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Is it just me or do holidays hit different when you’re younger? For the past few years, I’ve been noticing the lack of spirit I’ve had for the holidays, and that’s without the pandemic. If you find yourself struggling to find the Christmas spirit this year, and you’re looking for ways to brighten the mood, then you’re in the right place. Here are five socially-distanced holiday activities you can participate in to get you, in the jolly mood.

1. Visit The Grinch down in Hou-Ville

First on our list, visiting the former king of holiday grumpiness himself, Mr. Grinch in Hou-Ville. Who better to turn our spirits around? This new brand-new holiday exhibit based on Dr. Suess’ “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” is located just minutes from the UH campus (if you take the METRORail) at the Bayou Music Center. 

This unique experience features plenty of interactive photo opportunities throughout the entire city of Hou-ville. Whether you’re sipping hot chocolate or coffee while walking down Candy Cane Lane, visiting Santa at his workshop and the Grinch in his room, checking out the Astros-themed Gingerbread House Bakery or looking for the perfect stocking stuffers down at the gift-shop, just like Houston, Hou-Ville has something for everyone. 

For anyone older than 12-years-old, the event will cost $30-$40, and for children the cost is $15-$20, depending on the day you go. Guests can reserve their tickets online.

The Grinch is a changed man, so of course he wants you to stay safe and healthy whilst enjoying the holidays. For COVID-19 safety, the venue has all of the sets spaced 10 feet apart with stations and guidelines separating groups from entering at the same time. The Grinch ensured that the Bayou Music Center will only operate at 40-50% of their capacity, and will sanitize every 30 minutes between sessions. Masks must be worn at all times with an exception for photos.

2. Drive-Through Light Shows

When I was younger, my family used to love driving through well-lit neighborhoods to enjoy the displays. These days the families are going all out, with some even synching the lights with music! My personal favorite, if you’re willing to take the drive, is Cypress’ own The Johnson’s Christmas Corner. What’s special about the Johnson’s is that not only are their lights synchronized with music, but each day of the week the display has a new theme. Fridays at the Johnson’s are my favorite, as the theme is “Movie Night on the Corner”. The lights play to the beat of Christmas classics!

Bringing the show closer to the UH campus, located in the heart of downtown, we have “Holiday Decor on Main Street”, where you can enjoy a beautiful, festive light show from your car. For a list of more neighborhoods that light up the night visit the website Houston On The Cheap.

3. Holiday Bake-A-Thon

This may be the homebody, food-loving, wannabe chef in me talking, but this might just be the best activity on this list. A quick suggestion for how to go about having a bake-a-thon with the people you live with, especially if you have a big family, and a not so big kitchen like me, is to have an adult bake the treats beforehand. Create a theme with your team, partner or just yourself and decorate your treats. The big question, who has the most creative theme and executed it best? I guess this would technically be a decorate-a-thon, but what’s the fun in calling it that? 

Not only is a holiday-themed bake-a-thon sure to get you in the jolly mood, but it’s super cost-efficient, especially if you buy the box mix. As a fun bonus, you could record and edit a video to put on YouTube, or keep it for memories. Best part is, you’re making these memories in the comfort of your own home, which happens to be the most effective way to keep yourself socially-distanced.

4. Christmas Movie Marathon Night 

It’s crazy how much your preferences change throughout your life. There was once a time not too long ago, that I dreaded the idea of sitting still for 90 minutes watching a “boring ole movie”, now there’s nothing I’d rather do. Grab your popcorn, a drink, a blanket, and maybe even some of the holiday treats that you made during the bake-a-thon, and plop on the couch. No matter the streaming service you choose, there’s plenty of holiday selections to choose from. Not sure what to watch? Well, you can never go wrong with the classics, Home Alone, Elf or even Gremlins. Those are just a few of many. For more suggestions look for the Christmas movie section or even turn it on Hallmark and you’ll have a day full of holiday specials.

5. DIY Gingerbread House 

Have you ever made a gingerbread house? I tried once, but it didn’t go so well. My ceiling caved in, my walls were crooked and the floor was crumbling. It was so bad the wolf didn’t have to blow for it to fall down. Poor sour patch piggies. Despite the troubles I had with getting the gingerbread house to stay upright, I had an awfully nice time. Whether making gingerbread houses is a family tradition as old as time, or it’s your first experience with graham crackers and icing glue, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time.

As college students, the holidays aren’t like what they once were. Instead of spending every waking moment stoked about what we might get this year, we’re just trying to recoup from a long semester. But, it’s not about the gifts, it’s about the thought and the experience. Why do you think parents are so happy being broke in return for free hugs and kisses? I find that no matter what I’m doing as long as I’m having a good time, making everlasting memories with the people I love and enjoy, I find content.

Photo from Tyriana Terrell

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