The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

Through classes, art teachers aim to grow art appreciation

Secret Santas, white elephants create sense of community through holiday fun

A+student+hands+a+present+covered+in+festive+wrapping+paper+to+another+student.+
Carter Chang
A student hands a present covered in festive wrapping paper to another student.

It’s December 2022. Hayla Shah peers around the corner of the hallway to make sure she’s not being watched. She creeps down the corridor, her precious cargo tucked underneath an arm: a package of colorful hair clips wrapped in shiny holiday paper. Slipping the parcel into the locker of Sohana Schneider, Hayla grins to herself and takes off down the hallway to first period.

In the spirit of holiday generosity and festive camaraderie, during December, U-High students have had a tradition for years of getting together with their advisories, friends, families or extracurricular groups and playing holiday gift-giving games like Secret Santa and white elephant. As the holidays approach, students are beginning to plan for these events and looking back on the times they’ve done it in the past. 

The premise of white elephant includes participants bringing wrapped items and taking turns either selecting a present from a pool in the middle or stealing one from someone else. One of the enjoyable aspects of the game is that the gift can be something either humorous or unwanted (or both), so when someone picks it up, they aim for something else. Secret Santa has a slightly different basis, involving group members randomly assigning a person to whom they will give a gift while keeping their identity as the giver a secret.

Hayla fondly remembers last year’s holiday season, when the girls swimming team organized their locker-based game of Secret Santa— and she looks forward to doing it again this year. 

“I think it was really just an opportunity to get to know people and their interests,” Hayla said. “Cause you get to take a look at what everyone else wants and their interests, and when the seniors graduated, I kinda knew what to buy them as, like, a going away gift.”

Hayla also appreciated the team-building element of the game as well as the more personal, relationship-strengthening one, especially as the swimming season had already ended by the time her team played it. 

“Even though the season had ended, we still felt like a team who still did things together,” Hayla said. “And it was really fun to sort of still be friends with them, and we’re all still very close.”

Sometimes, when playing Secret Santa or white elephant with a larger group of friends or teammates, students will set price limits on gifts or create wishlists describing items they’d like to get. This can serve as inspiration/guidelines for the gift buyer, Hayla said, it can also be a way to get to know more about the person they’re shopping for. 

“Usually, we limit the price so nobody spends too much money,” said junior Elizabeth Sharp, who has played Secret Santa in years past with her friends and her ballet group. “I may typically buy a person fuzzy socks, cheap jewelry or candy. Sometimes, we create a shared doc with people’s preferences — like what candy they like or what small items they were hoping to receive.”

Elizabeth said that a meaningful aspect of the game is the opportunity it presents to connect with friends during the holidays. 

“During the holidays, you’re not necessarily spending time with friends because you’re at home with your family instead,” Elizabeth said. “It’s nice to celebrate the holidays while you can with others who, while they may not be your family, are still significant people in your life.”

As the school day ends, Sohana rushes to her locker to gather her belongings. Amid the textbooks, binders and loose sheets of paper, she notices a small, festive package nestled inside her locker. She unwraps it to discover the hair clips. Grinning, she slips them into her backpack and walks home, a wintery chill in the air and holiday spirit all around.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Light Dohrn, Assistant Editor
Light Dohrn is a member of the Class of 2026 and a Midway assistant editor. As a ninth grader, she joined the journalism team during the 2022-23 school year. Her favorite piece she has written for the Midway is “Through authenticity and humor, biology teacher inspires passion among students.” Outside of journalism, she enjoys Middle-Earth fantasy books and Tarantino films. Awards: 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, Boston convention: Excellent, review writing 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, press law and ethics
Carter Chang, Photographer
Carter Chang is a member of the Class of 2024 and serves as a photojournalism editor-in-chief. He joined the photo staff in the 2021-22 school year as a sophomore and returned as a senior. His favorite part of photojournalism is being able to capture the raw emotions expressed by people in school life photography. Outside of photojournalism, Carter enjoys all things health and fitness related. His favorite sport to shoot is tennis.  Awards: 2023 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Academic photo, certificate of merit, "Burning up"

Comments (0)

All U-High Midway Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *