What to Do on Valentine’s Day – Regardless of Your Relationship Status

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that many people either love or hate. After all, when a day tends to be associated with relationship status, it can be a little polarizing. However, regardless of whether you are in a relationship or enjoying single life, we’re here to make the case there’s something for everyone on Valentine’s Day. Though the holiday’s origins are rumored to lie with greeting card companies, we appreciate the fact that Valentine’s Day offers us another reason to celebrate our favorite people in our lives – whether those people are our significant others, our best friends or our family members. To help you celebrate, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite things to do on Valentine’s Day.

Give (or make) a Valentine

Here’s an easy one. It’s tradition on Valentine’s Day to give a valentine to someone you’re romantically interested in, but we like this tradition better with a twist: give a valentine to your friends or anyone else in your life you’d like to acknowledge in appreciation. A valentine is simply the term for a card given to another person on Valentine’s Day. Create your own if you’re feeling crafty or artsy, or pick up some fun cards in-store, then distribute to your friends to remind them that you’re happy to have them in your life.

Indulge in the tradition

When people think of Valentine’s Day, they might think of giving someone chocolates, teddy bears, flowers, or some other gift, and then going out for a romantic meal. Sometimes it can be fun to embrace these holiday traditions, though. There are usually some great Valentine’s Day specials at restaurants, and it’s fun to share some candy or a treat with someone you care about. Use this as an opportunity to tell that special someone how you feel, and have a little fun indulging in some romantic pastimes together.

Turn it into a Pal-entine’s Day

Who says that Valentine’s Day has to be limited to you and a significant other? We say: expand the holiday to include a celebration of your pals and your friendships. For women, there’s the now-ubiquitous term Galentine’s Day, which is when female friends decide to celebrate their friendships and each other. But regardless of your gender, turn the day into one for you to have fun with your friends. Go out for a Valentine’s Day meal (brunch, lunch, or dinner – whatever you want to do) and maybe even consider exchanging little gifts to show appreciation. It’s a great way to turn the holiday into something for everyone to enjoy.

Celebrate yourself

Sometimes you want to relax and have a little time to yourself. Let Valentine’s Day be your day to show yourself some love! Whether you want to do something in the spirit of Valentine’s Day – buy yourself some chocolate, watch a romantic comedy – or just do something that you love – read a great book, play video games, go for a walk — choose something that will feel emotionally restorative.

Our Favorite Things about Holiday Season in America

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, it’s safe to say: the holiday season is upon us. In the US, Thanksgiving marks the start of a month of festivities, decorations, and general merriment in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas and the New Year. Christmas might have its origins as a Christian holiday, but admittedly, the holiday has become commercialized and less about a particular religion, and more about friends and family members celebrating and exchanging gifts. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there are plenty of things to do in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Year that give you a glimpse into American culture around the holidays. That’s why we’ve rounded up a list of our favorite things about the holiday season in the US.

Holiday lights

If you live on campus, we recommend grabbing some of your friends, renting a car (or a Zipcar) and heading out to the suburbs! There are so many neighborhoods where people drape their homes in thousands of lights and adorn their lawn with decorations befitting a winter wonderland. If you do a little internet research, it’s likely you can even find some neighborhoods in your area known for getting into the holiday spirit. Play some Christmas music while you drive by and admire people’s commitment to the holiday!

Mall Santa

Want your picture taken with Santa? Go to a local mall and meet him! Usually malls will put together a faux North Pole and allow people to pay a certain amount of money to take a photo with Santa Claus. Many malls hire a Santa specifically for the holiday season, ensuring he looks the part. Normally you’ll see little kids waiting in line for a chance to meet Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas, but this could be your opportunity to make sure you made it on the “nice list” this year.

Christmas movies

There are, of course, tons of classic American Christmas movies. You might be familiar with Elf, A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, and others. Gather some friends and have a Christmas movie marathon, coupled with some hot chocolate. There has also been a recent cultural phenomenon surrounding made-for-TV Christmas movies. These are movies made specifically for TV networks. You can find lots on Netflix, and even on the Hallmark Channel, which is known for some overly romantic (and maybe unrealistic) storylines, but that still prove fun to watch.

Holiday parties

We love any reason for a party – and the holidays are a great reason! People come together and listen to Christmas music, drink eggnog, and participate in general merriment. Some parties will feature gift-giving, while others will just focus on celebrating another holiday season and the approaching new year. In recent years, “Ugly Sweater Parties” have become extremely popular around the holidays. These ugly sweater parties require guests to wear sweaters that tend to be extremely festive and holiday-themed. They’re not ugly, so much as they are a little exaggerated in their commitment to the holiday theme. Whatever holiday party that pops up on your schedule, be sure to attend as they’re a great way to celebrate and meet new people.

Gift-giving games

We love being able to select the perfect gift for our friends and family members, but one of the other fun parts of the holidays is participating in popular gift-giving games. There’s the gift-giving game “White Elephant,” also known as “Yankee Swap” and “Dirty Santa,” in which participants pick gifts and get to swap them with others. “Secret Santa” is also a popular and more benevolent gift-giving game where members of a group assign each person a single gift recipient. That person then buys a gift for their recipient, but keeps their identity a mystery, usually revealed only after the gift has been given. These gift-giving games are a fun way to participate in gift-giving.

Christmas cookies

Every holiday throughout the year comes with its own traditional treats, Christmas is no exception. Christmas is generally associated with its cookies, and many people will have “cookie swaps” around this time of year to share their cookies with friends or family members and maximize their own treats. People will bake basic sugar cookies and then decorate them with sprinkles and frosting. This can be a fun activity to do as a group, or even just on your own – but be sure to share!

Tree-lighting ceremonies

Throughout the US, many cities and towns will host a tree-lighting or just a lights ceremony to commemorate the start of the holiday season. There might not be as much pomp and circumstance as you see in the movies, but it’s a great way to feel like a part of your community, and sometimes there can be other events planned in addition to the lighting – and usually hot chocolate and other treats.

Outdoor ice skating

With colder weather comes the perfect conditions for outdoor ice skating. Some cities and towns will transform a part of their parks into a place for ice skating by creating a rink open to the public. Bring some of your friends, rent ice skates, and don’t worry so much about falling down! Be sure to wear warm clothes, a hat, scarf, and gloves so that you can enjoy the experience of skating without getting too cold. It’ll be a fun experience for you and your friends.

Giving back to charity

Though this time of year is special for so many reasons, one of the most special reasons is that it provides us with the opportunity to reflect on what we have, and how we can help others. In between all of the parties and festivities, don’t forget to think about others who might not be as fortunate. Participate in school fundraisers or charitable events as a way to show your support for others in the community, or consider volunteering your time at a homeless shelter or other organization serving those in need. Helping others will make you feel good and is great way to cap off the holiday season and your year.

5 Reasons Why We Love Fall

It’s finally feeling like fall. The air is crisper, people are starting to wear their sweaters, and the pumpkin spice frenzy has officially spread to coffee drinkers. Summer tends to get all of the fanfare when it comes to favorite seasons, but we’re here to make the case as to why you should love fall in the U.S.

Leaf peeping

Depending on where you live, you may be able to witness the magic of Mother Nature as the leaves start to change colors. As the chlorophyll in leaves starts to break down, they go from their natural green color to a vast array of colors normally associated with fall: reds, yellows, and oranges. There are places across the U.S. where you can see this phenomenon in action. The New England area tends to be known for its prime leaf peeping locations, but there are other states where you can catch a glimpse of these radiant colors too. Enlist a few friends, rent a car, grab some hot chocolate, and drive around taking in the colors.

Homecoming

Fall in the US tends to be homecoming season. Homecoming literally means “coming home” – but when used in the context of your university, it tends to mean the time of year (usually a weekend or week) when alumni return to campus for various school-focused events. You may have first been introduced to the concept of a “homecoming dance” in US TV shows and movies. Some universities may have those, but mainly homecoming consists of a big football game or sporting event, and other fun events geared towards reuniting alumni with each other, and providing ample opportunities for bringing the student community – of past and present – together. Check out your school’s event calendar to see what sort of fun activities your university has scheduled for homecoming.

Halloween

Calling all candy lovers! Halloween is definitely a reason to love fall. For one thing, there are lots of Halloween-themed events, sites, and activities usually planned throughout the month of October. Throughout the country, there are pop-up theme parks that you can go to where they have multiple haunted houses and rides intended to scare and thrill you. Many cities and towns have ghost tours that you can go on that will show you the spookiest spots and share scary stories.

Additionally, someone is always throwing a Halloween party this time of year – expect the weekends, and days leading up to Halloween to be filled with opportunities to have fun with friends in your spookiest (or most clever) costumes. People tend to take their costumes very seriously, with many planning weeks and months ahead of Halloween. Be sure to get your costume ready ahead of time as many of the Halloween stores tend to sell out as you get closer to the holiday. Finally, if parties or haunted houses aren’t your thing, you can always hand out candy to kids in your neighborhood. Stock up on candy in advance, leave the light-on outside of your apartment (or put some fun Halloween decorations up on your door) and wait for trick-or-treaters to knock!

Apple-picking and pumpkin-picking

Sure, at first glance, it might seem like “apple-picking” and “pumpkin-picking” is just picking fruit. But going apple-picking and pumpkin-picking are fall past times. It’s more than just about the “picking” of the fruit – it’s about the entire experience. You go to an orchard or a farm with some friends, and you spend the day selecting some apples or the perfect pumpkin (did we mention it also makes for great Instagram posts?!) After you’re done picking, you can either enjoy the fruit of your labors (sorry for the pun – we couldn’t help it!) or you can indulge in the various snacks the farm likely has to offer. Many farms offer things like hot chocolate or apple cider and cider doughnuts for purchase, offering the perfect complement to a day of picking. Take your apples home to bake into apple pie or apple crisp, and carve your pumpkins into a spooky design just in time for Halloween.

Football

Baseball might have the title of America’s favorite past-time, but it’s football that really has America’s heart. You can find many Americans every Sunday gathering together to watch football, whether in person or on TV. It’s a distinctly American sport, and there’s something for everyone, whether or not you’re really into the sport itself. For starters, many colleges and universities have football teams. We definitely recommend attending a game at your school, even if just for the camaraderie and school spirit alone. The games are usually a day-long event, with people tailgating, meaning that they’ll host a pre-game event with food, music, and drinks to prepare for the game. If you want to watch a pro team, in-person is really fun, but you can have a great time gathering around a TV with a bunch of friends to watch at home. Even if you don’t love sports, there are always plenty of “game day” snacks – think Buffalo chicken wings, nachos, chips and dip – and usually some great commercials in between the game.

How to Celebrate on the 4th of July

Just as summer starts to heat up, one of the funnest American holidays approaches: the 4th of July. Many countries similarly celebrate their own Independence Days, but the United States inevitably celebrates in its own distinctly American way. There’s no better way to enjoy some of American culture than to participate in this holiday, so to help you join in the festivities, we’re giving a little background into the 4th of July, and how you can celebrate.

What’s the 4th of July?

The 4th of July, July 4th, or Independence Day (as the holiday can be called) is a holiday intended to mark the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document that marked the country’s autonomy from the rule of Great Britain. Though the Declaration of Independence was actually signed on July 2nd, 1776, the document was then ratified by the Congress on July 4th, and so the holiday is celebrated on this day, when the wording was actually approved. The 4th of July as a holiday symbolizes this declaration of freedom and independence, one of the fundamental values held by Americans.

Ideas for celebrating

It’s more than just a day off from work or from school. The 4th of July is a celebration is truly a celebration of the country, the American people, and the core values that founded this country. Right after the 4th of July was established as an American holiday, citizens would celebrate with “concerts, bonfires, parades, and the firing of cannons and muskets, usually accompanied by public readings of the Declaration of Independence,” according to History.com. Since then, those festivities haven’t entirely changed – you can still attend concerts, bonfires, and parades in cities and towns across the U.S. However, today, it’s more commonplace to attend a fireworks display, than the firing of “cannons and muskets.” There are also now other ways Americans celebrate Independence Day, and though some of the newer traditions might be different than those of centuries ago, ultimately, the day is meant to emphasize a feeling of unity as Americans.

Attend a local parade

Many towns and cities throughout the country commemorate 4th of July with a parade. You’ll see citizens of that town or city line the streets, finding a spot and setting down their chairs or blankets to sit on to watch the parade procession. During the parade, you’ll see floats, cars, horses, and various groups from the town or neighboring towns walk down the street, waving American flags, wearing red, white and blue, and often playing or dancing to American folk songs. It can be really fun to watch the parade procession, so check out what’s happening in your town or city for the 4th of July, and find out the parade route so you can plan ahead.

Listen to a public reading of the Declaration of Independence

There are some cities and towns that will still do a public reading of the Declaration of Independence, so if you’re a history buff – or just curious as to what the Declaration of Independence actually says – consider seeing if there’s a reading local to you. NPR (National Public Radio) has done a reading of the Declaration on the air, if you’re interested but feel like listening from the comfort of your own home.

Watch a fireworks display

It’s normal to hear the sounds of fireworks on 4th of July, or even the weekend before or after the holiday. Many towns will select an evening (not always on the night of the holiday) to put on a fireworks display, where you’re able to watch the sky light up with various colors and designs as produced by the fireworks. Sometimes these shows are set to music, but other times, they’re simply there to delight and inspire awe. Grab some of your friends, and find a spot where you can get a great view of a local fireworks display.

Attend a barbecue

Arguably one of the easiest ways to spend your 4th of July is by attending (or even hosting your own) barbecue. A typical barbecue on the 4th of July consists of grilling hamburgers, and hot dogs, and serving up typical dishes like potato salad, baked beans, corn on the cob, and fresh fruit. People will gather outdoors or in a friend’s yard, and play lawn games, go swimming (if there’s a pool), and just have a good time together.

Attend an outdoor concert

Outdoor concerts are fun in the summertime, but are especially fun on the 4th of July. You can attend many across the country that will play American folk songs, and other songs to commemorate the holiday. You don’t have to know the songs to enjoy the music. You’ll get a great sense of American culture from the way that the concerts can bring people together and invite them to celebrate together.