A special time for everyone, no matter what the celebration

Snap, cracker, and pop

Every year at Christmas dinner, my family has a special tradition of opening up Christmas crackers just before the meal starts.

Opening up these colourful, cardboard paper tubes is a real effort on the part of everyone. We all hold on to two each, with our hands criss-crossing over ourselves to help the person next to us pull. A great popping sound usually follows, which signifies that the effort was a success. Everyone then retrieves their gifts from the crackers, which consist of special multi-coloured hats and little knick-knacks such as a ring or a marble.

As well, a tiny piece of paper containing a joke (in both English and French) is included, which always provides some funny, if tired, jibes. Despite its quirkiness, the Christmas cracker tradition is something that I’ll definitely be looking forward to again this holiday season.

—Natasha Lomonossoff.

Delicious food and storytime

Christmas is a recognized holiday in the Hindu religion, and this special time of year gives my family a chance to unplug and wind down to a flavourful roast and grounding connections. 

To us, Christmas means shedding light and positivity on our busy lives, especially when it rolls around to this time of year—the dreadful stretch of final exams.

When it comes to my family traditions, there’s nothing more delightful than my mom’s tender roast, complimentary wine and, of course, golden tales of our family. I especially enjoy heartwarming pastimes from my parents, which I feel connects our family in a special way.

All in all, Christmas truly brings all of us together like no other time of the year, so we can just catch up on life, love, and laughter.

—Perushka Gopalkista.

Eid 101

Eid is the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, and brings people together to celebrate family and be thankful for all that one has.

We wake up at the break of dawn with our new clothes lying so crisp on the edge of our beds. The scent of traditional Eid breakfast fills the air. We would go to our local mosque to attend the Eid prayer, then visit relatives and friends who greet us with gahwa (Arabic coffee) and sweets like baklava, kanafeh, and petit four. It is quite inevitable to fall into a mini food coma after a couple of house visits.

One of my favourite traditions on Eid would definitely be getting money from relatives. All year round my siblings and I would wait eagerly for that envelope full of cash. Because it’s a blessed holiday people are very generous, and, if you have lots of relatives, you know you’re coming out with pockets full of cash.

All jokes aside though, being away from home for school makes you yearn for the closeness of family and that continuous loop of unconditional love. What my parents taught me more than anything is to always be thankful—which is what celebrating Eid is all about.

—Zainab Al-Mehdar.

Hanukkah vs. Christmas

Full disclosure: I’m only half Jewish. But as any good minority would, I jump at any chance to cry foul when someone says “Merry Christmas” without following it with a “Happy Holidays!”

The most important thing to remember when discussing Hanukkah with Jews is that everyone knows Christmas is better. Sure, you’ll hear the classic “I get eight days of presents,” or “my holiday has doughnuts” rebuttal, but we only hold onto these arguments so tightly because if Chanukah was any good we would have settled on a singular way to spell it and marketed the hell out of it already. But rather than a journalistic exposé of Watergate-like proportions, here are the basics for all you non-Jews looking for a way to relate to Drake on a deeper level.

First of all, Hanukkah is not a religious holiday. We have holy days like any religion, but these eight days ain’t them. Because Jews follow a lunar calendar it hops around December, and this year it goes from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1. We call it the festival of lights, but we also celebrate oil—this is why we fry potatoes and doughnuts. Poutine is also a reasonable Hanukkah treat if you’re not keeping kosher.

Heard of the dreidel? It’s actually a fantastic version of gambling for children! Think roulette, but with higher stakes—because the money is actually chocolate.

Unfortunately, for those of you who like your holiday drinks spiked, Hanukkah doesn’t have a rum and eggnog or mulled wine equivalent. For this reason I encourage celebrators to improvise. Have a Chanukah-inspired tequila sunrise… As long as you follow it up with a festive Hanukkah poutine and sour cream glazed while blasting Gene Simmons, you’re winning at Chanukah. So grab a yarmulke, light some candles, and l’chaim!

—Dayne Moyer.