As soon as Thanksgiving is past, Christmas music starts playing on the radio and festive decorations go up as the whole country seems to get ready immediately for the next big events – the holidays! We all know that the holidays are the season for giving, but why not get a little creative this year? It’s always fun to celebrate with friends back at school before everyone goes home to spend some time with family. Before getting away for the holidays, put your books down and gather a group of your friends for some festivities, Secret Santa or Yankee Swap-style!
What: Secret Santa or Yankee Swap Holiday Party
(For those of you who might not know what a Yankee Swap is, it’s when everyone brings a wrapped, unmarked gift and places it in a designated spot (such as on a table or under a Christmas tree). Everyone then picks a number. The person with number 1 gets to pick a gift first, but he or she has to unwrap it and show it to everyone else. Each person then goes according her number, but there’s a twist: someone with a lower number can choose to swap her gift for another person’s gift. At the end, however, person number 1 gets to pick which gift they want out of all of the gifts. Yankee Swap is more involved than Secret Santa, but definitely a lot of fun!)
For: 10 to 15 people, or however many people you can host in your dorm or apartment
When: Saturday night before winter break; if you have lots of studying for finals to do, anytime in December before the holidays will do.
What to eat: Anything holiday themed – serve your favorite foods that remind you of Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanza, or all three! Spiced mixed nuts are great for snacking and Baked Brie or cheese puffs are tasty appetizers; latkes with applesauce, chicken and potatoes and cranberry sauce are always popular as well. If you’re ambitious, try roasting some chestnuts for some authentic holiday spirit! Serve chocolate or peppermint bark for dessert, or build a gingerbread house with your guests. You can also have each of your friends bring their favorite holiday cookies and turn your Secret Santa bash into a holiday cookie swap as well!
What to drink: Peppermint Schnapps Hot Chocolate (or just regular hot chocolate, whichever you prefer), eggnog or spiced apple cider.
How to set the scene: Hang up some Christmas tree lights around your room or apartment for a winter wonderland feel to your party. Cut out and hang holiday decorations in the shape of snowflakes, sleighs, Christmas trees, dreidels, and menorahs around the room and on the windows. If you have one, decorate a mini Christmas tree with ornaments and candy canes, or place a menorah in the window or in the center of the table. Fill jars with candy canes, peppermint candies, or chocolate gelt. Of course, don’t forget to play holiday music!
Attire: Holiday colors, of course! Red and green for a Christmas theme and blue and white or gold for Chanukkah. For a bit of extra fun, have your friends come dressed as their favorite holiday character (Santa, Rudolph, Elf, etc.) and give out an award for the most creative costume – you might be surprised at what people come up with!
Sarah McAnaw is a junior at American University where she’s working towards getting a degree in International Studies and cooking for friends. She is studying in Florence, Italy this fall where she is immersing herself in art, culture and, of course, authentic Italian cooking.