By Alison Perelman, For The Miami Student
Cookies, candy canes, hot chocolate, tea and toffee. Christmas music on Pandora and two tiny trees by the window. A few ugly sweaters and a $5-10 gift. Eleven people stuffed into a 148-square-foot room.
It may not sound like Christmas, but to a group of friends from the basement of Emerson Hall, it's close enough.
They decided to do a gift exchange, sending out a group text about the plans over Thanksgiving break.
They procrastinated organizing Secret Santa, and ended up doing something similar to a White Elephant gift exchange. They figured it would be more fun for everyone, like a game, and it was really just about spending time together.
"It'll be a fun time just to hang out with everyone after Thanksgiving and to relax during finals before we all leave," Madison Ryan said.
Madison and Sierra Bailey-Van Kuren talk about their gifts and how exactly the exchanging will work while waiting for the others to arrive.
"I got ramen," said Sierra. "I was disorganized and did not buy any gifts … but then someone offered to go get the ramen for me and came up with the whole idea, so I didn't really even think of it."
Sierra jokes about stealing cleaning supplies from the janitor's closet and wrapping those up, too.
Surprisingly, almost everyone had proper wrapping for their gifts. Haley Uline thought she was going to have to use graphing paper, and even started drawing patterns on it, but then Michael Gunderman showed up with wrapping paper for her to use.
Victor Pinto is the only person to show up with gifts wrapped in newspaper.
"He used the quality wrapping paper," Abby Hurley shouts.
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As everyone starts to arrive, cookies are passed around and water heated to make hot chocolate.
"You're making hot chocolate with water?" scoffs Nick Bakonyi.
"Do we have milk? No. We're not that privileged," Sierra snaps back at him.
Finally, around 9:30 p.m., everyone is crowded into the small room. They gather around to take a few group pictures, then the exchange begins.
Everyone sits in a circle with the presents on display in the middle.
When their name is called they can pick a gift from the pile or steal someone else's, but a gift can only be stolen twice and everyone has to wait until the end to open them.
The noise in the small room grows as gifts are contemplated and chosen, the guys talk about football and comments are thrown everywhere.
As soon as the sports talk starts, Madison protests.
"No football, it's Christmas."
Someone picks up Haley's gift and Kyle Weaver is in awe.
"Holy crap, who wrapped that? That is gorgeous!"
Finally, Abby Hurley decides to steal and a theft frenzy ensues. Everyone gets confused and the rules have to be discussed again.
After everyone has their final gift, they open them one at time.
Peter Ollermann tries to guess what his is as he pulls newspaper out of a big empty container. He finally gets to the bottom.
"Condoms! I'm going to use them right now!" Peter shouts as the room is filled with laughter.
He stretches one onto his head, only to realize his mistake a few minutes later.
"Oh god, it's like I bathed in oil."
Sierra becomes incredibly happy when she realizes her gift is a light saber.
Haley gets a shot glass. Abby gets a headband basketball game. She wants to play it right away, but is slightly disappointed when she reads that assembly is required.
Kyle gets a harmonica - his roommate will surely hate him. Michael gets a cheese ornament. Nick gets a blanket. Victor gets chocolate and headphones.
Jackie gets a magic eight ball.
"Will I pass my finals? ... Yes!" she shouts with arms raised. Everyone cheers.
And Madison gets the ramen.
Torn paper is piled on the floor and cups of hot chocolate sit forgotten on the dresser. Kyle attempts to play his harmonica. Peter uses his last condom trying to see how many ping pong balls will fit in it.
Jokes and laughter fill the air again, a taste of the holiday break waiting on the other side of finals week.