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Merry & Bright or Gloomy Plight? Anticipating the Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us! The string lights, the decorated trees, the merry music, the bright white snow… the three term papers that are due, the ethics application that needs to be submitted, the scholarship deadlines, the experiment you started without considering holidays… 

Before the season of “Merry & Bright”, grad students are often experiencing this state of “Gloomy Plight”. It seem like all of our deadlines pile on top of each other and we are needing to put fires out left, right, and center. 

There is also the anticipation of the holiday season. We’re beginning to buy gifts for Mom, Dad, partner, baby, niece, nephew, Granny, and the neighbour next door. How can we afford all of this?! 

Our calendars are filling up with holiday parties and family gatherings. We need to find time to make a casserole to bring to Granny’s, cookies to bring to Mom and Dad’s, and don’t forget that you said you’d bring the sangria to Friendsmas next weekend! And who the heck is going to look after the dog who wasn’t invited to Granny’s house?! 

While it can be a stressful time of “Gloomy Plight” leading up to the holidays, remember that you can take the chance to experience the “Merry & Bright”. The deadlines will soon pass. Make the decision to freeze your cells down. Mind your wellbeing. Please take a break and relax. 

Here are some tips to get you through the holiday season.

Gifting a Shared Experience

I always think that the best gifts are the things we can experience together. All the fad things inevitably become junk. Instead of buying things, consider experiences that you and your loved ones can share with each other. My dad loved the tickets I gave him for the Kingston Frontenac’s game last year. It gave us a great reason to spend the night together doing something we both enjoy! It only cost me about $50.00 for our two tickets and was so much more meaningful than another thing to sit in his garage.

Gifting for Values

You can also consider shared interests and values. For the past couple years, I have been putting together homemade baskets full of eco-friendly items for my friends and sisters. The 1000 Islands Soap Co. is the cutest little shop filled with all natural, locally made soaps. At $6.50 per bar, two of these in a basket along with a couple other items makes an amazing gift that lasts for months! 

Save your glass food jars and bring them to Harlowe Green. A baby food jar is perfect for toothpaste! Did you ever think you would gift someone toothpaste?! My mom did this for me as a birthday gift in the spring – she spray painted the lid of the jar copper and it looks so cute on my bathroom shelf. I highly recommend the Frosted Mint flavour. To go with the toothpaste (whose packaging won’t take centuries to degrade) the bamboo toothbrushes are $8.00 each and, since buying her one a few years ago, my sister asks me for one at every gift-giving occasion. These are biodegradable alternatives to plastic toothbrushes that sit in landfills for many years to come.

To tie all the items together, the Mission Thrift Store has three aisles of woven baskets for less than $5.00. These are a great eco-friendly alternative to gift wrapping. One time, I found the cutest little basket that was perfect for inserting reusable cloth wipes ($15.00 for a 10-pack from Harlowe Green) as a no-waste alternative to Kleenex. My friend loved having a nice holder for these ultra-soft wipes. 

Gifting doesn’t need to break your bank. Buying local can be more expensive than purchasing items online. But in my experience, I usually spend less money on a few valuable (low waste, locally made, eco-friendly) items or experience gifts and find that my loved ones appreciate them more.

Holiday Parties

‘Tis the season of holiday parties! While these can be so much fun to attend, it can also be really stressful to think about all the details. I already have three holiday parties in my calendar, and I know that two of them are potlucks. I also know that I will have three family gatherings to attend, and I need to bring a food item to two of them. Does any of this sound familiar?

In past years, I was keen to try out new recipes and bring something different to each occasion. Now that I am a bit more realistic about how little time I have on my hands, I will be making maximum two items and doubling or tripling my recipes. If you already have some favourite recipes, don’t forget that the freezer is a wonderful invention that will keep your potluck items good for the many weeks leading up to your holiday gatherings! Here are two of my favourite potluck recipes that are quick to make for the busy grad student schedule.

Asparagus Wraps

This appetizer is a quick and affordable option for when you have back-to-back holiday party weekends. Purchase some spicy salami, spreadable cream cheese, and a bunch of asparagus (or two for multiple occasions). Spread a layer of cream cheese on a slice of salami. Roll the salami-cream cheese combo around one piece of washed and trimmed asparagus. Store them uncooked in an airtight container in the fridge as needed. Before heading to your gathering, bake them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until the asparagus is cooked through. These have always been a big hit at parties!

Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Caesar Salad

The name says it all – this salad will be a favourite amongst the vegans and carnivores alike. It’s a gluten-free and vegan recipe available on the Oh She Glows blog. This one is also a great option for the back-to-back holiday parties. If you don’t have the base ingredients on hand, this salad can be a bit more on the expensive side, but once you purchase the ingredients, you can make dressing for at least 5 of these salads. So, in the long-run it is affordable and fairly quick to make. The only thing that takes a bit more time with this recipe is the chickpea croutons as they need to be baked for about 20 minutes then cooled before tossing the salad. I recommend adding the dressing a couple hours before eating to soften the kale then adding the chickpeas and vegan parmesan at the last second. 

Happy Holidays

I hope you choose to enjoy time with family and friends and take the opportunity to relax this holiday season. Please remember that no experiment or analysis is worth the cost of your wellbeing. I wish you all a “Merry & Bright” holiday season!

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