A mother and daughter playing in the snow


My Favourite Christmas Plans Are No Plans

Dec 14, 2018

Things I like on days off that are not Christmas: coffee, movies, spending time outside. Things I like on Christmas: coffee, movies, spending time outside.

Friends would invite us to their families’ celebrations, but those were full of their own tensions.... I realized I don't need a Christmas packed with plans.

It would be fair to begin with the reality that I’m Jewish and grew up in Anglo-Jewish Montreal. I didn’t celebrate or even know much about Christmas until I acquired a non-Jewish stepdad when I was about six, a bit younger than my daughter is now. 

Unlike me, my daughter spent her early childhood in predominantly non-Jewish settings. Her daycares and schools have all hosted Christmas events, made Christmas crafts, etc. And since she was a toddler, I’ve co-parented with someone whose large family is Catholic and hosts many holiday gatherings from November through January — but none specifically on December 25th.

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In my twenties, it became my December 25th routine to get together with friends and go for dim sum and sometimes to a movie. I know this is a Jewish stereotype of sorts, but it’s not a routine I grew up with at all, it's one I adopted. You see, before dim sum became the routine, Christmas had become too much: the crowds, the line-ups and the costs were making the whole thing not fun. Friends would sometimes invite us to their families’ celebrations, but those were full of their own tensions, pressures and stresses — ones that needn’t involve us. I realized I don’t need a Christmas packed with plans.

If we go anywhere, we tend to have streetcars and even sidewalks to ourselves — a very rare and super nice experience in the city.

Truth be told, I’m pretty high strung at the best of times. The holiday season, especially on years like this one where Hanukkah falls very early, is the one time of year that everyone around me seems more stressed out than I am. It’s a very weird thing for me. In the third week of December, regardless of where we are, it seems everyone around us is freaking out, but I am not. And it’s kind of the best.

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In recent years we’ve discovered that the smaller Chinatown in the east end of Toronto is far less populated on Christmas Day than the downtown one. If we go for dim sum now, we go there — without all of the “holiday magic” that is overheating in winter gear waiting to be seated. One of my very favourite cafés also happens to be open that day, a Christmas miracle. And it happens to be walking distance from the beach, which of course is freezing this time of year, but still a pretty no-stress place to be. If we go anywhere, we tend to have streetcars and even sidewalks to ourselves — a very rare and super nice experience in the city. Things are as quiet inside as they are outside: very few people texting or emailing or having expectations.

I’ll admit that in the lead-up to Christmas some years I wonder if I should be approaching things differently. But in the end, knowing we have a day all-the-way off makes me look forward to the December 25th, something that didn’t used to happen.

Article Author Tara-Michelle Ziniuk
Tara-Michelle Ziniuk

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a writer and editor based in Toronto. She’s a queer single mom to a 7.5-year-old. She’s overshared about her daughter for Today’s Parent, Bunch Family, Baby Post and various other print and digital publications. She’s also a poet (her kid says “of sad books”) and book reviewer (for Publisher’s Weekly, The Canadian Children’s Book News and more). You can find her on Twitter @therealrealtmz.

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