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Only The Essentials: A Guide To Surviving Winter Break

By Harper Johnson & Jolie Utter We know that finals aren’t quite over yet, but keep working hard, Falcons, because compiled below is a list of activities to look forward to as soon as you hand in that A set final. To kick start you into break right away, we wanted to provide an exhaustive […]

By Harper Johnson & Jolie Utter

We know that finals aren’t quite over yet, but keep working hard, Falcons, because compiled below is a list of activities to look forward to as soon as you hand in that A set final. To kick start you into break right away, we wanted to provide an exhaustive list of all the necessities to help you have the best winter break possible. This curated collection of holiday activities aims to bestow the spirit of Christmas upon our readers. Take advantage of these suggestions from two qualified Christmas fanatics and follow our list if you want to experience the magic of a perfect two weeks away from school. Just finish finals, and then you can enjoy your nice, long break. 

Welcome to Jolie and Harper’s winter break survival guide:

Watch Xmas Movies

Christmas movies are a surefire way to get in the swing of the season. From the classics to the cringe, they all possess a certain charm. Plus, they’re perfect for family bonding time. 

Winter Break is the perfect time to binge holiday movies!

Harper: Winter break isn’t winter break without binging the essential Christmas films, starting with timeless movies like Home Alone, The Santa Clause, and The Grinch. Then come those creepy claymation classics like Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and Rudolph. And speaking of creepy, what’s Christmas without watching The Polar Express? These are all great ways to really immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit. They instill a sense of nostalgia and transport you with their lovable characters and the undeniable magic of Christmas spirit. Forget the stress and anticipation that comes with awaiting final grades and discover the true meaning of Christmas through your favorite films. 

Jolie: A classic that I return to every year is Elf. Everyone knows Elf. Everybody loves Elf. I can watch Buddy rip Fake Santa’s beard off any day, but please, I beg of you, do not try to recreate his signature pasta. 

Harper: Does Die Hard really qualify as a Christmas movie? There has always been a debate over Die Hard’s validity as a Christmas movie. In my personal opinion, sure. It features our favorite holiday, but since the main focus of the movie isn’t Christmas, it doesn’t really fall under the category of the Xmas movie must watch list. If you want to watch it during break, then that’s completely up to you, but if your watch list doesn’t have room, then it’s an easy one to omit. However, Sebastián Fernández y García (’24) believes that Die Hard is the perfect movie to ease you into the holidays. He firmly stands with its Christmas movie categorization, even bringing out his fingers to count out the points he plans to make in his detailed analysis. “It takes place during Christmas, it’s about family, it’s basically Home Alone,” he claims. “It’s basically Home Alone with guns.” Not sure guns really scream Christmas, but hey, to each their own. Also, ask him personally if you want to delve deeper into the Die Hard Christmas movie debate because a short quote doesn’t do his calculated argument justice.

Jolie: If you’re looking for a more “out there” Christmas movie, look no further than 2015’s Krampus, a perfect blend of horror and comedy. Before you watch this masterpiece, make sure to not look at Rotten Tomatoes because all the bad reviews are false and no one can convince me otherwise.

Go Gift Shopping

It can be fun, it can be awful, but gift shopping is a necessary part of the holidays. If you’re worried about dishing out all that cash on a big friend group, fret not, because Secret Santa is your new best friend.

We all know the problems with buying gifts for all your friends. There has to be a cutoff because you certainly don’t have that kind of money. But will those people be upset that they didn’t get a gift? Oh, and what if you get a gift for someone but they forgot about you? Secret Santa is the perfect answer. You only have to buy one gift, and you can make it a quality one. Also, there is no fear of buying someone a gift and not receiving one in return because someone in the group pulled your name.

Ice Skating

We trip and fall, but we also have fun. And you know you want to do it all over again. There’s the awkward transition from wall cling to skating. There’s also the memories forged with friends and family. And, of course, there is avoiding those excessively obnoxious skaters that have to prove to everyone they took skating lessons once in the 3rd grade.

Realistic photo because people are using those little boxes to move around.

Picture winter and the activities that everyone associates with this wonderful time of year. Now there are of course caroling, baking cookies, walking through the lights. But what is one of the most iconic Christmas activities? Ice skating. Whether you’re a pro skater or you’re a little rusty, it’s an enjoyable activity where you can just grab your friends and go.

Sure, you risk the embarrassment of falling down a couple times, but laughing with your friends and trying to not be the victim of those show off skaters that zip by makes ice skating a worthy addition to your list of activities. Downtown Sacramento is one place to go. It’s the perfect option because it really has it all — from the ice rink to lots of food options to shopping for the perfect Christmas gift. Take a trip downtown to the ice rink and fulfill all your winter wonderland dreams.

Another location for holiday fun is Enchant Christmas at Sutter Health Park. If the Hallmark Channel puts it on, you just know that it oozes sappy holiday. Lace up your skates and glide through a forest of Christmas lights. Or if you hate the ice, visit the light maze and work your way towards the 100 foot tall Christmas tree.

Listen To Christmas Music

Christmas music sets the perfect mood. Whether you’re baking cookies, cramming for finals, or just sitting in a car, why not sing along to some of those classic tunes?

Jolie: With new Christmas music popping up every year, it’s hard to navigate all the bad songs, so just know that the oldies are the goodies to add to your holiday playlist. But there are some notable newish ones that deserve your attention. Katie Jones (‘24) thinks that Camila Cabello’s new take on some old lyrics brings the holiday spirit. “My favorite contemporary Christmas song is I’ll be home for quismois.” Unpopular opinion.

Some strange people are of the opinion that Christmas music should only be played after the Turkey Day drama has settled. This post-Thanksgiving ideology is not the way I do it, but there are a couple weirdos who try to limit the fun of the winter holidays for themselves.

“In the United States, there’s Halloween season, there’s Thanksgiving season, and then after Thanksgiving, that Friday, it becomes Christmas season,” history teacher Mr. Larry Reel ‘91 explains. However, his argument quickly devolves as he describes why Christmas season cannot extend before the fourth Thursday in November. “It violates Thanksgiving, which is the better of the holidays.” No sir. But everyone can have their own insane opinions I guess.

Diego Cortes-Torres (‘24) is also of the post-Thanksgiving school of thought, but he makes a fair argument. “It’s gotta be right after Thanksgiving. You gotta prep for Turkey Day.” Mikeila Ghelfi (‘24) is correct in saying that Christmas music is acceptable “anytime in November — it has to be after Halloween.”

However, Lillian Barrett (‘24) quickly jumps in to contradict her. “Keila is very wrong here. It’s definitely only acceptable the day after Thanksgiving.” Her stingy opinion about Christmas spirit is echoed by Adam Sunderman (‘24).

Rowan Condos (‘24) lies in the radical yet entirely acceptable category of people who begin to celebrate earlier than most. “November 1st. Right after Halloween. Forget Thanksgiving. Forget Fall. Fall is Over. It’s Christmastime,” Rowan asserts. And I completely agree.

Olivia Yee (‘24) has a tradition of reposting the Christmas countdown on her Instagram story, which means her Christmas season starts early. “Christmas music begins to play when the @christmascountdown that I follow on Instagram posts their first post of the year…So, August.” And while some people would say “Hey, there are other holidays!”, I think that 120 days of celebration is a great way to get in the Christmas spirit. 

Harper: Moving on to an important question. Mariah Carey: does she carry Christmas music? The only acceptable answer is: of course, because Mariah is the queen of Christmas. For an expert’s opinion, I turned to Sydney Laird (‘24). When asked what the most iconic Christmas song is, she replies instinctively, “I feel like Mariah Carey is the queen of Christmas.”

She continues to reaffirm popular belief that everyone loves the classics and thoughtfully ponders her personal favorite Christmas songs and answers, “I really do like the classical warm feeling, ;ike old men singing Christmas songs.” Lastly, she offers her own advice on how not to let the flooding of Christmas music everywhere on every radio station, grocery store, and recommended Spotify playlist overwhelm you. Sydney’s piece of advice is to listen to it in reasonable increments. “I love Christmas music but sometimes by the end of the season I feel a little bit done by it,” she explains We recommend using the winter break to listen to all your holiday faves no matter what they may be. 

Make Cookies/Gingerbread House

They don’t need to look this pretty…as long as they taste good

Winter break is a time to reward yourself for making it through a whole semester of school. And what better reward than dessert? One of the best parts of winter break is the abundance of treats. It’s a wide range — from the classic sugar cookies to salted-butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, there is an endless list of treats to try baking from scratch (or just folding and buying from the store). Who doesn’t love the feeling of a warm cookie and a glass of milk — unless you’re lactose intolerant, then that sucks for you. Although a simple addition, it’s quite a necessary inclusion in this list of winter break essentials.  

See The Lights

Seeing the iconic Fab 40’s lights in East Sacramento is a necessity, but it can be kind of a hassle with all of its traffic. But is it still worth it? Absolutely. No doubt.

One of the most elegant sights, this extravagant array of lights takes your breath away every year without fail. The coordinated light fixtures strung across streets going from tree to tree exemplify peak decoration dedication. The most fun comes from finding the houses that have elaborate Christmas scenes set up. According to local East Sac residents Addi Laird (‘26) and Sydney Laird, these lights don’t live up to the hype when you have to deal with them and the traffic they draw in 24/7.

One the the Fab 40 houses that sets up an elaborate scene of cut-out characters

“Oh my god. Unpopular opinion: but living in that neighborhood during Christmas is horrible for everybody cause everybody gets angry,” Sydney says with contempt. “All the people who live there just get angry because so many people are looking at Christmas lights. But I do love the spirit and the little kids selling their hot cocoa and stuff is adorable.”

Addi passionately offers additional commentary as she disputes any possible claims that try to justify the mess of traffic. “As a local, the traffic is obnoxious. I’m just trying to get around my neighborhood. I do think the lights are overhyped. People need to drive smarter.” Wise words.

Lights strung from tree to tree in East Sac

Walk or drive? You’re insane if you think driving is easier. Walking is the much more practical choice. It allows you to take your time and enjoy the lights of each individually and uniquely decorated house at your own pace. Being stuck in the car traps you in a sea of vehicles (horse drawn carriages included) all trying to enjoy the lights. Driving slightly limits your options, but it can still be a fun experience if you want to drive and simulate a sleigh ride. The key to going this route is having a patient driver that’s fine sitting in a little bit of traffic. “Driving just gets so hectic, and it’s just so aesthetic to walk,” Sydney says.

Xavier Zona (‘25), also an East Sac native, sets up a hot cocoa stand in the Fab ‘40s every year and donates all of the profits that he makes to Heifer International, a charity that aims to end hunger and poverty around the world.

“I feel like I’m able to raise enough money and help out people,” the sophomore says. So if you want to support a charity, grab some hot cocoa from Xavier’s stand. You’ll feel like a good person and have a tasty drink to sip while you check out the lights.

Make Your House Smell Like Christmas

Bring the Christmas magic home by incorporating those amazing holiday smells in a variety of ways.

An eclectic classic Christmas tree

Real Christmas tree: A real Christmas tree adds a certain indescribable feel to your home. Every time you open the door, you’re hit with the strong classic scent. It does take a certain level of maintenance, however, as the stand needs to be refilled with water on occasion and needles need to be swept off the ground regularly. Not to mention the work that it takes to carry it from the place of purchase to the car and from the car to the house. But it’s worth it. 

Fake Christmas tree with tree air freshener: Some people just don’t want or can’t have a real tree for a myriad of reasons, which is valid because a real tree is certainly not great for the environment. So a fake Christmas tree is also a great addition to the house for the holiday season. However, if you feel like you’re missing out on the smell of a real tree, fret not. There are many scented products to spray, hang, or lay on your fake tree. Notably, ScentSicles’ Christmas Tree Scented Ornaments last for a while, but pick up a couple packs so you can replace them when the smell disappears after about a week.

Another way to get a standout smell permeating your entire home are scented candles. Rowan, a connoisseur of candles and their respective seasons, has a strong affinity for the Bath and Body Works Christmas Candles, although she also partakes in the lighting of Voluspa candles, like Crushed Candy Cane, which comes in a beautiful swirled red and white glass vessel.

Additional easy life hacks: Buy those cinnamon scented pine cones (absolutely amazing), put vanilla extract, and boil it on the stove (holiday simmer pot).

Enjoy your break Falcons!
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Written by Talon Staff


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