The ultimate gift guide for the pandemic

I have always taken gift-giving very seriously. Even before I had money to spend on gifts, I was finding ways to celebrate my loved ones. I spend a lot of time thinking about what to get people and nothing makes me happier than seeing the look on someone’s face when a gift I’ve put a lot of time into makes them truly joyful.

This year, there are several people who I would normally buy holiday gifts for that I will not get to see. As we continue to hold birthdays and other celebrations in the pandemic and as we go into a holiday season where you might find yourself distanced from those you normally celebrate with, here are some gifts you can send through email that aren’t e-transfers.


I couldn’t write a list of gifts to give faraway loved ones without including gift cards, even though sometimes they can be boring gifts. However, depending on the gift card, your recipient will really enjoy it. Find a gift card that helps them buy an item that they’re saving up for or get them a gift card to cover their Spotify subscription, groceries, or other bills for a little while.


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A post shared by WaySpa | Spa Gift Card (@wayspa)

Also consider finding a gift card that pays for your recipient’s splurges. Do they regularly get facials? See if their favourite spa is on Wayspa. Do they typically spend too much money on concert or sports tickets? Gift them a Ticketmaster or StubHub gift card so they can be the first in line when venues open back up. Are they always ordering takeout? Get them a gift card to their favourite restaurant. Or, pick a gift card to their signature stores or stores that sell products only they would buy.

But it is the most entertaining as a gift-giver to surprise them with an out-of-the-box gift card. Consider options such as gift cards to businesses that sell photobooks and other personalized goods. Is there a store your friend loves, but they can’t afford their products? Give them a gift card that makes it easier for them to get that item they’ve been wanting. Are they looking for a particular product? Find a small business that sells what your friend is looking for and get them a gift card from there.

You can find local small businesses at sites and Instagram pages such as Not-Amazon, Hamilton Supports Local and Blk Owned Hamont. You can also give Etsy gift cards, which allows your recipient to pick the item they want from a small business that’s local to them.


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A post shared by BLK OWNED Hamont (@blkownedhamont)

Lastly, never underestimate the power of an I owe you gift certificate. Especially with the cancellations and changes caused by the pandemic, their perfect gift may be something you can’t give them now but want to promise to get them in the future. You could also gift free items — a hug for when COVID-19 is over or a regularly scheduled Zoom call with them.


Printables are paper products that your recipient can print out themselves. You can find several gift-worthy printable items for free or you can buy one from a small business. Many printables are also easy to DIY.


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A post shared by The Witch’s Fix (@thewitchsfix)

Book lovers may enjoy printable bookmarks, such as these ones from Hamilton-based shop The Witch’s Fix or printable reading journals such as these I found on Etsy. For the cook in your life, you can get printable recipe cards like these ones from The Witch’s Fix.

Consider sending crossword and sudoku puzzles to those in your life who like a challenge or a personalized calendar to those who like to keep track of things. You can also grab art lovers a print or poster, which several small businesses also create custom.


There is truly a subscription box for everyone, from fitness to escape room lovers. For both the cooks and kitchen hazards in your life, consider a short-term meal kit subscription. For the readers in your life, consider book subscription boxes like Raven Reads, which ships Indigenous literature both in Canada and abroad.

Know someone who is always hunting for the best beauty products? Try a subscription box like Curls & Confidence, which sends a quarterly hair regime for curly hair. Hoping to get a loved one to slow down and take some time for themselves? Try a self-care subscription box like Pampered Post.


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A post shared by Raven Reads (@raven_reads)

Many subscription boxes are pricey — or at least add up quickly — but don’t think that there isn’t a subscription-based service in your price range. Treat your loved ones to a short-term subscription (or gift card) to a streaming service that they’d love but don’t have yet, like Disney+ or Crave TV (the new home of Friends).

For the audiobook and podcast listeners you know, consider getting a subscription for services such as Audible. Know a theatre lover? The Stratford Festival is selling Stratfest at Home subscriptions to their digital content, which includes the films of their classic productions. Know someone who loves to make things? Check out Hamilton-based design studio Okay Shoe’s digital portal on Patreon. If they follow creators with Patreon accounts, consider getting them a membership so they can enjoy bonus content.

Another interesting avenue is discount-related subscriptions and memberships. For the person you know who’s always ordering out, check out Uber Eats’ Eats Pass, which gives subscribers free delivery over $15. Know someone who is obsessed with buying books? Get them an Indigo Plum Plus Card, which gives them an extra 10% off and free shipping. Know an avid shopper? You could purchase or sign them up for an SPC or other discount card for them.


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A post shared by Okay Shoe (@okayshoe)

Several discount cards and memberships don’t cost money. Make a new email account for them and sign them up for the reward program at their favourite store or restaurant. Also, check what services are offered through your library and sign them up for free audiobooks or a language learning program.


Just like subscription boxes, there’s a virtual experience for everyone. These gifts are particularly special because you may be able to do the activity with your loved one. You could do virtual paint nights, plant nights, cooking classes or exercise classes. Many of the places that originally offered these events have moved them online in the wake of the pandemic.

Airbnb is also offering many virtual experiences with hosts around the world, from history and nature tours to concerts and dance classes. Also check out local businesses and creators for virtual events, such as Goodbodyfeel’s virtual yoga classes or Hamilton tarot reader, Clairandean Humphrey’s virtual tarot readings. If you have any skills you’d love to share with others, you could also gift an event led by you.


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A post shared by CLAIRandean (@clairitytarot)

Another unique virtual experience is Cameo, where everyone from TikTok creators to legendary athletes to cute animals make personalized videos that can be gifted to adoring loved ones. You can also book live chats. While these can be extremely expensive, if you know someone who’d love a message from Santa or was obsessed with a one-off character in an old teen drama, this could make a great and inexpensive gift.


Donate money to organizations on their behalf. Pick an organization that is involved in a cause they truly care about or donate to an organization that they’ve supported for a while. Also, don’t forget to include individuals as possible avenues, be it a creator whose work they love or a stranger in need that you know they would love to help.


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A post shared by GivingTuesday Canada (@givingtuesdayca)


Gifts don’t have to cost money! As I’ve mentioned with some of the free options above, you can use your skills and creativity to craft free meaningful gifts. Piece together your memories with them in a slideshow or video.

Write them a poem or a story. Share with them your favourite memories of them or things you love about them. Ask their close friends and relatives to write them a letter or an email with their best wishes or a special memory. You could also get their loved ones to send videos with personalized messages.


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A post shared by Greetings Island (@greetingsisland)

If they love cat videos or pictures of dogs, send them a compilation that they can scroll through when they’re down. You could do a similar thing with anything that makes them happy, be it inspirational quotes or watching all the best episodes of Insecure.

Make them a playlist of music or podcasts or audiobooks that they can reference throughout 2021. Put together a list of things that happened on that day in history or, especially for the birthdays of the seniors in your life, a list of things that happened the year they were born.

And last but not least, send an e-card (my personal favourite site is Greetings Island). It’s an awesome feeling to know that people are thinking of you and wishing you well. So show your loved ones that they’re on your mind as they celebrate holidays and milestones. You can do that with any of the gifts above or you could simply send an e-card.

I cried on my sweet sixteen.

While my parents sang “Happy Birthday” in thick, heavy accents, and lit candles were dancing to the tune of their breaths, and wax began to dripping bit by bit on the bright yellow ice-cream cake, I started to sob.

I didn’t mean to nor did I have much of a reason to tear up. Birthdays were supposed to be the happiest days of my life. In fact, they were my life entirely. Because of that day way back when, I had the chance to be happy in the first place.

And my tears weren’t meant to suggest otherwise; my birthday was special to me. For some, this was obviously not the case. There was no significance behind the date. In 1992, it was just another Friday that signaled a cloudy beginning of a weekend. Some, I’m sure, even moaned that their plans would have to change because of the inclement weather.

My parents might have thought the same those twenty-two years ago. Who knows? They may have wanted to go dancing or see a movie or work a bit longer to afford all that I would ask them for. I wasn’t ready to come out yet. Neither was my twin.

But then Friday came and push came to shove in more ways than one and I was born silent as a whisper. I did nothing to deserve the glory. I just flopped out like a fish on land. I couldn’t even breathe right those first few weeks.

When I turned sixteen, I similarly had difficulty both taking the congratulations for the day and inhaling and exhaling. Snot was seeping into my mouth.

The celebratory song ended off-key and early. My sniffles echoed throughout the dining room. My dad weighed his words, then said, “What is wrong?”

I replied, “Nothing.”

He looked at me, and then asked if we wanted to blow the rest of the candles out. My twin and I said yes, and we did, only having to take  a second breath each before all of them went out.

I look back, now six years older to the date, and I don’t think it was just pubescent anxiety getting the better of me. Nor was it because I had some seventy years left. Instead the obnoxious, whale-like tears were a realization that I didn’t know anything about myself and where I wanted to go. I knew very little at all. I had only just arrived here sixteen years ago. But I knew that I wasn’t supposed to cry on my birthday, yet I couldn’t help it. I was growing old faster than I could understand. And there was nothing to do against it all.

Since then, my birthdays haven’t been much different. I’ve wondered what I am supposed to feel and how I’m supposed to get there. More often than not, I don’t feel any different than I did the day previously.

Yet little insignificant moments pile up significantly. There’s that time you had your first kiss and when you laughed until a Sour Patch kid came out of your nose and you made love for the first time. In between the space and time of then and now where every morning was a little birth and every night a little death, everything changed.

By then, you’ll be twenty-two, and you’ll be sitting in a unaired basement in shorts with glasses tilted on your face, little electrical wires for a beard, and your socks are off because you are feeling uncomfortable in your shoes. You flex your fingers, drink your tea, and look at the clock. It is 12:01 a.m. It is Thursday. And it is your birthday.

Later it will be too, whenever that is, and you’ll be doing other things. Until then, you hope to make sense of the routine of every day, including on your birthday. You hope to be successful. And you hope to not have to hope for anything really.

That is the one wish you ask for and it is the one wish you’ll never get.

So, instead, keep blowing those candles, keep saying thanks for the happy birthday, and move on, with your head squirming first, then your body following along, then your legs flailing one after another. Because life, as far as you understand it, is not about the birthday. It is about all other days before and after it because without them, and their daily monotony and cycles and ups and downs, your birthday would mean nothing at all.

Enjoy them. Enjoy everything. And don’t cry because the cake tastes pretty good after all.

For me, Thanksgiving means more than turkey, family and colonialism. It’s also a built-in societal reminder that my birthday is coming up, sometimes even coinciding exactly with Thanksgiving Day. And as my parents will never cease to remind me with their favourite joke, Oct. 11, 1993 was one of those days: I was their seven-pound turkey. (Yeah, that razor wit is genetic.)

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This year my birthday doesn’t fall on Thanksgiving Day, but it is significant for another reason. Those of you counting at home may have noticed that this year marks my twentieth. On October 11, 2013, I will have been alive for 20 years. Yessiree, leaving my teenage years and entering my third decade of life.  The big two-oh. Growing up.

A bona fide adult.

Or at least, that’s what people tell me, as I sit here in the office with smears on my glasses, a bracelet knotted on my wrist and no shoes on my feet because I’ve once again forgotten them at home because I rollerblade here.

Is there some expectation for this to change, once I officially outgrow my teenage-hood? Those around me who I’ve witnessed take the jump into their 20’s have all faced it very grimly. It weighed on them for days, sometimes weeks before the big day, as they lamented leaving their youth behind. With my own entrance to adulthood fast approaching, I feel like I’ve missed the anxiety-laden boat.

Am I supposed to be relishing my last days as a teenager? What does that entail, because if it means staying out late, you can count me out - I am super sleepy.

Do I have to do something impulsive and rebellious? I’m not even really sure how to rebel against my parents. Maybe by inefficiently stacking the dish rack, or not carpooling?

I guess I’ve never been very good at being a teenager. Aside of course from the drinking, cursing and terrible music. Unless I’m confusing teenagers with sailors.

But with the apparently momentous end of this hormonal era, I keep trying to find the meaning in this birthday that everyone tells me is there. The last time I got really excited for a birthday was my twelfth, because I was allowed to ride the bigger go-karts at the local track. The last time I got really nervous for a birthday was my sixth, because I didn’t know if my school friend and neighbourhood friend would get along at my party.

My twentieth birthday brings neither the joys of a new motorway nor the stress of hosting two (2) people for a belligerent, cake-fuelled afternoon. Adulthood doesn’t spring itself on a person. It sneaks on, layer by layer. Each layer covers the ones underneath.

But doesn’t get rid of them.

I am just as much composed of my 10-year-old self as I am my 18-year-old self. Sure, they’re buried deeper and don’t show as much, but my 19-year-old self would be hollow without them.

When my twentieth rolls around, soon as it may, it will fit snugly into place. I’m not leaving behind my teenage years, they’re here to greet my 20’s. And 30’s, and 50’s and so on.

And thank goodness, because I’ve still got some hell to raise.


Dina Fanara and Kacper Niburski

Assistant News Editors


There was a time when McMaster University was located in the heart of downtown Toronto. Back then, McMaster ushered its first school cheer that bubbled with off the wall one liners like “Boom on Star!” and “Boom! Fitz! Boom!”

Then in 1894, McMaster began offering degrees, and in 1930, the University experienced a dramatic shift and relocated to Hamilton. Since then, the University has established itself as a hub of intellect, creativity and ingenuity, reaching the heights of international rankings.

But it wasn’t always so promising. Behind the gothic architecture and cutting edge research, there are a variety of unspoken struggles and triumphs.

To forget the numerous accomplishments in education and research, the times of uncertainty and hardship, and the harrowing accounts of students being drafted into the Great Wars proud but never returning would be to forget where McMaster has come from.

2012 marks the 125th anniversary of this historical and enduring culture in McMaster University.

Events held throughout the year will commemorate the milestone in University history. A new website in honour of the anniversary was launched, and features event listings, old photographs and anecdotes of McMaster history.

This website will also soon feature a list of McMaster’s 125 most influential people, once the results from the “People of Impact” contest which was designed for this purpose is completed. The intention is to recognize those who have been most influential in the advancement of the University.

To add to the excitement, McMaster’s class of 2012 will be burying a time capsule between Edwards Hall and Alumni Memorial Hall filled with memorabilia of their time in university. The capsule will be opened in 50 years, in 2062.

Additionally, on April 23, Founder’s Day will be celebrated on campus to commemorate the momentous day when McMaster was deemed a university and received royal assent in 1887.

All of these are united by the fact that in 125 years, a lot can happen. McMaster owes its budding reputation to these previous years.

To put it simply: incipient beginnings were the origin of all of things McMaster and they will be the impetus underlying another successful 125 years.

Kacper Niburski

Assistant News Editor


If McMaster University were a human being, they’d probably be dead. That’s because 125 years ago, the school celebrated its modest but nascent beginning.

Arising in 1881, McMaster was financed as a Christian educational centre that focused primarily on theological training. Senator William McMaster, after whom the University is named, endowed much of these funds to house classes in Toronto. It wasn’t until 1890, however, that the first degree programs were offered.

The next year saw subtle but important changes. 1892 ushered in McMaster’s first school cheer that bubbled with off the wall one-liners like “Boom on Star!” and “Boom! Fitz! Boom!” Sixteen students composed the first graduating class in 1894. The school colours were switched from a plaid eyesore of green, yellow, red and blue to the more familiar maroon and grey in 1912. Finally, in 1930, McMaster moved to its permanent home – the Steel City, Hamilton.

By no means does this brief snapshot offer a comprehensive history of McMaster. It barely scratches the surface. There were numerous accomplishments in education and research. There were times of uncertainty and hardship. There were harrowing accounts of students being drafted into the Great Wars proud but never returning.

All of these events, for better or for worse, compose McMaster’s history. Without them, McMaster’s current structure would seem arbitrary and perhaps even asinine.

The 125th celebration is meant to highlight this rich historical context. As an important milestone, the festivities will extend throughout the year. Many unknown contributions from both students and faculty will be recognized, as will the many necessary steps to create such an upstanding institution of higher education.

An anniversary committee presided by Karen McQuigge, director of McMaster’s alumni advancement area, will organize many of the celebrations. “There’s a lot to celebrate here and that’s exactly what we hope to do this year,” she said.

This goes without saying. In 125 years, a lot can happen. Every year, there was a new story. Every year, there were new students. (And every year since 1930, the Silhouette was there spearheading news at McMaster.)

But the Sil is one of many integral parts to McMaster. There is the McMaster Alumni society, the McMaster Students Union, the Student Representative Assembly, Froshweek, Homecoming, University Hall and so much more. Undoubtedly, McMaster is a budding place. Its incipient beginnings were the origin of all of things McMaster and they will be the impetus underlying another successful 125 years. “Boom! Fitz! Boom!” Indeed.

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