5 Ways To Enjoy The Holiday Spirit Anywhere

Holiday spirit can last throughout December and even into January, but we can’t all be home for our favorite celebratory traditions.


Not to worry, though- here are five ways to bring full holiday spirit to your dorm, apartment, hotel room, or wherever you find yourself this winter!

1. Secret Santa

Nothing says “it’s time for the holidays” like a fun gift-exchange game. Depending on your group, I recommend either of the two classics: “Secret Santa” (or “Secret Snowflake” if you want to keep it religion-neutral) or White Elephant. Both of these can be customized by price range, rules, and even themes. For Secret Santa, you will want at least four or five people, but the more the merrier. Put everyone’s name on a slip of paper and have each person draw a name from a hat, or go to an online Secret Santa generator (Tip!) to ensure that nobody picks his or her own name.  Each person will buy or make a gift for the name they draw, which they will give to that person at a designated time. The tradition is most fun when everyone knows each other well, keeps their assignments secret, and leaves little notes or mini gifts in the days leading up to the big exchange. This way you can get everyone to try and guess who their Secret Santa is.

2. White Elephant

For a White Elephant game, everyone (preferably ten or more participants) brings a wrapped gift with no name on it to a party. Everyone then draws a number from a hat, and number one goes first, two goes second, and so on. The first person picks any of the wrapped gifts, and then the second person has the choice to steal that gift or to unwrap a new one. As each player goes, they have a choice between stealing any of the opened gifts and choosing a new one. However, each gift can only change hands twice, and then it can no longer be stolen for the rest of the game. If your present is stolen at any time, it is your turn again, so you may choose to steal another gift or to unwrap a new one. My family often makes a theme for the White Elephant game, such as “re-gifts,” which adds humor, or “cakes and cookies,” to ensure that everyone likes what they get.

3. Decorate

Just the process of putting up holiday decorations can create a homey holiday spirit, and you can do so wherever you are. You might not be able to cover your house in lights if you are at college or on vacation, but there is always somewhere to put a wreath, menorah, or streamers, even just for a night. You can make a trip to the Dollar Store as well for tinsel, ribbons, and sometimes some fake mistletoe. This can be an all-out process for the month of December, or a ten-minute sprucing-up of your dorm or hotel. Want to take decorating to the next level? Play holiday music such as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and Christina Aguilera’s version of “This Christmas!”

4. Advent Calendar

There is no wrong way to approach this tradition. Advent calendars are generally a countdown to Christmas, and involve a small gift, note, or chocolate for each day leading up to December 25th. Those who are feeling busy or uncreative can get a pre-made one at most grocery stores, with little milk chocolate squares that you pop out on the marked date (99 cents at Trader Joe’s and Safeway). There are bigger calendars with more variety in their gifts at various specialized retailers such as Starbucks. You can also make your own advent calendar and put your own favorite candies in it for yourself or a friend. Since I was little, for example, my dad has followed this tradition by putting small gifts, notes, and treats in a calendar that his mother made with matchboxes and felt. They even sell decorated boxes with drawers numbered one through twenty-five so you can follow the tradition sans crafting! Best of all, most advent calendars are relatively mobile, so you can take them with you wherever you go!

5. Crafts

I could never come close to describing the extensive options you have with regard to holiday crafts. You can make decorations for your house, such as streamers and holly. You can also make greeting cards to send to your friends and family back home (a great opportunity to send pictures of your travels, your new traditions, or just a funny picture of you and Santa). Alternatively, decorating cookies and making gingerbread houses only requires icing and candies- you can usually buy a gingerbread house kit if you’re on the road! Of course, any of your hand-made or freshly baked creations can be turned into Christmas, Hanukkah, or party hostess gifts throughout the season.

6. Ugly Sweaters, a Christmas Movie, and a Candy Cane

I may have only listed my four favorite traditions, but there are plenty of others that you can bring with you on vacation, to school, or wherever your jet-setting self takes you during the holiday season. Whether your favorite way to acknowledge winter celebrations is wearing a funny ugly sweater (the one time ugly is trendy!), watching your favorite holiday flick (Love Actually, The Polar Express, Elf…), getting your holiday coffee drink fix, or caroling in your neighborhood, being on the road should never get in the way of fully enjoying the most wonderful time of the year. Embrace whatever customs you encounter in your travels — this could be your most culturally educational travel experience — but remember to also let your favorite traditions shine through as you get in the holiday spirit.

Kaela Trutner

A California native, Kaela lived in Barcelona, Spain. Her travel style consists of two clichés: carpe diem, but stop to smell the roses. One person she wants to travel with: Tina Fey.

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