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Winter Party Ideas

Winter is coming, and with it, the opportunity to hang out as only ‘Hoos do. Whether the party is out in the cold or cozy inside, lively or reserved, ‘Hoos know how to do it better than anyone else.

Here are some ideas to get it going in the cold months coming:

1) Potluck dinner with seasonal foods, recipe share.

How could this not be a huge success? Seriously, show me one person who doesn’t like food.

What you need: Plenty of people who like to eat, and a handful of people who like to cook.

How it works: You can set rules to only include in-season and locally cultivated foods. You could add a theme for a particular holiday or cooking style. Be sure to share recipes. Get the competitive juices flowing with a cook-off competition centered around a particular dish like a chili or pumpkin pie.

Why it’s cool to party this way: The pleasure of breaking bread in good company is universal. Jazz it up with a Jeffersonian Dinner structure.

2) Year-in-review via YouTube

December is our time to remember and YouTube parties are great fun for that purpose. This is also a great idea to pair with a cook-off (see above) or an Ugly Sweater party (see below).

What you need: A computer connected to a TV. Google Chromecast also works great for YouTube parties.

How it works: Limit submissions to the past year and collect them based on category (e.g., humorous, tear-jerker, awkward, etc.). Start with a little pre-game mixer to lubricate your laughboxes.

Why it’s cool to party this way: YouTube is here to stay. Maybe. We already share YouTube videos in work emails and Facebook posts, but why not share the the top viral or most poignant videos of the year.

I mean really, what does the fox say?

3) Have fun inside, on location.

Do you suffer from “I can’t be in public alone” syndrome? Don’t fret. It’s very common to feel uncomfortable going to a restaurant or movie alone. College exists so that we can meet friends for life and then use them as insulation against uncomfortable loneliness later.

Have something you want to do this winter? Invite local ‘Hoos along.

What you need: A place that has stuff to do, like a bowling alley, movie theatre, live theatre, museum, brewery, winery, sports arena, art gallery, etc. Get involved with, or start a service project in your community and involve ‘Hoos with Cavaliers Care.

How it works: Get ‘Hoos to meet you at a great place to see cool stuff or do fun stuff.

Why it’s cool to party this way: All opportunities here are cool whether you’re engaging in community service, taking in the latest entertainment or participating in high culture.

4) Bad Santa, White Elephant Gift Exchange

v-ornamentBy whichever name you call it, Bad Santa parties are popular because they’re just so fun. It’s an icebreaker, a party game and organizing theme all in one.

What you need: A gracious host and a gift limit. $10-$20 usually yields an interesting assortment. A reasonable price ceiling keeps envy under wraps.

How it works: Rules vary by region and personal flare so feel free to put your stamp on this twisted tradition. Create a system where one person chooses a gift and then is at the mercy of the next person in order who has the choice to steal away the gift just chosen or pick her own.

Why it’s cool to party this way: It’s a cheap investment. It gets everyone involved in a ridiculous process of giving and stealing presents. Require gifts to be handmade to add a DIY element to the festivities.

5) Super Bowl Party

It’s the Super Bowl. The only reason it’s not a national holiday is because it always takes place on a Sunday.

What you need: A host with a big TV, or a favorite neighborhood sports bar.

How it works: These parties kind of work themselves out. The NFL provides the entertainment: commercials, halftime performances and, you know, the actual game. Have everyone bring a food dish, and BYOB.

Why it’s cool to party this way: More people watch the Super Bowl than vote or go to church, combined. Probably.

6) Holiday Lighting Tour

We love lights. Maybe it’s because we still fear the night and its unknowns in our DNA. Some will have the chance to see the Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center or the Lighting of the Lawn on Grounds. For the rest of us, our neighborhoods are full of people who put the work in arranging and showing off their lights.

What you need: A place with a lot of lights. It could be a well-known street that is gung-ho for decoration and holiday spirit, a city park or a tree lighting.

How it works: Walk, carpool or caravan. Pick a spot to meet up before the tour for introductions and after the tour for libations.

Why it’s cool to party this way: Because you might get to see insanely awesome light shows like this:

7) Winter Film Series

How many people re-watch It’s A Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street every year? Friends don’t let friends watch holiday movies alone. Mix it up with Elf or Fargo in between the classics.

What you need: Willing hosts with television and a film selection with a broad appeal.

How it works: Choose the frequency (weekly, every other week, monthly) and select the films. Rotate homes or venues. Bonus if you can get a local coffee shop or pub to hold the event.

Why it’s cool to party this way: It’s cold outside in the winter, which makes film screening inside a perfect winter activity. Also consider the talent you might take in: Jimmy Stewart, James Caan, Will Ferrell. That’s cool.

8) Tool time skill share

Growing interest in sustainability and a lagging economy encourage finding new ways to make our favorite stuff last longer and exploring new ways to express ourselves artistically. Tap your talented base of Wahoos and learn a new skill this winter.

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What you need: A garage or workshop with some open space.

How it works: Skill shares are growing in popularity and the cold winter months offer the time to take on projects because there is less to do outside. Organize around a type of tool or task group. Poll your constituency and see if anyone has a skill that they’d like to share. Skills could be something like the tools and troubleshooting process in fixing a leaky faucet or how to sew patches into your favorite jeans. This can get pretty broad so be sure to pare it down to make it manageable.

Why it’s cool to party this way: Learning is cool. Ask Mr. Jefferson: “Knowledge indeed is a desirable, a lovely possession.”

9) Ugly Sweater party

These parties are popular around Christmas, but you don’t really need to limit yourself. Around Valentine’s Day, for example, might be an even better time to rally together in full force around absurd fashion and community in opposition to the atomizing nature of Valentine’s Day.

An Ugly Sweater Party is perfect to pair with a clothing drive because Cavaliers Care.

What you need: Ugly, ugly sweaters. Try your local thrift store, or that sweater your grandmother knitted for you when you were too old to be getting hand-knit sweaters (but c’mon, is one ever too old for grandma’s knitting?).

How it works: This is a party that begs for a contest. Judge winners in categories like funniest, most awkward, most embarrassing to wear, etc. Anyone can host the party, but it also is highly portable. I imagine that it adds quite the extra psychological edge in pub trivia, or offers a nice preliminary for a wine tasting excursion, for example.

Why it’s cool to party this way: It’s not, but that’s why it’s cool. Apologies, but do you not understand the lessons that hipsters taught us?

10) Fireside storytelling

jefferson_sketch_bwIt’s not exactly a Jeffersonian dinner, but a theme built around FDR’s fireside chats is also a great idea to open up and connect to each other, with some modifications. If the point of the Jeffersonian dinner is deep conversation, then a party built on a fireside chat points towards performative revelation. Storytelling is an ancient and contemporary human skill, endemic to our ways of life. How could it go wrong?

What you need: Start with a fireplace, your own or that of a local establishment. Embrace narrative around a theme.

How it works: A recent example in Charlottesville involved Information Technology professionals telling personal stories that in some way reflected an “Epic Fail.” Participants told their stories on stage to an audience at a local coffee shop. Example themes around which to center stories could be: “on Grounds,” “two heads are better than one,” “first times,” “forever young” or “wahoowa.” Stories don’t have to contain intimate revelations nor do they have to be knee-slapping funny. You could have judging or ranking of the stories as to how well each one played on the theme (ironically, sincerely or otherwise).

Why it’s cool to party this way: Stories connect us. It’s a great way to get to know people because even if the language someone uses in a story is facetious, the themes often remain an authentic individual expression. Besides who doesn’t love the chance to show off a little bit?

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