No Name Snowmen and One Tree Hill: the making of the twelfth day of GTA Christmas

For the twelfth day of GTA Christmas I needed “twelve cards for greeting”, but I only had six Christmas cards. They are hard to come by in a Muslim household. I had to call in the troops: my little brother and sister.

“Neela! Nain! What are you doing? You want to do arts and crafts?”

“Now?” Neela asked. “Okay.”

“We’re supposed to have a Mario Kart tournament with Nadeem,” Nain reminded her. He loved group activities, so he’d be happy either way but since his strengths lay in video games and not art, he was reluctant to change plans.

“We’ll do it after,” Neela said.

“Yeah, you’ll do it after,” I repeated. “Neela, get that old purse filled with glitter glue. We need to make some Christmas-y things.”

Nain sighed. “Okay, I’m coming. Let me go tell Nadeem there’s been a change of plans.”

We set ourselves up in the basement, and I shot out rapid-fire instructions. “I’m thinking a snowman, Santa…things that aren’t too complicated. What else?”

“I’ll make a candy cane,” Neela said. “I know how to make a lit candy cane.”

I nodded. “Perfect. I’m gonna make a snowman. Nain, turn on an episode of One Tree Hill for background noise.”

“Okay.” He grabbed the remote. “I’m just going to watch you guys.”

The episode we chose was the one in which Haley and Nathan’s friends throw them a post-wedding bridal shower and bachelor party. The scene where the faux-mechanic shows up to fix their “broken down” car is playing. The music starts, and the mechanic starts stripping.

Nain looked down at his hands and shook his head. “I really thought he was a mechanic.” Then he spotted my semi-completed snowman.

“Neya, what kind of a branch is that?” he demanded. “There’s supposed to be extra parts at the end. Have you never seen a tree branch before?”

I made an offended noise. Neela looked up from the piece of paper she was cutting and said, “You’re being very critical, but you’re contributing nothing.”

“Does Frosty have buttons?” I asked. “And how far down do they go? Is it like a trench coat thing? What about his mouth? Everything’s made of coal, right?” They both nodded their heads.

“I’m loving that he doesn’t have eyes yet,” Neela said. “Gives him mystery. Oh my gosh, give him a wink.”

“I’ll give him eyes that look real.” I drew one eye open and one eye closed.

“Neya, that looks awful and scary,” Nain said.

Neela was of a different opinion. “I’m loving everything that’s happening with that snowman. I want to put it in my room when we’re done.”

Now I was concerned about how I was going to make its carrot nose. “Do we have any orange paper? Or an orange marker?” I looked through the pencil case. “Oh, I’ll use these sticky notes! Wow, that was lucky.” I cut out a triangle and stuck it on its face.

“Aha! There we go,” I said triumphantly.

Nain gasped. “No! He doesn’t have a carrot nose. Remember the song “with a corn cob pipe and a button nose.

I blinked. My snowman looked too good, so there was no way I was starting over. “This is a No Name brand snowman. “

“Frosty is not supposed to look like that, Neya,” Nain said disapprovingly.

“Wow, yeah he does have a pipe,” Neela muttered to herself.

“Well whatever,” I snapped. “All other snowmen have carrot noses.”


Neela played peacemaker. “It’s okay. He’s not Frosty, he’s Frosté.”

Nain turned his attention to Neela’s work. “One of the lines on your candy cane is fatter than the others.” Neela and I glared at him.

Meanwhile, on the screen, Nathan was playing 2K with a stripper. We all stopped to watch before returning to work.

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“I’m done,” Neela said, holding up her finished candy cane.

“Oooh girl. That’s a great candy cane.”

“Are we done?” she asked.

I looked appraisingly over the table. “No, we need three more things…”

She thought for a moment. “Hmm. How about a present?”

“Yaaaas good thinking.”

“I have red ribbon.”

The episode starts to look like Nathan’s going to cheat, but we all know better. Still we watch. The episode ends. Haley and Nathan are still happily married. We still need background noise, so we start searching for another episode, reading descriptions as we go. After my binge watch this summer I can recognize them all. “We’re getting closer to the school shooting episode,” I say.

Neela perks up. “Let’s watch that one!”

I rolled my eyes and turned to Nain. “She’s so lukewarm about this show, but she could watch that episode 47 times.”

As the episode starts we begin discussing the difficulties of making a gift. How do you make it look three-dimensional? How will we stick the ribbon on the top with only a glue stick? We eventually decide on a simple design, but now we have two more things left to make.

“A reindeer’s too hard,” Neela says.

“Maybe Santa,” I suggest. “I don’t want to make an entire Santa though. How about a hat? We’ll make just the Santa hat. While I do that, you make a snowflake.”

By now everyone in the tutor centre knows that Jimmy Edwards is the shooter. One girl Abby sobs, “I can’t be here.”

We giggle at that adorable understatement. “We are all Abby,” I say.

The show is now at the emotional scene where Glenda’s mom asks Brooke if she’s seen Glenda. She explains that Glenda’s always said they were friends, but Brooke has no idea who that is making her realize how oblivious she’s been to her classmates throughout high school. Suddenly the screen goes black, and we look over to see Nain holding the remote.

“What are you doing?” Neela asked.

“I hate this scene. It’s so sad.” Nain’s always had a soft spot for Brooke.

We both stared judgementally at him.

“Turn it back on,” I commanded.

Neela continued working on her snowflake. ‘It’s okay. I get it. I can’t watch Fat Albert without crying.”

Featured image via Tumblr

Christmas Eve in Nathan Phillips Square

Skating in Nathan Phillips Square sounds like a lovely idea for Christmas Eve. If it’s cold enough that is.

Last night, Nathan Phillips Square’s ice rink was closed to skating due to unusually high temperatures for December. That didn’t deter skaters who still tiptoed their way onto the ice, rules be damned. A very frustrated gentleman was forced to give frequent reminders over the PA system that people were not allowed to go onto the ice – with or without skates.

Luckily, the beautiful light display in the square was enough to make the trip worth it. The gorgeous city Christmas tree lit during the annual Cavalcade of Lights back in November was still on display, and the large Toronto sign gave visitors enough for marvelling and picture-taking. The tree in Nathan Phillips Square was a way better alternative to the minimalist (read: lazy) tree in the Eaton Centre, just a few steps away.

More picture snapping, less gift shopping at the Toronto Christmas Market

This weekend, stores across the city were swarming with last minute gift shoppers, and the Toronto Christmas Market was no exception.

Located in the quaint Distillery District, the market boasted a number of vendors with unique offerings ranging from Matryoshka (Russian nesting) dolls to carved wooden ornaments. Yesterday was the last day of the month-long event, and Torontonians came out in large numbers for an opportunity to experience all the hype. Visitors could drink mulled wine and ride the carousel or the Ferris wheel, and for the first time in the market’s history, guests were charged cover on weekends. This comes as no surprise considering its increase in popularity; it has quickly become one of the things to do this time of year along with other Christmas-in-the-city standbys like skating in Nathan Phillips Square or attending the Santa Claus Parade.

Yet unlike those other activities where the hoopla is largely defined by, well, the activity – skating, watching the parade – the Christmas Market is more about atmosphere and less about shopping. One obvious explanation: the steep prices.

“[It’s] great if you’re an upper middle class family and not a student,” says Cali Lopez, a student at Glendon College, York University. Others expressed the same sentiment, citing the high price tags as the biggest deterrent to actually shopping. In fact, a majority of the people I spoke with said they didn’t really intend to buy anything at all and attending the market was more of an opportunity to enjoy the festive mood and munch on yummy snacks while enjoying the company of their friends and family.

Francesca Kennedy has gone to the Christmas Market for three years including this year and didn’t find anything she would really buy as a gift. “I just really like the atmosphere, and checking out the art galleries around there,” she explained. It’s easy to see where she’s coming from; the sights and smells make for a very warm environment and the gorgeous Christmas tree serves as a spectacular centrepiece for the venue. At the end of what would be the final night of #TCM15, visitors gathered for a World Carolling Challenge to beat the record for the most people carolling at the same time – just when you thought the event couldn’t seem more like a Christmas movie.

But as in the movies, things aren’t always perfect. The crowds at the Christmas Market may not have been as purposeful as the crowds that swelled the concourses of Yorkdale and the Eaton Centre, but they were still crowds and for some shoppers they made for a bit of an unpleasant experience. The tendency to be jostled by the crowd and effectively swept past booths made it difficult for some to stop and appreciate the vendors’ wares.

In fairness, the market is meant to be both a place of commerce and celebration. If nothing else, visitors got a cute picture out of the entire experience and for most people, especially in our Instagram-obsessed age, that alone was worth the five dollar entrance fee.

The Toronto Christmas Market ran from November 20 – December 20 this year in the historic Distillery District. This is its sixth year running.

12 Days of GTA Christmas

Join us as we count down the 12 Days of GTA Christmas. We’ll be posting Toronto-themed “gifts” every day up until Christmas Day on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #12daysofGTAxmas.

On the TWELFTH day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: twelve cards for greeting.

On the ELEVENTH day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: eleven Macs for typing.

On the TENTH day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: ten cars a-beaming.

On the NINTH day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: nine hours of singing.

On the EIGHTH day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: eight cups for sipping.

On the SEVENTH day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: seven calls a-ringing.

(Someone figured out what they did wrong…)

On the SIXTH day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: six babes a-slaying.

On the FIFTH day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: fiiiiiiive chicken wingssss.

On the FOURTH day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: four awful words.

On the THIRD day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: three bank pens.

On the SECOND day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: two meatball subs.

On the FIRST day of Christmas, my true love sent to me: an elf in a Raptors jersey.


Glendon Musical Ensemble to share the sounds of the season at Annual Christmas Concert

The holiday season turns cities from bustling to bright all in the time it takes to string up a few lights. For the budget-conscious Christmas lover, a warm jacket and a cup of hot chocolate is all that’s needed to enjoy the fabulous light displays set up along Toronto’s waterfront, at the Distillery District’s Christmas Market, or in Nathan Phillips Square. And in a city as dynamic as Toronto, affordable holiday activities are not limited to the sights, but can also be found in free concerts and shows around the city.

Student productions at colleges and universities are this city’s untapped resource of affordable entertainment. The amount of work and dedication that goes into these productions is enormous, and they are oftentimes free.

Glendon College’s Musical Ensemble will be holding its annual Christmas concert this Thursday. Though it is regularly eclipsed by the colossal Keele campus, Glendon is the original campus of York University, tucked away in an affluent area of midtown Toronto at Bayview and Lawrence. Originally the residence of the wealthy financier Edward Rogers Wood, it was bequeathed to the University of Toronto, and eventually became the first home of York University.

Thursday’s audience will recognize holiday favourites like Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and Baby It’s Cold Outside (Photo courtesy of GME)

Ashley Moniz, general manager of the Glendon Musical Ensemble, believes the manor is the perfect setting for the concert. “Glendon is like a scene from a beautiful fairy tale, and the manor is right at the centre of its story,” he said. “Having formerly been a house, the manor still retains the cozy and relaxed feeling which we like to create for our Annual Christmas Concert.”

The concert is held in the basement of the manor in the student-run space, Lunik, where people can grab a coffee and study during the day, and enjoy drinks and entertainment in the evening. On Thursday night, guests can expect to hear holiday favourites like Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and Baby It’s Cold Outside. The event is pay what you can, and attendees can expect some surprises including audience participation designed to make the show more interactive.

For students like Moniz, participating in the ensemble is a great way to share a love of music. “[It] can be very stressful and time consuming,” he explained. “But connecting with other students, and seeing how much joy our work can bring to others, makes the process so much more worthwhile.”

The Glendon Musical Ensemble will be holding its Annual Christmas Concert this Thursday December 10 at 7:00pm in Lunik at Glendon College.

Toronto kicks off Christmas in the city with annual Cavalcade of Lights

It isn’t the holiday season in Toronto until the Christmas tree in Nathan Phillips Square has been lit. Not a city to pass up an opportunity for a party, the annual Cavalcade of Lights will feature music, entertainment, and fireworks.

This year marks the 49th Annual Cavalcade of Lights, and tonight’s show is guaranteed to be thrilling. Far from limiting itself to musical performances, tonight’s show will include fire juggling and eating brought to the audience by FireGuy, a fire and light artist from right here in the Big Smoke. In keeping with the theatrics, FireGuy’s spectacle will be followed by gravity defying aerial acts by Zero Gravity Circus.

Last year’s Christmas tree stood over 60 feet tall, decorated with ornaments and lights that reportedly took weeks to put on. Bedecked and brightened, the tree traditionally stands in Nathan Phillip’s Square for the entire holiday season as a shared symbol of merriment for downtown dwellers and visitors to City Hall alike. This year’s tree, set to be lit at the end of tonight’s celebrations, is sure to be as festive.

Naturally, the beginning of the Christmas season in Canada is inescapably accompanied by the cold, and for some, standing in a crowd in subzero temperatures is not their idea of fun. For others, the entertainment and sense of city camaraderie makes the brisk weather worth it.

Kendal Alexander has gone for the past three years, and believes it’s a good time. “It’s a nice outing for the family to just hang out and watch the show,” he said. “Although it does get cold, you don’t really notice it because of all the fun you’re having.”

Wind chill aside, some observers have pointed out that the grand spectacle seems to disregard other holidays that could have been recognized alongside Christmas during the Cavalcade of Lights, especially in a city as multicultural as Toronto. “It’s funny because both Diwali and Chanukah are festivals of light, but the only literal festival of light for Toronto is for introducing Christmas” said Jamie Basian, an International Studies student.

The event certainly does get quite a bit of attention – the kind of attention that results in road closures. Those driving around downtown today will have to ensure their trip doesn’t involve using any roadway from Dundas to Queen on Bay Street between the hours of 4pm and 11:30pm.

The Cavalcade of Lights kicks off at 6pm tonight in Nathan Phillips Square.

Featured Image from City of Toronto website