With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s time to start looking forward to Winter Break – once we get past those lousy finals, of course. With all of the stress surrounding the end of the semester, it can be difficult to get excited about the holidays: our days are spent cramming for exams and finishing up essays, and when we finally get home, all that we want to do is lay in bed and relax. Trust me, I’m all about sleeping over break. But spending the entire vacation in bed or on the Internet is kind of boring, especially when there are so many fun things to do during the holidays that we can’t enjoy during other times of the year. So start infusing some holiday spirit into your college routine, and get ready for the most fun-filled Winter Break ever! Read on for 25 things you can do to make this holiday season a little more merry.
Get cozy and watch a classic holiday movie.
It’s A Wonderful Life, The Santa Claus, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, The Holiday…you’ve got to add at least one of these holiday classics to your Netflix queue in December! For serious holiday movie buffs, check out ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas, beginning December 1st, and TBS’s A Christmas Story marathon on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Decorate your dorm room/apartment/house.
While you might not be able to deck the halls quite like your parents can at home, you can still make your college residence a little more festive. Think miniature Christmas trees, a strand of multicolor lights, paper snowflakes, etc. Beyond making your place look pretty, decorating can be a great way to bond with your roommates! And you don’t have to break the bank in the process – supermarkets tend to have a great selection of inexpensive decorations, as do stores like Target and Christmas Tree Shops.
Play in the snow.
By March, you’ll hate snow with a passion – so take the time to enjoy it while it’s still exciting and new! Make a snow angel, build a giant snowman, or have an epic snowball fight with friends. This can be particularly fun in college if any of your friends are from an area that doesn’t get snow often – show them the ropes! Just make sure to go easy on those warm-blooded newbies during that snowball fight.
Beat the cold with a warm drink.
When you come home from class with frozen hands and lips, the best way to warm up is with a hot holiday drink. Check out the HC staff’s favorite seasonal drinks from Starbucks here, or if you’re into classic hot chocolate like me, stock up on some Swiss Miss and make some in your microwave when you get home! To really get in the spirit, find a festive mug and add mini-marshmallows or a candy cane – pure bliss!
Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
Perfect for a (free!) romantic date. Enjoy how beautiful your neighborhood looks all lit up at night, and argue about whether white lights or colored bulbs are prettier. For the record – colored lights totally win, if you ask me!
Visit Santa at the mall.
Yeah, all of the parents waiting with their toddlers will be glaring at you – but so what? The pictures will be priceless, you’ll get to feel like a kid again, and you can make lots of awkward sexual jokes about sitting on Santa’s lap.
Attend (or throw) an ugly sweater party.
That bright green sweatshirt with Rudolph’s face embroidered on it that Aunt Trudy gave you three years ago? Such a fashion nightmare might be socially unacceptable at a typical college party, but it’ll fit right in (and maybe win first place!) at an ugly sweater party. If you’re fortunate enough to not get ugly sweaters for the holidays, hit up Salvation Army or a local consignment shop to find some contenders. Be sure to take lots of pictures – and no untagging them on Facebook the next day, no matter how hideous your outfit is!
Bake cookies (yum!).
Spend an afternoon baking cookies, trying out new recipes in addition to family favorites. Definitely save some to munch on later, but consider giving cookies as gifts, as well–Cara Sprunk, HC’s Managing Editor, suggests making a batch for your male neighbors. “It could be a great way to facilitate a friendship with them!” she says. Hint hint.
Do a Secret Santa exchange with friends.
Grab a big group of friends, pick names out of a hat, and stick with a manageable price limit (maybe $20). Depending on your friends, you could stick with gifts that are sweet and sentimental, or you could be a little wild – everybody buying silly, useless knick-knacks, or “adult” gifts like alcohol (if you’re 21) or condoms (stay safe, collegiettes!).
Learn about a holiday different from the one you traditionally celebrate.
It can be easy to get caught up in the holiday we grew up with, but between Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and all the different ways to observe the holidays, there’s a lot to celebrate in December. Spend some time with a friend of a different faith and see how they celebrate the holidays – who knows, you might even want to incorporate some elements of their celebration into your own traditions. And of course, you don’t have to be religious to celebrate the holidays – Festivus, anyone?
Head to the theatre for a seasonal play.
Whether at a well-known venue downtown or at your school’s auditorium, there are tons of holiday productions taking the stage this time of year. “Every year, I check out a local theater’s rendition of A Christmas Carol. I really get a kick out of it, and it feels good to support local productions,” says Tinya Peng, a senior at the University of Michigan.
Enjoy your favorite holiday tunes.
Although you might be sick of them by New Year’s, the fact remains that you can’t listen to these tunes any other time of the year (without facing some serious ridicule, that is). So take advantage of them while you can! Whether you love classic crooners, religious hymns, or more modern songs (Mariah Carey, anyone?) crank up the volume and belt ‘em out like nobody’s listening. If you don’t have a lot of holiday music on your iPod, plug your favorite tune into Pandora and let it create a holiday station personalized just for you!
Shovel some snow.
If your hometown gets a lot of snow, let your parents rest and go shovel the driveway. Shoveling is a great workout and good for your arms – just make sure to bend at the knees, not at the hip! Plus, your parents might show their appreciation by relaxing your old high school curfew or making your favorite dinner – score!
Go shopping – for yourself!
Around the holiday season, our shopping lists can be out of control and money can be tight. But make it a point to show yourself some love when you’re hitting the stores – by buying a fab dress for New Year’s Eve, for example, or some cozy holiday pajamas. You don’t even have to splurge – places like Forever 21 have racks full of holiday glitz at insanely low prices, and Old Navy’s comfy PJ pants won’t hurt your wallet much, either.
Hit the slopes.
The skiing and snowboarding faithful might do it for months, but hitting the slopes seems even more enjoyable around the holidays. If you’ve never done it before, go with more experienced friends and give it a shot! Sure, you might fall a couple times, but you can laugh it off in the lodge later over hot chocolate. Check out website College Ski Trips to help book a ski getaway over winter break.
Send cards to friends and family.
Everyone loves holiday greetings, so spread the cheer! Don’t feel like you have to buy cards from the store – make cards out of construction paper and tape them to your friends’ doors. It’s much cheaper and more personal – and your friends will hang on to them forever! Or take a cue from HC Contributing Writer Meagan Templeton-Lynch, who has a holiday photo shoot with her girlfriends and makes cards in Photoshop!
Channel your inner Paula Deen.
Use your time at home to get more comfortable in the kitchen. Offer to help make traditional holiday dinners – you’ll probably want to know how to make your favorites when you’re on your own. Pay close attention to cultural cuisine, like University of Michigan sophomore Kylie Kagen: “My dad is Jewish, so to keep part of his cultural background alive during Christmas time, we have a big Jewish meal on Christmas Eve. I always look forward to cooking that traditional Jewish food with my family.” Check out recipes from AllRecipes, Better Homes and Gardens, or the Queen herself for inspiration.
Go ice skating.
Whether you’re in Rockefeller Center or just that ice rink where your local hockey team practices (which I’d argue is just as fun – who doesn’t love a man in a mouth guard?), ice-skating around the holidays just feels right. Grab a big group of friends and laugh the night away, or make it a festive date with that special someone.
Give back to the community.
The holidays are the best time to remember those who need our help. Volunteer at the local soup kitchen, give some change to those Salvation Army bell-ringers, or buy some gifts for a family that can’t afford a Christmas. You’ll be glad you did. For local volunteer opportunities, check out websites like Volunteer Match or ask around at your old high school or place of worship.
Be artsy and make holiday crafts.
Craft stores like Michael’s are downright hopping this time of year, and the holidays give artsy people some new pieces to play with – HC Contributing Writer Rachel Dozier suggests incorporating pinecones, holly, mistletoe, and berries into your art. University of Michigan sophomore Danielle Ebstein also notes that crafts can make for heartfelt gifts to give to friends or to charity.
Curl up with a blanket and read a good book.
With all of the required reading that we have to do for school, it can be hard to think of reading as “fun.” But reading a book that interests you – whether it’s a novel, a biography, or a book about a subject you love – can actually be quite relaxing.
Have a dinner party with your friends.
With all of the family events that come with the holiday season, it can be nice to enjoy a low-key dinner party with your friends. Make it a potluck, show off that family recipe you mastered, and swap holiday stories with two (or twenty) of your closest friends.
Add your personal style to the Christmas tree by making creative holiday ornaments – there are tons of cute ideas online! If making them isn’t your thing, consider buying a new ornament every year. That way, when you have a tree of your own, you’ll have something to remind you of Christmas past
Go to the movies.
Is it just me, or do the best movies of the year come out around the holidays? Spend an afternoon at your local movie theater and check out potential blockbusters like Little Fockers and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Spend time with the people that you love.
Help your dad put the lights on the garage, go sledding with your younger relatives, or just chat with your mom and look at the Christmas tree lit up in the dark (my favorite holiday tradition – I love you, Mom!). Spending quality time with your friends and family is really what makes the holiday season so magical, and you’ll make memories that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.
Have you checked off any of these activities already? Do you have any holiday traditions that you look forward to every year? Tell me all about it in the comments section, and have a wonderful holiday season!
Cara Sprunk, HC Managing Editor
Danielle Ebstein, University of Michigan sophomore
Kylie Kagen, University of Michigan sophomore
Meagan Templeton-Lynch, HC Contributing Writer
Rachel Dozier, HC Contributing Writer
Tinya Peng, University of Michigan senior