Student Life

Spending the holidays with chosen family

For many, this holiday season was spent away from loved ones. At a time when uniting with  family feels especially pertinent, the realities of the pandemic remain stark. Nonetheless, students adapted, finding comfort in friends, roommates, and themselves. 

Ollie F., U3 Arts, spent the holidays with their roommate and boyfriend. It was their first time away from family during this time of year.

In previous years, Christmas has meant visiting Provence, France to unite with their maternal side of the family and participate in regional traditions. 

“We have 13 desserts on Christmas day and set up a mini Christmas village,” Ollie said. “Some years we also sprout wheat and barley starting at the beginning of December.” 

The winter break typically offers students a chance to see loved ones from whom they are separated for most of the year. Homecomings, however, were shadowed by a threat to communal safety. Ollie reflected on the family that they weren’t able to see. 

“[During the holidays] the most important thing for me is to be with my sister,” Ollie said. “I miss [her] the most. I’m also really going to miss seeing my little cousins [….] They’re the most awesome kids I’ve ever met.”

Since Ollie’s roommate is Jewish, they lit the menorah for every night of Hanukkah, which spanned from Dec. 10 to 18. Although they might not have enjoyed as many desserts as in Provence, the three still cooked and shared a meal on Christmas. Ollie expressed their gratitude for these close relationships. 

“It [was] strange being away from my family for the first time this Christmas, but I feel so lucky to have this bit of my chosen family surrounding me,” Ollie said. “Our household functions like a family and we all take care of each other, which is something really special.”

Friends and roommates, isolated from familiarity and tradition—as most have been these past months—can be strengthened by the shared experience of grappling with the pandemic’s strangeness. 

Brian Wood, a 2L Law student, hoped to replicate comforts from his home in Barbados. He enjoyed his break with a Barbadian friend visiting from Toronto and cooked meals together that are unique to their home country. 

Barbados’ warm weather was difficult to summon, but food can often be its own form of teleportation. Earlier, Wood shared his traditions and plans. 

“I’m going to miss my mom’s cooking,” Wood said. “On Christmas day, most of us have family luncheons. Our parents would cook a huge meal for extended family, cousins, aunts, uncles [….] One main thing we eat is called macaroni pie [….] It won’t be the same, but we’re going to try.” 

Deciding to stay away from family is paradoxically an easy yet difficult decision. Spending the holidays with her roommate, U1 Arts student Laura Clow explained their choice. 

“We knew it had to be done to keep our loved ones safe,” Clow said. “But, it was incredibly hard to carry that decision out, especially when it came to telling them that we wouldn’t make it home for Christmas.” 

Despite the setbacks, Clow enjoyed creating perhaps the beginnings of their new traditions. 

“We [tried] to make this a positive experience for both of us,” Clow said. “I [was] looking forward to doing everything ourselves this year and feeling like full adults. We [had] a super great gift exchange […] and a delicious Christmas dinner.” 

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