Getting into the Christmas spirit at school sometimes feels like a contradictory challenge. How are we supposed to celebrate one of the homiest times of the year so far away from home? I can relate — my family picks out and decorates our tree the day after Thanksgiving, so I’m home for that, but I then have to spend the next three weeks in this odd limbo of finals season and holiday season.
Hibernating under the covers with “Love Actually” is not your only option. Here are some tips to make it feel a lot more festive.
Blast the Christmas music
I’m guilty of listening to Christmas music as soon as November 1 hits. While I apologize profusely to my roommates for the amount of times I’ve belted “All I Want For Christmas,” I know that turning on some Mariah Carey or Michael Bublé always puts me in a better mood if I’m feeling homesick or down. Take an hour or so to sort through your favorite Christmas songs, and make a playlist or head to Spotify for some pretty great pre-curated ones.
Hang up paper snowflakes
This takes me back to my fourth-grade classroom, where we folded tiny pieces of paper into little triangles and cut circles and squiggles to our heart’s desires. My paper-snowflake-abilities have improved since then, and you can create some really easy decorations using this method. Tape the snowflakes up to any window or wall for a nostalgic effect, or if you want to be a bit fancier, hang them on a string to make a garland or layer them to create a 3D effect.
If you’ve never made a paper snowflake, head here for the rundown: https://www.marthastewart.com/266694/decorating-with-paper-snowflakes
Turn on the oven
Nothing screams Christmas like the smell of freshly baked sweets. You don’t need to be a baking expert or have hours of free time: Head to an on-campus market or grocery store for a roll of cookie dough or a box of brownie mix for a quick fix. If you like making things from scratch, cookies are probably the easiest, but I also love this foolproof banana bread recipe: https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/best-banana-bread-2886. You can customize it to your liking by adding whatever’s in your kitchen, like chocolate, raisins, or blueberries.
Do a gift exchange
Everyone loves presents, and not knowing what you’re getting is even more fun. Secret Santa and White Elephant are classics, but if you’d like to do something different this year, the internet offers a lot of options! Try a book or mug exchange, a cookie swap, grab bag, or a gift-guessing game.
Have a hot chocolate party
Sure, you could throw a packet of Nestle in some hot water and call it a night, but for a more authentic experience, heat up some milk, throw chocolate chips in, and stir until all your chocolate has melted. Top off with some marshmallows or whipped cream, or use a candy cane as your stirrer for peppermint hot chocolate. You could even get different types of chocolate — white, milk, dark, pink, you name it — to flavor the hot chocolate to your liking. Invite your friends over and put on a Christmas movie for a truly cozy evening.