December can be a very stressful month, and like most students at this moment, I am still in the midst of finals. However, classes have finished at last, and I take comfort in knowing the term’s end is in sight. Each paper for me is one step closer to a much-needed break. As the work begins to thin out, I have been able to slip some of my favourite holiday activities into my schedule. For me, these activities have marked the start of winter holidays for years, and as demanding this last stretch of schoolwork is, taking a little time off to maintain these annual traditions has really kept me energized.
The One of a Kind Show
I have been going to this exhibition for the past few years — student admission is discounted at $10 — and have always managed to get a chunk of my Christmas shopping done there. Most of the products are far out of my price range, but I usually come away with a few cards, little trinkets, or food. It’s also lovely to just look at the beautiful booths and try the abundance of delicious samples. I count all the walking around as my exercise for the day (it’s a large hall!), and it makes for a great friend date as well.
U of T and its colleges all put on Exam Jams at this time of the year, which feature amazing de-stressors, such as good-quality free food and animal friends. All these events are free, and I already have two of them lined up in my calendar this week: the Arts & Science one at Sid Smith (featuring massage therapists, puppies, button making, adult colouring books, a Photo Booth, snacks, and drinks) and the Victoria College one at the Goldring Student Centre (featuring lunch, arts and crafts, yoga, and small farm animals).
In addition to keeping an eye out for Exam Jams, fun drop-in events such as cupcake-decorating also take place at the end of term. Last week, I attended one hosted by the Vic Commuter Dons. It was their second cupcake-decorating session of this year, and there is already talk of more happening in the future. Other student groups also have similar events throughout the year that are definitely worth looking into.
My holidays can never be complete without baking. I make literally hundreds of cookies every year, which make great presents and snacks. Cookie-decorating parties are also fantastic get-togethers for friends and family. For this activity, shortbread or sugar cookies (a super simple type to make) work best. You can spend as little time as you want on them, although I find that it tends to be a full-afternoon affair.
My most ambitious baking projects are my Yule Log cakes with meringue mushrooms, which I’ve now made for five or six years. The process spans over two days, and I’m always so proud by the end. It provides bonding time with my mother and requires an entirely different kind of skill and focus than writing essays — a welcome break and challenge.
Toronto Christmas Market
This place has such a magical atmosphere; I feel like I’m escaping into a fairytale whenever I go. Admission is free on weekdays, and it’s enough to enjoy the lights and carolling (although choose a warmer day if possible, because I got cold quickly last year). The food tends to be quite expensive (eat beforehand if possible), and I wouldn’t recommend Christmas shopping here, but the mulled wine and hot chocolate that I treated myself to were well worth it. This year, the market is scheduled in my calendar for the day after my last deadline, and it will be the perfect way to usher in the holidays.