A walk around Isla Vista during the month of December reveals the community glowing under holiday lights and decorations. From the shining Christmas tree on Embarcadero del Norte and Pardall Road to the cozy string lights in Woodstock’s Pizza to Delta Tau Delta’s inflatable Santas, these annual decorations never fail to spark excitement for students. 

Despite the gloomy weather settling in, seeing the warm glow of menorahs, kinaras and string lights fill us with warmth and comfort. What about holiday lights bring so much joy? 

One possible explanation is chromotherapy, or color therapy, which is the use of colored light to improve mental health and mood. Color therapy is based on the assumption that exposure to different colors results in different health outcomes. For example, red light is thought to energize and green light is thought to relieve stress. Although opposite in their benefits, both colors work in harmony to help its viewers refresh and relax. This color combination not only makes for a festive garland but also creates a mood-boosting cocktail of colors. 

Alternatively, psychologists suggest a deviation from the everyday routine may also signal a positive neurological shift. Whether it be picking up a new holiday drink, setting up holiday decor or lighting the kinara, this special month of festivities can improve cognitive abilities, alleviate anxiety and prevent burnout — fortunately coming at a time when college students are running on two hours of sleep and a Red Bull. 

But perhaps the most reasonable explanation is nostalgia. Holiday decorations spark so much joy because of the fond memories we attach to them: homework-free nights snuggling under a warm blanket with a steaming mug of hot chocolate in your childhood home while surrounded by the soft yellow glow of the menorah or stockings lining the fireplace and your favorite Christmas movie playing in the background. As you reunite with family and loved ones, life’s stressors seem to be put on pause until after the new year. Even if the Thanksgiving turkey has just barely cooled, catching a glimpse of any set of holiday lights means those blissful weeks of break and family and friends are here. 

Cozy Christmas decor at Woodstock’s Pizza. SHIUAN CHENG / DAILY NEXUS

Festive holiday lights in Anisq’Oyo park. SHIUAN CHENG / DAILY NEXUS

Delta Tau Delta fraternity’s decorations light up Pardall. SHIUAN CHENG / DAILY NEXUS.

Camino Real Marketplace’s impressive Christmas tree. SHIUAN CHENG / DAILY NEXUS.