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Members of ACE gather for a group picture as they celebrate the "Spirit of the Season."

Photographer: Katie Hendershot

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The group replaced their traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the party, hoping to offer people more opportunity for socializing.

Photographer: Katie Hendershot

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Party-goers enjoy food from Athens-area restaurants, including Salaam and Village Bakery.

Photographer: Katie Hendershot

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Association for Cultural Exchange's “Spirit of the Season” full of American holiday traditions

Snow blanketed all of Athens as the Association for Cultural Exchange (ACE) came together to show students from other countries what celebrating the holidays means in the United States during their "Spirit of the Season" event Dec. 6.

The small group of American and international students opted to replace their annual Thanksgiving dinner with the holiday party to make the most of the weeks between Thanksgiving break and Winter Breaks. Members of ACE planned an event more centered on the feel of the winter holidays, instead of the traditional dinner that was losing popularity.

"You were more stationary because it was a sit-down dinner so people weren't really getting up and talking to one another and chat with their friends, which really goes against ACE's mission to bring people together and provide safe spaces for international and American students to get to know each other," ACE president, Samantha Smith said.

Though the wintery weather may have affected the attendance, more students joined as the evening wore on.

"I love the atmosphere," Smith said of the snow. "I don't know how much that affected people coming out or not."

The blustery snow set a fitting backdrop to the event, as the mood in 1804 Lounge was transformed into one of a family-style gathering, including feast-like food options from Salaam and Village Bakery.

The close-knit group put on an ugly Christmas sweater contest with sweaters Smith brought from home. The two people with the ugliest sweater choices were awarded prizes. Nicholas Brumfield took first place with a pink sweater and scarf combination.

Holiday music played in the background throughout the evening with some people sitting down at the piano to play a few songs.

"It's different," Caio Firmino, an international student who attended with three friends, said. "The ambience is really formal."

Members of ACE welcomed everyone who walked in with smiles and invited them to participate in the festivities. Members say they realized that many international students have probably seen the holidays portrayed on television. They hoped to show them what it really is like and how they feel.

"It's a little bit of an insight on what Americans are doing this time of year," Smith said.