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When I was a first-grader, my mom dressed me up in a festive turtleneck. She even visited my class to help us decorate gingerbread houses. Despite her best efforts to make me happy, I was very fussy because I hated turtlenecks. They weren’t my style at all! As a younger and far grungier version of myself, I felt very bothered the entire day (“Why doesn’t mom understand me? This isn’t the look I was going for. Ugghhh!”). To make matters worse, many of my classmates talked about celebrating the holidays in a very particular way; one that I could not relate to.

I went to a Catholic school, which meant most of my classmates recognized Christmas as well. But there were still many variances between the way I viewed the holiday and what my peers deemed as “normal.” The typical Canadian Christmas seems to heavily emphasize leaving cookies for Santa, opening gifts on Christmas morning, and visiting as many family members as possible. But my Polish family does things differently...

The first and most shocking difference is that in Poland, many people open gifts on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning. Although I sometimes received weird looks from my classmates when I explained this concept, I still saw it as an advantage. The anticipation of waiting to see my presents ate away at me every year as a kid! I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to wait a whole night longer.

Overall, my family does the bulk of our celebrating on Christmas Eve. My immediate family members and I enjoy our holiday feast. Then, we sit under the tree together while opening gifts and eventually, having dessert. In contrast, when it comes to Christmas Day, we typically sleep in, lounge around in pyjamas and eat leftovers from the night before.

That brings me to my next big topic: food! Each year, my mom takes an entire day off from work to prepare pierogies. Seriously, it takes a full day of rigorous work to feed my family of five. My mom also bakes some of our favourite desserts, like cheesecake and poppyseed bread. The rest of my family would help too, but we’re not that gifted in the kitchen. 

Over the years, I grew to stop caring whether my family’s traditions were “normal” compared to other Canadian families. At the risk of sounding too corny, I want to remind you the holidays are all about spending time with the ones we love. There’s no standard way to do that! This year, I’m thankful to have a long break from school; it allows me to focus on my closest family and friends. It also gives me a chance to rest and take care of myself after a long, hectic semester.

To all my readers: I hope you celebrate what matters to you this holiday season, whether that means practicing self-love or Zoom calling all of your friends. But whatever you do, just know you don’t have to constrain yourself to any societal norms or expectations. The holiday season isn’t a one-size-fits-all time of year, so feel free to be as quirky as you wish! 

I’d like to leave you with the words of deceased writer Donald E. Westlake: “As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same.”

Anna Wdowczyk

Toronto MU '22

Anna is a journalism student who aspires to graduate in three years, with a double minor in English and Professional Communications. As someone who used to aggressively beg her mom to buy the latest editions of Tiger Beat and J-14 at her local grocery stores, Anna knew writing for Her Campus would be a natural fit. Aside from covering trending topics in the media, Anna really enjoys exploring the realm of business and technology. She has written several Biz & Tech articles for The Eyeopener, and she currently works as a case workshop facilitator at the Business Career Hub.
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