Eduvation Blog

Post-Covid Christmas

The 2022 Holiday Special!

As my annual gift to friends and colleagues in the sector, I review hundreds of higher ed holiday greeting videos from around the world, and compile notable highlights in either a full-fledged hour-long Ten with Ken Holiday Special or at least a blog. (The video special is a lot more fun, but it takes weeks to produce and so has always been based on the preceding year’s crop of videos.) Most years I wind up with about 350 holiday videos, and so far I’ve added 260 to my 2022 Holiday Videos playlist (and counting). Here, I’ll highlight the top 40 vids on my list, arranged in thematic order rather than a strict countdown. (If you’d rather watch them in one continuous playlist, without my commentary, here’s my “Top 40” playlist on YouTube.)


Traditional Favourites 

Suffice it to say all the traditional genres are back this year: presidential “talking head” videos, animated greeting cards, renditions of campus in gingerbread, multilingual holiday “shout-out” vids, compilations of “holiday Q&As,” mascots handing out munchies, campus bands and choirs performing holiday music, lip-syncs to Mariah Carey, parodies of The Grinch and Love Actually, and of course infinite variations on ‘Twas the Night before… something. Management schools have tried to improve Santa’s business model, and Marcom departments have self-reflexively considered the challenges of creating a holiday video to satisfy everyone. And of course, there are always plentiful snow effects, adorable puppies, and smiling childrenthrown in for “feels.” MIT launched an aerial display of drones, and Gettysburg College 3D-printed a snowglobe of campus.

For our first post-COVID Christmas, seasonal spirit seems to be back!


The holidays don’t get much more traditional than “Oxmas” at Oxford University, and this 60-sec vid nicely, wordlessly, captures the magic of the season on one of the most iconic campuses in the world. Over a haunting choir, we see students decorating, cooking and donning gay apparel to celebrate Christmas and Hannukah.


Peaceful Wishes

Some of this year’s best vids took a low-key, more thoughtful approach than many of the others, and somehow that really resonated with me…


University of Waterloo president Vivek Goel took a unique approach to his holiday greeting video, sitting down with Savanah Seaton to discuss the significance of the winter solstice to Indigenous peoples. In this time of darkness, humanity has always taken consolation in the knowledge that brighter days are ahead.


Toronto Metropolitan University president Mohamed Lachemi’s holiday greeting video doesn’t include him at all, but is a unique, intimate study of an unseen artist painting a portrait of campus in winter. (Several other PSE vids showcase alumni creating institutional greeting cards, but this one is quite different.) The repercussions of a year grappling with Indigenous reconciliation at TMU seem evident: “As we form our vision and define our values, that’s when we begin building, sculpting, crafting and shaping.” (It’s SO low-key you’ll need to turn the volume way up to hear it.)


Bangor University (Wales) goes “all in” on childlike wonder at the holidays, in this cinematic 3-min vid that depicts the magical fulfilment of a young girl’s wish to Santa that “everybody… have a magical Christmas.” She and her brother discover a magical box on their doorstep, and trot through the campus sharing token gifts of joy. (The emotional payoff comes toward the end, so stick with it.) Outstanding production values and some charming little actors make this vid work – and the behind-the-scenes outtakes video makes it clear, that didn’t happen without patience and persistence! (If I were ranking vids this year, this is a strong contender for best in show.)


Shout-Outs & Quick-Takes

For holiday greeting videos, a perennial favourite approach is the campus “intercept” (clips of staff and students answering a quick question) or holiday “shout-outs” (sharing multilingual greetings). Rather than a single “talking head,” these vids engage a broader sampling of the campus community, reflecting linguistic and cultural diversity and permitting recognition of plenty of holiday traditions beyond Christmas and Hannukah. Here are a few of the year’s best examples…


Texas A&M University College of Engineering produced a slick 3-min vid asking “What was your Inspiration in 2022?” Their answers are upbeat and heartfelt, focusing on friends, family, fellow students, and faculty.


George Mason University asked students and staff what they’re thankful for this year, what they’re doing over winter break, and their one wish for 2023. The 1-min vid demonstrates some tight editing, good sound bites, and very colourful background visuals. (GMU has at least one more episode of Campus Quick Takeswithout the visual effects, too.)


Kennesaw State University (Georgia) makes up for a lack of snow with plenty of seasonal sweaters and props, as an energetic student asks “owls” across campus about their favourite holiday songs, foods, and traditions. After a few words from president Kathy Schwaig, we get a series of holiday greeting shout-outs (almost unanimously “happy holidays” in English, with one “Feliz Navidad” thrown in for diversity).


Western University president Alan Shepard opens and closes this year’s vid with his golden retriever Meisha, but largely the 3 minutes are spent with “our diverse community of students, faculty, staff and alumni.” Quick takes address what makes the holiday most special (including board games, cookies, and plenty of seasonal movies), and wishes for the new year – from health and happiness and passing exams, to wishes that 2023 will be “an uneventful year” and “our first normal year in a quite a while.” Then we get a series of multilingual holiday shout-outs – winding up with Meisha’s own. As always, Western has slick production quality, tight editing, and enthusiastic, genuine clips. (This vid nicely epitomizes the best of this category.)


Visions of Sugar Cookies

For many people heading home for the winter break, the holidays are all about “Season’s Eatings,” traditional home-cooked feasts and sugary treats, including gingerbread houses, candy canes and chocolate. This year, it would seem that visions of sugar cookies were dancing in many video producers’ heads. George Brown College president Gervan Fearon baked soft gingerbread cookies with baking and pastry arts student Raziya in this comparatively serious 5-min demo video. New Brunswick Community College culinary arts student Chanelle Belliveau coached manager of student recruitment Mike Wright through a “Holiday Bake Off” making simple sugar cookies in a 12-min vid (that includes asides on Belliveau’s experiences in the NBCC program).


Mount Royal University president Tim Rahilly and mascot Calvin the Cougar “attempt to make sugar cookies together” in a messy 3-min baking vid. “We’re going to have fun, that’s the important thing,” says Tim, ever the good sport. Calvin’s paws sure make things more difficult than you would expect.


University of Alabama mascot Big Al makes an even bigger mess in the kitchen in his solo 2-min baking adventure. More eggs hit the floor than the bowl, and an elephantine “pinch” of salt looks massive. Then to top it all off, the cookies catch fire in the oven! (That mascot costume will definitely need a thorough dry cleaning.) “There’s something magical about the holiday traditions, even when sometimes you just have to roll with it.” Roll Tidings!


Digital Repercussions

This year, quite a few PSE vids began with email or text message exchanges, perhaps echoing the past two years of virtual interaction by memo. York University president Rhonda Lenton starts a cascade of text messages across campus that culminate in a gathering on campus for cookies and hot chocolate. Rice University’s slick 2.5-min vid includes plenty of selfies as well.


The central motif of Saint Louis University’s vid is a sequence of holiday selfies, passed along between students and staff. The cinematography is polished and dynamic, although you’ll have to turn up the volume to enjoy the soundtrack.


Fleming College takes the popular “rally to a group photo” theme to a new level with a series of voice-to-text errors that create seasonal confusion and chaos. This year’s crop also featured a lot of shared selfies.


Sounds of the Season

Every December, scores of educational institutions release videos of school choirs, bands and orchestras performing traditional Christmas carols. Many of these recordings are of middling audio or visual quality, recorded in quads or lobbies with poor acoustics, and most run anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours in length. Mohawk College always releases memorable animated greeting cards with original musical performances recorded at Grant Avenue Studios in Hamilton. (Most years, I find the behind-the-scenes vids at least as interesting as the card itself.) University of New Brunswick deserves mention for a polished 1-min rendition of “Let It Snow” performed outdoors (in what might be simulated snow) by 9 music profs, grads, and a musician in residence. Here are a few more…


Southern Connecticut State University students sing an uplifting version of “Our Favourite Things,” on a dreary snow day. The lyrics celebrate campus eateries and shows, new nursing labs, campus police dogs, and more. “When the snow falls, when it’s raining, when I run late for class… I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.”


Clackamas Community College students deserve mention for a 3-min rendition of “Walking in a Winter Cougie-Land.” “School bells ring, are you listening… In the plaza we can build a snowman, and pretend that he is president Cook… To face unafraid, the papers to grade…” etc.


Emerson College did a beautiful job with this acapella rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke,” beneath complex edits and visuals depicting student creativity in fashion design, poetry, photography, broadcasting, theatre performance, and basketball. Solid production values, although it doesn’t really feel all that specific to the holidays.


NSCG Newcastle College staff and students produced an elaborate, enthusiastic 6-min extended lipsync vid set to *NSYNC’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.” This NSCG NSYNC performance is framed by the story of “a poor unsuspecting student” who gets trapped in a classic 90s music video – in staticky 4:3 VHS no less – thanks to “a mystical CD player.” (He first rejects Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas,” which many other PSEs did not.) There are plenty of ugly Christmas sweaters, conga lines, wild camera angles and 90s fashions – but somehow I suspect that, like me, the profs know the music better than the students do… but they all look like they’re having great fun!


University of Tennessee at Martin chancellor Keith Carver has been a recurrent favourite in this holiday roundup, and this year he teams up with students, faculty, and staff for 6 minutes of remarkably tone-deaf holiday carols. From the tuning whistle, to the kazoos and xylophone, with a few exceptions musical talent clearly takes a back seat with this crew to enthusiastic fun. (And OMG the outfits!)



Since time immemorial, at the winter solstice humans have gathered around the flickering flames of campfires, candelabra, and Christmas lights to preserve some symbolic light in the darkness. In recent years, I’ve noticed PSE holiday vids have increasingly featured luminaria as well – cut or decorated bags lit by candles, and sometimes suspended beneath balloons.


Penn State Harrisburg uses luminaria as a metaphor: “education is the light that lets us see the universe in a better way.


MarCom Reflections

Over the years I’ve seen plenty of PSE holiday vids that focus on the challenge marcom departments face, creating a video to satisfy all stakeholders every year…


Camosun College’s “Holiday Video Committee” takes us through 3 mins of deliberation about the subject, president Lane Trotter, in a variety of awkward poses, settings and outfits, with the requisite (stuffed) dog, fireplace, and snow (yes, indoors). Ultimately, Lane seems to have taken matters into his own hands in a much more traditional way.


Mascots & ‘Ministrators

Presidents and provosts have to maintain a professional tone in most of their public communications, but fuzzy campus athletics mascots have no such constraints. Plenty of vids this month have brought the two together…


University of Stirling mascot Stirling Squirrel has topped my annual roundups several times in the past, and again puts in a solid performance in this beautifully-produced 3-min “Christmas Surprise.” Inspired by Elf, he sneaks around campus adding tons of holiday cheer – and astounding student and staff. (He even dresses as Santa to delight the youngsters.)


St Lawrence College president Glenn Vollebregt gives me a “Home Alone” vibe as he pursues the elusive Surge mascot, “Storm,” across campus, through a mysterious door, and into a scrapbook-style year-in-review. Slickly produced and some nice special effects – and as always, Glenn is a great sport!


Regis University interim president Cody Teets ostensibly dons the fox mascot costume to share an inside look at the student experience in a “Tail of Gold, Frankincense and Fur.” (Somehow I doubt the president did all of the energetic acrobatics throughout the video, though.)


University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee mascot Pounce the Panther warns against “Holiday Faux Paws” like mistaking the party address, leaving shopping until the last minute, and not prepping your dish ahead of time. (Chancellor Mark Mone, though, makes the mistake of regifting Pounce’s present from 2021!)


Hamilton College president David Wippman goes “Time-Travelling for [his] Year-End Message,” de-aging and exploring campus as a not-quite-believable teenager again (by clicking together the heels of his bright red sneakers). Students across campus are clearly amused by his odd wig and teen attire, and puzzled by his fondness for playing “Pong.” (No, not “beer pong.”)


Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis has 2 Jaguar mascots, Jawz and Jazzy (not counting a historical one named Jinx). This year’s IUPUI holiday vid is a not-particularly-funny comedy of errors, as Jawz attempts to send a greeting card to interim chancellor Andrew Klein via a chain of students who ask each other to “give this to Klein.” (The vid seems to be an excuse to showcase some new campus landmarks in each scene.)


Fordham University (NY) mascot Ramses and “first dog” Archie star in this retelling of O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi,” sacrificing their own treasured possessions in order to buy each other gifts. Ultimately, of course, they realize “it wasn’t the material things that mattered; it was their love for each other.” The vid is polished and features some decent acting (well, from the dog at least), but the brief behind-the-scenes vid makes it clear that Archie isn’t always a consummate professional. “Don’t eat the hat!”


Canine Christmases

Campus “first dogs” and working dogs feature in plenty of vids this year, including those mentioned above from Western and Fordham. For the dog lovers out there (you know who you are) here are a few other notable examples…


Marquette University (WI) campus police dog “Blue” is roused in his pyjamas to suit up in festive colours and jingling bells, to distribute candy canes across campus in this cute 2-min vid. (Blue seems to charm even the campus delivery bot.)


University of Connecticut mascot Jonathan the Husky has featured in many #ICYMI vids over the years, and this year’s outing is a simple one as he tours a drive-through festival of holiday lights (cheered on by some canine companions). It’s slick and cute, though not as impressive as previous vids like the pre-pandemic “Legend of Jonathan.”


Johns Hopkins University demonstrates that even a finals study break can be livened up by adding first dog Barney. Like the movie Die Hard, it’s only incidentally about the holidays – but if you love dogs and donut porn, check out “Woof Down Some Donuts.”


‘Twas the Night Before

This time of year, even folks who have no patience for poetry find themselves reciting (or parodying) ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…


Trent University president Leo Groarke wrote his own poem for a 3-min greeting video about the challenges of creating a greeting video. “’Twas the month before Christmas when the snow came to Trent, It sent our thoughts stirring, what card should be sent?” He walks us through highlights from previous years’ efforts (all of which I’ve featured in prior round-ups), from snowballs to snowmen, gift-passings to gift drives, and chalk messages to kayaking. “Staff, students, professors, by day and by night, are working to make the holidays bright.” Nice.


James Madison University mascot Duke Dog always features in elaborate holiday vids. In “’Twas the Week of Finals,” a magical book distracts him from decorating the tree. (The prosody and syntax are strained, but the videography is solid.)


Oakland Community College (Michigan) chancellor and staff recite “’Twas the Night Before Holiday Break,” taking turns in a cozy armchair. “Employees were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of commencement played on in their heads.” Instead of reindeer, the poem focuses on mail trucks, salting vehicles, and even “a team of faculty members.” (Their eyes particularly twinkle when they look toward the payroll office.)


Upper Iowa University mascot Pete the Peacock has appeared in my collections of April Fool and holiday videos before, but he’s back and once again tormenting president Bill Duffy, writing the script for his holiday message, “’Twas the Night Before a UIU Christmas.” In this version, “the students now nestled all snug in their beds” have “visions of snowstorms and cancelled classes in their heads.” Instead of reindeer, the midnight apparition is “a choir of 8 tiny peacocks,” and the rhythm goes completely off the rails as the poem celebrates tuition cuts and athletic championships. (At 6 min, this vid is far too long, but solidly produced, if not acted.)

Honourable mention: For pun-lovers, McMaster University’s Faculty of Humanities shared their own variation on the poem, “A Visit from Hugh-Manatee,” who gifts the students extensions on their essays.


Grinchy Grouches

Clearly Dr Seuss’ Grinch has become the leading subject of parody this year, with multiple examples in the playlist, notably…


McMaster Chemical Engineering chair Carlos Filipe has lost his “Fireball feeling” and turned into “Mr Grouch,” long green fingers and all. You can tell the lyrics for this “McMasterpiece” were written by engineers and not English majors, since the scansion is tortured, but there are plenty of good sports and fun effects in this 4-min “Grinch” parody. (Nice touch on the typography of the subtitles, too!) Ultimately, of course, it’s the holiday spirit of the students (and some tasty cookies) that save the day. Dahoo Dores!


UNC Greensboro Bryan School of Business dean Mac Banks narrates one of his own favourite holiday books, “How the Grinch Stole the Business Degree.” This uneducated Grinch steals all the diplomas from Whoville – until Cindy Lou Who provides him with some much-needed enrolment advising. “The Grinch’s job prospects grew 3 sizes that day.” Very cute!


Ontario Tech University’s mascot Hunter the Ridgeback stars in his own 3-min version, “How Hunter Heisted the Holidays,” narrated by president Steven Murphy. “Grunter” watched in disgust as students recorded TikToks, and plotted to steal their holiday joy by poaching mascots, treats, pianos, illuminated signage, and even all the snow from across campus. Of course, ultimately Grunter has a change of heart, and even tries to return the snow.


“Out-There” Humour

Some of the more creative holiday vids defy categorization, but are trying at humour (with varying degrees of success). Here are a few worthy examples…


Selkirk College students snowshoe through a pristine snowy forest to deliver their holiday gifts – at the mouth of an ominous cave. The creature who lives within has a few surprises in store. “We hope all of your holidays are WILD!”


USF’s Muma College of Business celebrated the holidays, and the arrival of a new interim dean, with a 5-min, somewhat meandering parody of Ted Lasso. (If you haven’t watched the Apple TV+ show yet, this will be completely mystifying.) GJ De Vreede is a good sport, right down to the Jason Sudeikis moustache and embarrassing victory dance, but the vid just tries to do too many different things. “Business is Life!” (There’s an additional 1-min behind-the-scenes vid too, mostly featuring stills.)


Harvard Business School argues that Santa “isn’t immune to the pressures of global economics,” and needs to consider outsourcing toy production – with potential elf layoffs and brand erosion. 2 biz profs debate the pros and cons. (The satire here is played so seriously, though, that it feels more like a lecture than a fun or funny 2-min video.)


The State University of New York – Geneseo parodies Love Actually in their 2022 greeting, “Geneseo Actually.” Mascot “Victor E. Knight” comes to the door with a portable stereo to tell us something on cue cards – while acknowledging the movie reference is too old for many students. “You were in diapers… This scene has been spoofed a lot.” Nice videography though!


Interesting Takes

Before you take off for the holidays, let me share 3 last vids from the year’s crop that find interesting ways to incorporate the work of campus researchers in a seasonal way…


University of Saskatchewan shared a timely research story about a new game-changer for the environmental footprint of the cosmetics industry: biodegradable “bio-glitter” made from agricultural waste (technically “cellulose nanocrystals”).


McMaster University produced a “year-in-review” vid that is remarkably tight (just :50 seconds) and wordless, but captures joy and laughter at commencement, athletic wins, new construction and more. “From small acts of kindness to big breakthroughs, our campus community made us proud this year… To celebrate the small moments that all add up to make a big impact, we asked our friends at the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy to create the world’s tiniest Marauder holiday greeting to complete this video.”


Vancouver Island University president Deb Saucier takes us on a tour of VIU’s horticultural training centre, where they’re growing thousands of poinsettias for distribution around Nanaimo. We get some poinsettia trivia, quick-takes, and tongue-twisters – and once again, Deb airs her hatred of egg-nog. (We will have to agree to disagree.)

With apologies to Casey Kasem, that’s my “Top 40” for the season. As I write this, ‘tis the night before the night before Christmas, and some PSEs will doubtless still release more vids, but I have to draw the line somewhere! (One might argue I should have drawn it about 30 videos earlier…)

Best wishes for a peaceful, relaxing holiday season with friends and family, and here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!


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