Students often associate Christmas parties and traditions with home. But the Christmas holiday can come early for those who take a little break from the end-of-semester grind to spend time with friends and colleagues. If you’re at a loss for fun ideas, consider some of the following campus traditions as sources of inspiration.

Gift Exchanges:
Several campus organizations hold “white elephant” gift exchanges at their campus Christmas parties. The game goes by many other equally odd names, including “Yankee swap” and “thieving secret Santa.”

Each participant in a “white elephant” gift exchange brings a small wrapped present and adds it to a pile in the middle of the room, and everyone sits in a circle around the gifts. Then each person takes a turn picking a mystery present.

Participants either choose from the pile or “steal” one from someone who has already picked and unwrapped a gift. The person who loses theirs in this fashion gets to pick a new one. The game continues until everyone has a gift.

Sometimes it is the gift itself and not just the exchange method that makes trading Christmas gifts fun.

Junior information technology major Jon Carl said the Vintage staff, of which he is a member, buys each other socks for its Christmas party—sometimes nice socks, but usually odd-looking pairs.

Games:
Party games—sometimes traditional, sometimes quite original—add life to any Christmas party. You often get to see a different side of people with whom you’ve spent a good deal of time being serious.

“It’s fun to watch and see how people change,” junior business administration major Cameron Hall, who works at the library, said. “We all work together and are supposed to be the composed librarians. [But during the game], we have people vaulting over tables and carrels.”

Hall explained the highlight of the Mack Library Christmas party: human Stratego. The staff divides into two teams—one upstairs and one downstairs. Each team member draws a card with a rank on it, and the hunt for the flags commences.

The library staff party also includes some more decorous, traditional games like a Christmas-themed skit and trivia.

Some students, like members of the Vintage staff, enjoy participating in an ugly sweater competition.

“Last year, we went to Goodwill and bought the [goofiest] sweaters we could find,” Carl said. They then took turns good-humoredly ridiculing each other’s choices.

No one knows how the tradition started, but ugly sweater parties have been around for several decades and were popularized by celebrities like Bill Cosby and other ’80s figures, according to Time magazine.

Music:
Although the debate still rages as to how early one should play seasonal music, most people enjoy welcoming in the holiday season by listening to Christmas songs.

Most of the campus family gathers for the annual lighting ceremony and carol sing, and some find extra ways of spreading holiday tunes.

Senior accounting major David Freeman plays the trombone in the special Christmas performances that take place in the Student Center and dining common each year.

“The trombone choir is a blast to perform with,” he said. “It’s a fun and unique way to celebrate and have fun while doing something I very much enjoy.”

Food:
You’re probably already dreaming about the Christmas Day spread at home, and who can blame you? But starting new traditions with school friends can add one more feast to the holiday.

Perhaps you could splurge on a once-a-semester meal at a nice restaurant in Greenville you’ve been wanting to try, like freshman criminal justice major Mario Chamorro does with his friends.

“My friends and I are trying to start our own little tradition of going somewhere nice to eat at the end of the semester,” Chamorro said. This year, they plan to try High Cotton downtown.

Put it all together:
Once you come up with some ideas you want to try for celebrating an early Christmas on campus, you can look for a fun way to put it together.

Staff GA Miss Hanna Alexander and her friends started what she calls a “progressive gift-giving party” in their residence hall.

“We start in one person’s room by playing a game, sing Christmas carols in another friend’s room, eat a snack in another room [and] make a Christmas craft in another room,” Miss Alexander said. “From there we will have a white elephant gift exchange in another room.”