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Five Cheap Holiday Traditions to Try With Friends and Family

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Although it really seems like our last holiday season was yesterday, believe it or not, Christmas has already rolled around again, and if you share my mindset, you think the weeks leading up to Christmas is more of a thrill than the big day itself. Although the process of giving and getting has its perks, I’ve always been a fan of the fun Christmas festivities that make for a joyous remaining 30 days of December, which, of course, can only be made better by enjoying them in the company of those you love—your family, friends, or (if it doesn’t involve chocolate), your furry companions. We’re all college students here, and as we’re all more than ready to jump into the holiday spirit with the autumn quarter wrapping up, here are five fun and cost-friendly Christmastime activity ideas that you’ll without a doubt you’ll cherish even more with others. 

1. Decorate gingerbread houses

On every first Saturday of December since 2001, my grandmother hosts an annual “Gingerbread House Day” party, where family and friends gather to collectively decorate our gingerbread delicacies in every color scheme and design possible, enjoy winter treats, and exchange stories of past Christmases. As the tradition has become a staple event in the Hummel family and I count down the days until its arrival, this can serve as a fun bonding experience with your loved ones, whether you design houses individually or as a team, while putting on some warm-hearted Christmas music as you happily decorate. Pre-built houses are cheap to snag at Costco or QFC, and make it extra exciting by picking up some extra colorful candies and frosting to add on (one year, my cousin made a two-foot-tall house by adding on ice cream cones and layers of cardboard to the top—we still laugh about its reigning memory.)

2. Visit a Christmas store or plant nursery

If you need an extra shot of Christmas magic at the start of the season to really get you in the mood, take some time to visit a nearby Christmas store or nursery to gain some decoration inspo. Not only are nurseries and Christmas stores (or the two combined into one) a great place to spark your holiday cheer, they can also provide you with tons of gift ideas for the special people in your life who can’t get enough of the holiday season. For a Seattle area option, I’d recommend checking out Swansons Nursery in Shoreline, or perhaps venture out to Molbak’s in Woodinville if you’re willing to drive a little out of town for the best of the best (and make sure you have plenty of space in your trunk if you decide to splurge). 

3. Hold a holiday baking/movie marathon night 

Get ready to bring out the cookbooks and log into Netflix—a classic night of baking sweets and watching your favorite feel-good holiday movies is a perfect weekend pastime to spend with close family members at home or on campus with friends in similar need of a homework break. While I’ve personally been getting more into baking recently, this pecan pie bar recipe proved to be a hit at my family Thanksgiving last week. As far as movies go, my top three favorites have always been Elf, A Christmas Story, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, all age-appropriate and loveable for even your youngest family members. If you quickly devour all the best Christmas movies, instead try to have a marathon of your favorite TV show’s Christmas episodes, such as the legendary episodes of Friends or The Office that center iconic holiday plots.  

4. Check out some Christmas light displays 

One of my favorite festive traditions to embark on every year, made complete with dressing up in a cozy winter outfit and having a camera handy, is taking a stroll to see what other creative minds have done to display their Christmas cheer through the beauty of Christmas lights. If you’re looking to attend a fun light event, check out the Green Lake Pathway of Lights on December 10th, or make a night trip out of seeing either the Zoo Lights Festival at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma (tickets $6-16) or the Snowflake Lane parade in Bellevue. If there’s a night you happened to be crunched for time and still want to take in some frosty winter air, venture out into your favorite Seattle neighborhood for your fix on Christmas lights—and make it better by bringing your pup along for the adventure. 

5. Go on a winter hike 

While hiking in Washington’s summer is a force to be reckoned with, exploring our wilderness in winter doesn’t get enough credit for its beauty. If you’re up for bearing the cold for a few hours, making a day out of winter hikes up our nearby mountain passes is a great cost-effective way to enjoy a winter wonderland with relatively few people. If you’re looking for a hike that’s a stellar December or January excursion about an hour’s drive from campus, look into Franklin Falls or Gold Creek Pond, two options that are suitable for all hiking abilities, or drive up Stevens Pass to Lake Serene if you’re up for a magnificent winter challenge. If you’re looking for something a bit different than any of the three, the WTA Hike Finder Map is an incredible tool that can help you find exactly what you’re looking for in a snowy outing. Just make sure that your car is up for the challenge of snow!

Hailey Hummel

Washington '23

Hailey is a current senior at the University of Washington, majoring in Public Health—Global Health (with departmental honors), and minoring in Law, Societies, and Justice. She loves hiking, traveling around the state of Washington and the world, making art, playing piano, taking pictures, and spending time with her friends.