Making the most of the holidays away from home

I'm going to miss my family but, rather than feel too bad about it, I'm looking at it as the perfect chance to make new traditions and have some fun.

A look through the windows of the International Centre, where stockings with Santa on it hang in front of a banner of international flags, and a Christmas tree stands in the corner. Why not see if any of your friends will be around for the holidays?

Before I left home for Halifax this summer, my aunt asked me if I would be coming home for Christmas. Jokingly, I said no. Well, I said a lot more than “no,” but I can’t write that here. Now, I don’t know how much I believe in magic—or in the TikTok manifestation trends going around right now—but let me tell you, when I said with confidence that I was not going home for Christmas, something in the universe took me seriously.

I don’t know what your family does for the holidays, but my mother likes to go all out. I’m talking counters full of sugar cookies, garlands and glitter on every available surface, and usually upwards of three trees, all of which are decked out to the nines. It’s an affair, to say the least. But it’s one that neither I nor my twin brother will be attending this year. Let me tell you, as I sit in our matchbox of a dorm with my Walmart jack-o’-lantern still staring at me with his smug little pumpkin mouth, things are beginning to feel desperate.

If you're in the same situation as me (as in, getting ready to stomp a plastic pumpkin for looking at you a little too wrong for a little too long) then I am here to give you some peace of mind.

The holidays, no matter which you identify with, are about traditions, right?

And who makes traditions?

That’s right—we do!

So there I was, staring at Jack (yes, I named the pumpkin), without the faintest idea of what my brother and I were going to do for what was quickly turning out to be the bleakest holiday season in all our 20 years, when my phone beeped. That’s nothing new, my phone is always beeping. But instead of looking down to see an SOS text from my best friend, I saw one from my elderly neighbour, Anita:

Nancy told me you were going to be staying in town for the holidays. Do you think you could watch Ollie for me on Christmas Eve?”

 

It wasn't exactly an SOS, but it was something. It was a plan, and before this my only plan had been to wallow over the fact that my older brother was currently sitting at home eating a mountain of baked goods that are rightfully mine. So I messaged back in the affirmative and screamed across the room to my twin that we now had a Christmas reservation…with a 9-year-old miniature dachshund.

Now, I know that babysitting my neighbour's dog does not constitute a tradition. I most likely will not be spending every Christmas Eve with Ollie watching Hallmark movies while my brother attempts to make popcorn in a microwave older than us. What I am trying to get at is that in these weird times in life when nothing makes sense, all we can do is make the most out of the situation at hand. For us, that means puppy cuddles.

I think we’re all guilty of getting so hung up in the perfect ‘formula’ of the holidays that we start to freak out when things don’t go exactly as we planned. This is especially true for something as important as not going home to see our families. I can’t say that I didn’t lose a whole week of November when it finally hit me that I wouldn’t be seeing my mother this Christmas, so you aren’t alone in feeling bummed out. I think it’s important, though, that we do all we can to feel better.

So make your own traditions. Play mini-putt with friends, buy those cheap antler headbands from the dollar store and meet the mall Santa, order takeout as your holiday meal.

 

This is our chance to give the season another layer of meaning. It’s a celebration of us and how even when we’re separated from the people we love, we still must love ourselves enough to seek out happiness.

I can’t tell you how to celebrate the holiday, but as for my twin and I? We'll be renting the new Spider-Man film on Disney+, fighting over who gets to snuggle Ollie first, and praying that we don’t have to call the Halifax Fire Department when we attempt to use an oven for the first time in over four months to make mac & cheese.

From our little makeshift family to yours, we sincerely hope you have a wonderful holiday season and that you find joy in all the little things that you can—even if it’s just hunkering down with some friends and some festive Pop-Tarts. This is university, after all.