Activities hatch holiday happiness for friends, family

White elephant time coming soon! Illustration by Assoah Ndomo

By Samantha Garza | Staff Writer

With houses illuminated with bright lights, children eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival and friends and family gathering after not seeing each other for a long time, the holiday season is the perfect time to participate in fun games and traditions.

Here are some ideas of holiday activities that can be done with friends or family to celebrate together.

Ugly Christmas sweater competition

One way to set the holiday mood is to have a nice dinner with friends and family where everyone dresses up in their best — or ugliest — winter clothing. A way to spice up this dinner is to make it an ugly Christmas sweater competition, and whoever wins gets a prize.

The ugly Christmas sweater competition first began when two friends from Vancouver launched the first-ever Christmas sweater party, which then became a national trend. Later on, fashion designers started to create sweaters based on the tacky designs. Nowadays, people can find ugly Christmas sweaters just about anywhere during the holiday season.

White elephant gift exchange

Another activity to do with friends and family during the holidays is a white elephant gift exchange. This is a fun and cheap way to have a good laugh.

The point of the gift exchange is that people can choose any item they want to gift. From nail polish to toilet paper, the possibilities are endless. Those who participate can then wrap the item in a way that draws others to it or can even make it tricky to open.

The history of the white elephant gift exchange dates back to the kingdom of Siam — now known as Thailand — where the king would gift anyone he disliked an actual white albino elephant. Taking care of an elephant was a big financial responsibility and burden. Since white elephants were seen as a sacred animal and a revered symbol in Thai and Buddhist cultures, they could not be given away, regifted or put to work.

Secret Santa

Another holiday activity that is popular in western culture is secret Santa. There are multiple variations for how to play this game, but the one universal rule is that the gift-giver must remain anonymous.

This game could be played just about anywhere with anyone. It could be a unique way to bond with coworkers, a great end-of-year game for kids and a fun way to spend time with family and friends.

The gist of the game is that everyone who is participating must write their name on a piece of paper and put it in a drawing hat or cup. Then, each member picks out a name, making sure they don’t pick themselves, and whoever they get is the person they will be getting a gift for.

In most cases, everyone agrees on a set budget beforehand, and everyone must spend exactly that amount so that it’s fair for all. Budgets usually range from $15 to $25, but people are free to choose as much as they want.

Afterward, people can set a time to meet and exchange gifts or make it more interesting by giving out little clues that lead to an identity reveal.

The origin of secret Santa is not exactly known. Some think the tradition originates from Scandinavia, and others mark philanthropist Larry Dean Stewart as the creator. Stewart came up with the idea of giving gifts anonymously during the holiday season and even donated $100 anonymously to the people of Kansas.