As universities empty of staff and students for the Christmas break, one group is often left behind.
For some international students, the festival has little traditional relevance, and flight costs mean they often stay in university accommodation over the holiday.
To make them feel more welcome at a time when their families might be thousands of miles away, Chris Brink, vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, hosts a turkey lunch for about 100 international students every Christmas Day.
“I was an international student and, particularly if you come from the southern hemisphere, it can be a bit bleak [being here over Christmas],” said Professor Brink.
“If you have students who can’t go home – China is a long way away – it seems a reasonable thing to do,” he added. “Free food is always a wonderful thing for students.”
Professor Brink’s house being too small for such an occasion, the lunch, as in previous years, will be held in a local church hall.
The food is cooked and served largely by Newcastle staff volunteers, some retired, as Professor Brink said he was “not sure” that he was “competent to carve a turkey for 100 people”.
The lunch is one way in which universities can keep their international students happy during the Christmas period. Newcastle and Northumbria universities have produced a guide to Christmas for overseas (and home) students who will spend the holiday period in Newcastle.
Through the two institutions, students can arrange to see a “traditional British pantomime”, Jack and the Beanstalk, and can learn how to “wrap like a professional” at a gift-wrapping session.
Also on offer is entertainment not specific to the holidays: students can buy tickets to see Newcastle United Football Club play Stoke City and Arsenal on 26 and 29 December, respectively.
And the students’ union is hosting a four-hour “Xmas Movie Marathon” of back-to-back Christmas films on 2 January.
The guide also explains certain traditions, such as the Queen’s Christmas Day address to the nation, which will be screened at Professor Brink’s lunch.
“In the past, many families would sit down together to hear what she had to say, but this tradition has decreased over the years,” it says.
The guide directs students to carol services and a Pagan Yule festival. But it also offers a final page of insurance warnings, including, “if, as a student, you choose to take your spouse or children to an event, you do so at your own risk”.