If you go to Mount Holyoke, then you hear the words “gracious dinner” and are immediately filled with anxiety and excitement. Will you get a table? Will there be good food? Is that Wok line worth waiting in? How much dessert can you possibly fit in your stomach? For some people, gracious dinners are overrated. There are the popular complaints: the lines are too long, the food isn’t all that great, and the dining hall is too loud. While some of my friends also hold these opinions, I personally love gracious dinners, craziness and all.
There is little else that brings our campus together as a whole quite like a gracious dinner. People camp out in Blanch before the doors lock at 4:00, spreading out their belongings and securing a table for their friends. Mobs form outside the doors to the dining hall in the style of a general admission concert queue, with everyone hoping that they arrived early enough to get in quick, snag a spot, and maybe not have to wait longer than 15 minutes in any given food line. Although the rush and the long lines for food may be slightly annoying when you’re hungry and tired, there is a certain exhilaration and joy that accompanies waiting for food and speed walking across the dining hall. My group chat is filled with messages about where our table is, whose stuff is thrown across the table, what lines are worth the wait, and which food is at what station. There is frantic waving and short conversations as we pass each other in the chaotic dining hall, smiles pulling at the corners of our mouths as we take in the energy filling the dining hall.
Once we complete our multiple trips around the dining hall, arrange our many dishes on the table, and finally sit down to eat, it’s like a big family dinner. The November gracious dinner this year was one of the first times that our whole friend group made it to a meal at the same time. For the only time this semester, no one looked at their phones a single time – everyone was immersed in the conversation, laughing and yelling together. No one was left out of the discussion, no one felt the need to mindlessly scroll on social media while others chatted, and no one wanted to head out early. Those who arrived in a bad mood were cheered up, and those who thought their moods couldn’t get any better were proved wrong. We stayed for almost two hours, cracking jokes and enjoying each others’ presence. Even though it was just an overrated, stressful dinner with a fancy title for some people, for my friends and me it was a night of face-splitting smiles and bellyache-inducing laughter, with some good food and delicious dessert as an added perk.
Gracious dinners are special efforts that the college makes to spice up the menu, celebrate the holidays, and bring people together. Although they’re far from perfect, I would have to say that I think the benefits outweigh the downsides. They create a sense of community and excitement throughout campus, bring friends together, and inspire conversation. I’m grateful for our gracious dinners, from looking forward to seeing my friends to getting sick off carbs and sugar. I look forward to gracious dinners and I hope that they continue long into the future so all generations of Mount Holyoke students can experience the magic.
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