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7 Creative Ways to Get Into the Holiday Spirit


They don’t call it “the most wonderful time of year” for nothing—the holiday season is full of fun, friends, family and food. However, it can be difficult to get into the holiday spirit at the end of the semester when you’re finding yourself plagued by piles of homework, stressful group projects and looming final exams!

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to offset the stress of the upcoming weeks. We’ve talked to collegiettes and gathered a list of tips that will help you get into the holiday spirit.

1. Make a holiday playlist

Whether you’re tuning into your local radio station, sorting through your family’s old vinyl collection or putting together a playlist online, there’s no easier way to get into the holiday spirit than by rocking out to your favorite holiday tunes.

“I make a Spotify Christmas playlist and listen to it when I'm cooking dinner, in the car and hanging with my roomies,” says Kasia, a senior at Villanova University. “I also make a playlist that includes only the instrumental versions of these songs. I study best when I listen to instrumental music, so it's nice to go through finals and exams and still be in the spirit!”

Not to mention, holiday mix CDs make great last-minute gifts for your friends!

2. Run an ugly sweater race

There’s no better time to give back than during the holiday season! If you typically volunteer your time at a food drive or church, try an event like the Ugly Sweater Run, which partners with charities like Save the Children to benefit children in need around the world.

“My roomies and I started doing an ugly Christmas sweater 5K every year,” Kasia says. “It’s super fun, and they are held all over the country. There's a toy drive, and part of the race proceeds go to buying toys for underprivileged kids.”

Not only do the races offer a chance to give back to charity, but they’re a great way to exercise in a fun environment. “During the race, there are these big blowups of snowmen and Santas,” Kasia says. “They even have a snow machine that ‘makes it snow’ as you finish! And of course, ugly Christmas sweaters are a must!”

If you don’t live near one of the cities where the races are being held, there are still plenty of ways to incorporate ugly Christmas sweaters into your holiday celebrations! Try rocking one at your next gift exchange, office party or potluck.

3. Bake cookies

One of the best parts of the holiday season is the plethora of cookies available at every family gathering, ugly sweater party and gift exchange. Although you may cherish your grandma’s secret snickerdoodle recipe, don’t leave all the baking to her this year!

“My favorite way to get into the holiday spirit is baking cookies,” says Caroline, a freshman at Ithaca College. “During Christmas break, my younger sisters and I take a day to scour Pinterest for cute Christmas cookie ideas and bake a few different recipes! Our favorite so far is this recipe for chocolate chip candy cane Nutella cookies.” However, you don’t have to wait until you’re back home to get a head start on baking. “I enjoy working with one of my organizations on campus called Chabad,” says Shira, a senior at Franklin & Marshall College. “We host a kosher cooking club and make all sorts of cookies and treats for Hanukkah and other events. I love getting to make, decorate and eat dreidel cookies!”

4. Watch holiday movies

Whether you’re piling onto the couch with your family, snuggling up with your SO or getting your friends together for a girls’ night, watching classic holiday movies is one of the easiest ways to get into the spirit of the season.

“My roomies and I watch those cheesy Hallmark/ABC Family Christmas movies on the regular,” Kasia says. “They're so corny and the acting is mediocre at best, but they're so fun and feel-good. And of course I just love watching the classics like The Grinch, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Home Alone.”

Thanks to ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas countdown, you can catch all of your favorite holiday films on TV! A complete schedule of the countdown can be found here.  

5. Host a secret Santa or white elephant gift exchange

Whatever you may call them, gift exchanges are great opportunities to get groups of people together for the holiday season, whether you’re catching up with old high school friends, hanging out with coworkers off the clock or getting your floormates together for a night of fun.

If you decide to host a gift exchange, encourage your friends to keep their gifts between $5 and $10. This gives everyone attending a chance to get creative with gift-giving.

“Handmade presents are priceless,” says Jaya, a senior at Duke University. “They're one of a kind, and they come from the heart. Sitting down and making presents is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. It allows you keep your loved ones in mind, and I love imagining their smiles when they open a unique and special present just for them.”

Not to mention, gift exchanges are the perfect time to incorporate some other favorites from this list. Break out the ugly Christmas sweaters, test out Pinterest cookie recipes and listen to your latest holiday playlists!

6. Try knitting or crafting

When you’ve run out of creative gift ideas (or realized that baking just isn’t your thing), try branching out of your comfort zone with a new hobby like knitting or crafting.

“There's just something about the end of the year that makes me want to knit,” Jaya says. “Everything is slowing down, and I always feel like sitting in my room and picking up my knitting needles every time the holiday season comes around. Luckily Christmas isn't too far off, so it's actually the perfect time to indulge my crafting obsession!”

A handmade scarf or beanie is the perfect way to show your love for a friend, SO or relative. If you’re stuck on how to get started, check out this easy online tutorial for how to knit a scarf.

7. Deck the halls

Nothing says quality family time quite like setting up the Christmas tree! Sometimes all it takes is hanging up the lights and decorations to get into the spirit of the season.

“My family has multiple trees, so we'll split into teams and each will be in charge of decorating one of the trees,” Jaya says. “We play Christmas music while we decorate, and there's usually cookies or hot chocolate lying around. Having everyone work together to make our house look festive is a great time, and with us singing while we decorate, it's almost impossible to not be in the holiday spirit!”

However, you don’t have to wait until you’re back home on break to celebrate. If you’re looking for ways to spruce up your dorm room, try adding a mini Christmas tree with ornaments or making paper snowflakes with your roomie.

While the holiday season may fall at a stressful time in the school year, don’t let final exams keep you from getting festive! Find what you love the most, whether it’s baking, crafting, volunteering or just kicking back with friends, and make the most of these precious few weeks. Best of luck and happy holidays, collegiettes!

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