Festive films to murder mysteries: 7 factors to keep college students hectic this Christmas

For students, the Christmas holidays are an important time. If they’re coming home after their first term, they might be looking forward to seeing family and catching up with old school friends. If they’re in their final year, then the spectre of final exams and dissertation deadlines may loom over the break.

If you’re a parent of a student child, then spending time with them is an important thing to do over the holidays. But with most university holidays lasting a month, you might be stuck for ideas about how to fill the time. Here are some cheap, cheerful and entirely Christmassy activities you can do together.

1. Mince pies and stollen

Baking makes for a cosy and comforting Christmas activity, and has other virtues too: it’s cheap, it takes a while – so there’s plenty of time to chat – and you get to eat constantly while you do it.

Traditional mince pies are easy to make and a lot nicer than the shop-bought versions. This easy recipe means you don’t even have to roll the pastry – just press it directly into the tin.

If you really want to make the most of having your son or daughter around, you could spend more time together at the tasting end than in the kitchen.

Jake Wojtowicz, a master’s student at King’s College, London, says: “When I go home it’s not so much baking with my family, more baking for my family. This Christmas I’ll be making enough stollen to feed most of Europe, and will no doubt bake some bread, too.”

2. Brave the cold

If you want to brave the cold and adventure outdoors, then the range of festive activities varies depending on your local area. Ice skating is always a popular way to spend time in the festive season and appeals to all ages. To reflect demand, prices may be hiked at this time of year, so it might not be something your student child can afford to do with friends in their university town. You can find your nearest rink here.

3. Mulled wine and singing

Whether you’re religious or not, carols are a lovely way to get in to the festive spirit. Churches and schools will have specific carol concerts, which you may have to pay for or make a donation (profits usually go to local charities). These typically take place on an evening a week or two before Christmas.

If your son or daughter isn’t keen on the prospect of spending an evening singing in church, sell it to them by reminding them there will probably be a glass or two of mulled wine and an offering of mince pies.

4. Watch a Christmas film

Watching a Christmas film is almost guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit. There will be the usual re-runs of the classics on television, as well as some fun new additions at the cinema, such as animated film Penguins of Madagascar and re-showings of Disney smash-hit Frozen.

5. Visit a festive market

Bavarian-style Christmas markets are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, and you should be able to find one in the nearest big town or city to you.

Offering everything from Christmas decorations to mulled wine and pastry treats, they’re a fun way to spend a couple of hours (although often expensive, so do your present-buying elsewhere).

The promise of sugary food will probably be enough to tempt your student child to come with you, and bigger markets also have fairground rides or ice rinks as additional lures.

6. Have a laugh

There are a ridiculous amount of comedy DVDs out every Christmas, but comedy is best enjoyed live.

Comedy venues in big towns and cities usually have Christmas shows; the Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh, for example, has a series of festive specials.

Even if you’re based somewhere more rural, comedians often go to quite remote places while on tour, so check out the listings for your local arts centre, theatre or town hall. Discuss with your son or daughter what you’d like to go and see – and maybe have a quick Google of the comedian to check that it’s not going to be two hours of X-rated jokes, which could be uncomfortable for all involved.

7. Play at being a murderer or a detective

For something totally different, why not try a murder mystery dinner? Fiona Scott, a mother and journalist from Wiltshire, says: “We are doing a family murder mystery game on Boxing Day where we all dress up – we are, of course, quite mad.”

Board games are an excellent way to spend time together at home – although beware the arguments when people try to invent entirely new words in Scrabble.

When it comes down to it, there are a million ways to spend the time – anything is festive when accompanied by something mulled!

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