2016 ended with all sorts of surprises. A Christmas tree was nearly decapitated, a Christmas hamper has become nothing short of a life-saver  and an old-style ‘brown café’ transformed into a hipster hotspot.

In the Netherlands, politically incorrect citizens are claiming that their politically correct countrymen intend to replace Christmas with a ‘winter feast’. Which meant that Erasmus University was basically swimming against the tide in 2016: for the first time ever, the Plaza was graced with a large Christmas tree.

But of course, the tree did include a few ‘typically Erasmus’ peculiarities. For example, instead of messages for all mankind, people were invited to write a personal ambition of theirs on one of the acrylic glass balls decorating the tree. In addition, the tree was ‘sponsored’ by Erasmus School of Economics, which – according to the rather grandiloquent press release – was a ‘splendid example of partnership’. And the tree did in fact become a wonderful metaphor for this ‘great partnership’ between the University’s faculties and central management when its crown bent through during a late autumn storm. This nearly resulted in its 30-kilo star ornament crashing onto the yellow paving below.

This year a true spirit of camaraderie could be felt during the traditional dinner for international students. Some 80 students from 32 different countries came together at Grand Café De Dijk for a three-course dinner that helped dispel the loneliness felt spending Christmas away from their families. And even for those who don’t celebrate Christmas back home – like Sara Hannani from Iran, for example – it was a great occasion to get together with fellow students: after all, it sure beats staying at home alone in Rotterdam.

Another annual celebration of solidarity: the venerable tradition of grumbling about the Christmas hamper. To indulge people’s needs in this area, EM got together with seven other university magazines to compile a Top 8 ranking for academic Christmas hampers. And it turns out that EUR staff need not be envious. Many of their colleagues at other institutions in the country fare a lot worse: at Radboud University, for example, the staff don’t get anything, while at other institutions they were treated to a measly gift card. In Tilburg the staff got a nifty stool, though.

EUR staff member Tanja van der Brugge and her partner Armin Freundt showed that in some cases a Christmas hamper can be turned into something very useful. Kidney patient – and part-time MacGyver – Freundt converted the trolley included with last year’s Christmas hamper into a portable dialysis machine, complete with heating plates, a 12V socket plug and vents. The machine allows him to perform a dialysis en route, meaning that he is no longer forced to go home all the time.

We also received some sad news from the Executive Board: in December, Bart Straatman announced that he will be stepping down as of September 2017, for health reasons. The complaints he has been struggling with for some time now have become too demanding. While Straatman will continue to attend the meetings until September, the Board will arrange ‘back-up’ for the most important portfolios, meaning that other members can step in whenever required. Straatman joined the Executive Board in 2010.

6. Janneke
EM-vlogger Janneke Wagner.

In December we also said goodbye to our contributor Janneke Wagner, who has been vlogging for EM for the past two seasons. Janneke reported on her adventures as a student, first from the building of Erasmus University College, and then from Hong Kong. Several sun-drenched trips, a horse race, student parties, a Chinese street food test and many other great experiences later, Janneke has decided to retire her GoPro camera. Life as an exchange student is demanding enough as it is!

Over the Christmas holidays, the cosiest corner on campus quietly moved to a new location. You’ll no longer find the on-campus bar In de Smitse next to the escalators in the Mandeville Building, but on the ground floor of the Hatta Building. We’re not sure how quickly the barflies will be rerouting to Hatta, though, because the bar hasn’t just moved: they’ve also replaced the traditional ‘brown café’ deco with new hipster interior with a pronounced airspace vibe. However, management has promised EM they still won’t be serving slow-drip coffee. Now it’s up to the Smitse regulars to turn it into a grotty, worn-down dive bar again. We wouldn’t settle for anything less.