14 Holiday Encounters That Beat Opening Presents

14 Holiday Encounters That Beat Opening Presents

Let's skip the Secret Santa this year.
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"Gifts..."


"That's what it's all about, isn't it? That's what it's always been about."

When we were kids, few things were more exciting than opening presents. Now, I'm more anxious to pop the champagne and snack on festive cookies.

I'm as broke as any other average college student, so I'm thankful that my family and friends think of me. I also love any opportunity to give back what I can to people who do a lot for me.

However, I'm a strong advocate for spending money on experiences over most material items, so I have no objections to skipping Secret Santa and going out for dinner and drinks instead.

Instead of giving you a spiel about how the spirit of giving should always be present and not revolve around the obligatory commercialism, I'd rather just name some things I found more rewarding than opening a present.


1. Playing a game with family

A few rounds of Cards Against Humanity with your relatives is the only holiday memory you need.

2. Seeing Grandma

Especially if she's of a distinct ethnicity and you're trying to update her on the latest trends and technology. It's always a hoot.

3. Eating

Lasagna, steak, mashed potatoes, bread -- I could go on. Nothing beats a holiday meal (except the holiday food coma... that's pretty powerful).

4. Decorating the house

My mom does such a great job and my dad cries. (No, seriously, he cried).

5. Beating a sibling at Mario Party

If you're the younger one, it's even more rewarding.

6. Leaving the mall

I love seeing the parking lots from hell in the rear view almost as much as I love not going to the mall in the first place.

7. Going to IHOP at 2am

What better way to ring in the New Year than with a stack of red velvet perfection?

8. Reminiscing with an old friend

"Remember when..."

The statement is usually a roller coaster from start to finish.

9. Hanging out with a dog

All dogs are lap dogs. That is all.

10. Watching a relatable movie

A Netflix night with the right people. You'll be quoting it for months.

11. Catching feelings for someone

... Just kidding, that's only fun for like an hour.

12. Drinking Christmas cocktails


Maybe you're toasting to the family reunion or drinking to forget #11. Either way, cheers.

12. Sleeping

You're lying if you say you're well-rested. I repeat, food comas are powerful (and so are fuzzy blankets).

13. Getting in a hot tub

It's like getting in the shower-- you want to, but also don't want to because you'll be cold and have to get dressed afterward. Then, you get in and wish you never had to get out. What a life.

14. Doing something different

We all have a random place in town we say we're going to try out but never do. Book an Escape Room or check out Topgolf!


What's your favorite way to spend the holidays?


Cover Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

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Please Spare Me From The Three Months Of Summer Break When People Revert Back To High Schoolers

They look forward to swapping stories with their friends at the local diner, walking around their old high school with a weird sense of superiority, and reminiscing their pre-college lives.

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I know a surprising amount of people who actually couldn't wait to go home for the summer. They look forward to swapping stories with their friends at the local diner, walking around their old high school with a weird sense of superiority, and reminiscing their pre-college lives.

Me? Not so much. I don't mean to sound bitter. It's probably really comforting to return to a town where everyone knows your name, where your younger friends want you around to do their prom makeup, and where you can walk through Target without hiding in the deodorant aisle. But because I did this really annoying thing where my personality didn't really develop and my social anxiety didn't really loosen its grip on me until college, I have a very limited number of people to return to.

If you asked someone from my high school about Julia Bond, they would probably describe her as shy, studious, and uptight. I distinctly remember being afraid of people who JUULed (did you get high from it? was it illegal? could I secondhand smoke it and get lung cancer?) and crying over Algebra 1 in study hall (because nothing says fun and friendly like mascara steaks and furious scribbling in the back corner while everyone else throws paper airplanes and plays PubG Mobile).

I like to tell my college friends that if I met High School Julia, I would beat her up. I would like to think I could, even though I go to the gym now a third of the time I did then. It's not that it was High School Julia's fault that she closed herself off to everyone. She had a crippling fear of getting a B and an even worse fear of other people. But because she was so introverted and scared, College Julia has nothing to do but re-watch "The Office" for the 23rd time when she comes back.

Part of me is jealous of the people who came into their own before college. I see pictures of the same big friend groups I envied from a distance in high school, all their smiling faces at each other's college football games and pool parties and beach trips, and it makes me sad that I missed out on so many friendships because I was too scared to put myself out there. That part of me really, really wishes I had done things differently.

But a bigger, more confident part of me is really glad I had that experience. Foremost, everything I've gone through has shaped me. I mean, I hid in the freaking bathroom during lunch for the first two weeks of my freshman year of high school. I never got up to sharpen my pencil because I was scared people would talk about me. I couldn't even eat in front of people because I was so overwhelmingly self-conscious. I remember getting so sick at cross country practice because I ran four or five miles on an empty stomach.

Now, I look back and cringe at the ridiculousness because I've grown so much since then. Sure, I still have my quirks and I'm sure a year from now I'll write an article about what a weirdo Freshman Julia was. But I can tell who had the same experience as me. I can tell who was lonely in high school because they talk to the kids on my floor that study by themselves. I can tell who was afraid of speaking up because they listen so well. I can tell who was without a friend group because they stand by me when others don't. I can tell who hated high school, because it's obvious that they've never been as happy as they are now.

My dislike for high school, while inconvenient for this summer, might be one of the best things to happen to me. I learned how to overcome my fears, how to be independent, and how to make myself happy. I never belonged in high school, and that's why I will never take for granted where I belong here at Rutgers.

So maybe I don't have any prom pictures with a bunch of colorful dresses in a row, and maybe I didn't go to as many football games as I should have. Maybe I would've liked pep rallies, and maybe I missed out on senior week at the beach. But if I had experienced high school differently, I wouldn't be who I am today.

I wouldn't pinch myself daily because I still can't believe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I wouldn't smile so hard every time I come back from class and hear my floormates calling me from the lounge.

I wouldn't well up when my roommate leaves Famous Amos cookies on my desk before a midterm, or know how to help the girl having a panic attack next to me before a final, or hear my mom tell my dad she's never seen me this happy before.

If I had loved high school, I wouldn't realize how amazing I have it in college. So amazing, in fact, that I never want to go home.

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I'm Keeping My Christmas Tree Up All Winter And There's Nothing You Can Do About It

It's the WINTER Season... ;-)

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I think that my tree would not be considered Christmas-y if the ornaments are taken off and the lights are kept on. I think to just looks wintry. I am also keeping up decorations that say "let it snow", and I am keeping up any snowman without holly berries or presents in their hands.

The tree looks wintry in my opinion. It looks pretty with the lights and brings the room together. It gives off a warm ambiance, unlike that of fluorescent lighting.

I've taken all ornaments off except for gold snowflakes and I've left the silver tinsel garland on as well as the lights. It looks wintry to me still. I will probably be taking the whole tree down by the end of this month to prepare for Valentine's Day decorating. (Yes, I pretty much decorate my apartment for every holiday—sue me).

There's nothing like coming downstairs and seeing those lights sparkling.

Or coming inside from a dreary, rainy day outside and seeing them light up the room in a calm, warm, and comforting glow.

Or having a bad day, looking up, and seeing them shine.

It sort of makes me upset when I come downstairs and see that someone has unplugged them, to be honest.

I guess they don't see it as I do.

Pretty, twinkling lights forever!

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