attempting to make up for her less than homemade dinner with her decorations. 

And so Louisa set herself to work making paper snowflakes and hanging up extra fairy lights that her roommate had left behind. She carefully cut and hung all of her designs. And just as the party was about to begin Louisa took a step back to admire her handy work, and collapsed on the floor laughing. The common room was far from the winter wonderland she had intended: a grand total of ten snowflakes hung from the ceiling and not even 3 different candles could totally mask the odd smell that stuck to the carpets. But despite a now aching pain from both hours of decorating and all her laughter, Louisa was proud of her Wintery disaster. While not quite as beautiful or homey as Christmas might have been with her family, the decorations are just crooked enough to be charming and remind her of the decorations she and her siblings made in her younger years.

“Hello?” a voice called out interrupting Louisa’s fit of laughter. 

“Yes!” Louisa said, popping up from the floor.

“Is this the Holiday party?” said an unsure Merril Anderson clutching a rather wobbly tower of jello.

“Yes it is! I know it isn’t much but I thought better than nothing right” ushered Louisa.

“I think it’s great,” said Merril, smiling. 

After Merril, came a few others and then Lupita, with her homemade hot chocolate.

“That looks really good,” said Louisa.

“Family Recipe” Lupita said smiling. 

“ I can tell, it smells great,” added Merril. “I actually might have some marshmallows in my…”

“It's actually better without it!” Lupita interrupted. “Just trust me on that one”

After a few more stragglers had found their way to the common room Lea was the last to arrive armed with a massive tupperware filled with a beautiful Chicken Adobo

“ Where did you get that?” asked Louisa.

“ I have my ways,” laughed Lea.

And just like that the party was well on its way, and while the potluck feast only stood untouched for a matter of minutes it was surprisingly impressive. And as good food always does, it brought people together. Everyone agreed that Lupita had made the best hot chocolate or champurrado they had ever tasted.  Louisa and Lea were swapping Christmas stories. And somehow Merril had hooked everyone on Christmas jello of all things.  Despite a less than ideal situation for many, the Common Room Holiday Party managed to help everyone find a bit of home away from home.



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