Ring in the season with these festive picks to get you in the holiday spirit

Note: I originally started writing this piece in 2019 when I was A&C Editor, but I needed the year to take some time to think about what I wrote, reflect on it and then do some more rewrites. After a year-long process, this is what I’ve come up with. 

I was born the day after Christmas. There I was, fresh out of the womb and already wearing a Santa hat thanks to some festive nurses. Was I adorable? Yes. Was it necessary? I’m not sure, but I do know that from the moment I was born, I’ve been surrounded by the warmth of the holidays. 

[/media-credit] Photo of newborn Andrew, December 26, 1999

I grew up always looking forward to the holiday season and watching my favourite Christmas movies at home. Over the years, I’ve found that important lessons from these movies have shaped my outlook on life, not only during the holiday season but all year round. 

I can’t quite pinpoint what it is about this specific genre of movie, but something about them really resonates with me. Perhaps it’s the nostalgic joy that comes from movies I grew up with, or perhaps it’s the optimism that inherently comes with Christmas movies. It was no easy task to narrow down this list of movies; however, I believe these three that I’ve chosen contain values that encapsulate who I am.

No matter how much time passes, The Year Without A Santa Claus always sticks out to me. The stop-motion film explores what would happen if Santa Claus got sick and couldn’t do Christmas anymore — and subsequently shows Santa getting better because others filled his shoes.

This movie taught me that Christmas is more than just presents and it’s for this reason that it’s kicking off my list. It’s a movie that’s ultimately about a community coming together — a principle that resonates with me throughout the entire year. Although I’m not helping a jolly old man deliver presents across the world, I do try to make myself available when I can to help others, to help foster connections with the end goal of building community, regardless of what that may entail. Whether it's the community that I am building through the Silhouette, or amongst my friends or my family, these connections are as important to me as they were to Santa in the film.

"Whether it's the community that I am building through the Silhouette, or amongst my friends or my family, these connections are as important to me as they were to Santa in the film."

On the other hand, Disney's The Santa Clause 2 sparked my vivid imagination as in childhood. It visualized the North Pole in a way that I can only describe as magic. I can watch this movie again and again, bawling my eyes out every single time due to the romantic nature of a plotline wherein Santa tries to regain his quickly disappearing magic by finding a Mrs. Claus (which, in itself, likely stems from my desire for a Christmas wedding).

While it is truly one of the most magical movies I have seen (sorry, Harry Potter), I love how it integrates the idea that there is magic all around us. We just need to look around to find it. I try to carry that idea with me day to day. That is probably the most Disney-esque thing I’ve ever said, but I truly believe that we have the ability to make everything magical, and it ultimately depends on how we tackle the situation. Having an optimistic outlook and putting your energy into making each and every moment special — that’s magical. That’s what Santa did in this movie and it’s something that I also try to do every day. 

"Having an optimistic outlook and putting your energy into making each and every moment special — that’s magical."

Although these films will always inspire holiday nostalgia, the third movie in this list, Christmas With the Kranks, is my favourite movie of all time. It has taught me life lessons that I will always carry with me.

In the film, the titular Krank family tries to skip Christmas altogether for a tropical cruise but get caught up in their town's festivities and their daughter's unsuspected visit. They eventually realize that there is no greater joy than spending time with loved ones and that going the extra mile (or staying home, something we can all relate to this year) is always worth it.

The values that I learned from this movie are probably the easiest to see throughout the year. For me, my family and my friends are the most important thing and I’d do absolutely anything for them. I’m typically known to drop what I’m doing if someone asks me to do something, just as the Kranks did when they found out their daughter was coming home for Christmas. 

[/media-credit] Baby Andrew did not like Santa Claus

The lessons learned from these movies aren’t just central to how I live my life, but I believe that they are important for everyone. The Year Without a Santa Claus teaches us that community is important. The Santa Clause 2 shows that you can live every moment with a little bit of magic, regardless if things seem to be piling up on your plate. Having a forward-looking, optimistic approach will shift your mindset and enable you to tackle the hurdles in your path.

Finally, Christmas With The Kranks teaches the importance of family, whether they’re directly related to you, or whether they’re your chosen family. I think that especially during a year in which we’ve all had hurdles and have been cut off from those that we love, these three lessons give us hope to keep pushing forward. These lessons are not just the plot of Andrew’s favourite holiday movies; they can also be tools to use in shaping how we perceive our future.

[media-credit name="C/O Sasha Mrozowski" align="none" width="388"][/media-credit]

Christmas is so central to everything I do in my life, not just because I was born right next to it, but because I truly believe that the values I learned from this season and its movies have helped mold me into the person I am today. For me, every day is Christmas. Yes, you can apply these messages to only the winter months, but the real joy is integrating them throughout the year. That’s where the real magic is. 

"That’s where the real magic is."

To some, this might just be a list of holiday movies. To me, it’s a list of challenges continuously pushing me to be better and to remind me that there is always time for me to spend with my loved ones. There is always something to celebrate. There is always time to create a little magic in the world.

[/media-credit] My last photo with Santa in first-year

Earlier this year, new reports on cheating at Canadian universities circulated online, along with CBC's re-airing of its documentary Faking the Grade. I decided to take a deeper look at the issue since it serves as a flashpoint for the state of higher education and how seriously students take the privilege of attending university. It was also around this time when one of my professors called out the class on Avenue2Learn, announcing discoveries of plagiarism.

I found the accounts more surprising and depressing than I could have ever imagined. Exact statistics to reveal the full scope of the problem are very hard to estimate. However, a CBC survey of 54 Canadian universities showed that 7,086 students were disciplined for cheating in the 2011-2012 school year. This may not seem like a lot, but 12 of the universities declined to give their stats. Then, factor in cases which did not progress to actual disciplinary action. But most importantly, factor in those students who go undetected. So it's not a shock that the documentary states that 50 percent of university students admitted to cheating, hinting that whatever the actual number really is, it is undoubtedly extremely significant.

There are many reasons why these revelations are disturbing. First of all, cheaters are passing themselves off as something they are not. Anyone who has cheated three times would most certainly be expelled from school, and if one has received a degree and bypassed detection, it's undeniable that these people falsely hold this credential. To be fair, though, academic dishonesty can cover a wide range of offences, some of which are not cheating. But it is clear here that we are mainly dealing with those harbouring intentions to deceive.

Another ethical problem is that with so many people cheating we have an exceptionally high number of people arbitrarily choosing which rules they deem important and which they feel no guilt about breaking. The cheater also wishes to break rules they want others to follow so that they can benefit at their expense.

For academic purposes, the extent of cheating in universities necessitates us to realize that having a degree doesn’t mean that one is “highly educated.” In fact, with the overabundance of degree holders in the job market it is disconcerting to admit how many of them are frauds.

But with a bachelor’s degree being more crucial than ever, it is inevitable that education has become even more of a commodity. This drives the standard for doing whatever it takes, ironically raising the bar further, and pushing us even harder. Cheating normalizes these unrealistic expectations by creating the illusion that a much higher number of people are succeeding than is actually the case. Though fair marks don't mean you'll clean toilets, these do mean being several rungs below your peers.

The things I read while trying to get a handle on this problem were enough to make one cynical. The videos online, for instance, of “students” sharing methods to cheat your way through school were particularly disgraceful.

But as distasteful as this all is, what ought to be done about it?

Cheating is as old as humankind and will always be here in some form. To try to eradicate it is a huge waste of time, though we can be vigilant and guard against a slippery slope. Though it's definitely worth discussing, solutions seem to be out of reach.

I think what's more important is to try to determine what our attitudes towards cheating are. Consider a brilliant, caring doctor who grossly cheated during his undergrad and lost a fortune from bad investments. Some could say that had he been found out early on he never would have gotten into medical school and made so much money to begin with.

What about a person who has cheated five times during university and finally gets caught? Does she deserve to have all her other work negated because of that? Personally, I might be persuaded to say no if said hypothetical person was also very well-read, truly passionate about learning, and graduated as someone who was intellectually literate versus someone who never cheated but rarely cracked open a book. These are the sort of moral dilemmas that ought to be considered.

But whether or not the above is even worth considering, and as abhorrent as cheating can be, I think the point is that we can't always judge people and their actions with an abstract label, good or bad. It is all too easy to condemn someone as this or that, seeing everything as black and white. This topic could be hotly debated, but in the end one can only offer their opinion at the expense of leaving a lot of unanswered questions.

Amanda Watkins
LifeStyle Editor

It was homecoming weekend. There I was at 9:00 in the morning, dancing to Nicki Minaj and far from my normal sober reality.

My housemates and I were hosting our own informal house party to get ready for the football game as we passed around a can of something called “Sucker Punch” and a tube of maroon lipstick. Because hey, what’s a little oral herpes among friends?

The concept of “day drinking” was foreign to me, and quite frankly, I had no idea that a football game and face paint also meant we needed to start hitting the Sambuca 12 hours earlier than normal.

Prior to starting university, I led a pretty alcohol-free and sports-free life. And although I wasn’t all too familiar with either of these worlds, a part of me knew that they weren’t always grouped into one.

As we eventually made our way to campus to watch the game, I was greeted by a string of piss drunk students who, in addition to making me feel sorry for toilet bowls across Hamilton, also made me feel a lot better about my own alcohol tolerance. Everyone had their Mac sweaters on and seemed to be pretty jazzed, but a lot of people seemed completely oblivious to what would be going on that day.

Homecoming means showing school spirit. It’s a time to welcome back alumni and celebrate your school with your classmates and friends. It could mean decking yourself out in maroon and grey, or learning the obscure lyrics to the McMaster anthem, but getting sick from the drink seems like a burnout excuse for enthusiasm.  Alcohol is fun and delicious. I will say that openly without feeling shameful or like a washed up Disney star. But I will also say that I know it’s not a necessary part of having school spirit.

As fun as it was to be drunk in the wee hours of the morn’, it was also kind of sad. My friends and I left the game at halftime because we all felt like shit. And by 6:00 in the evening, we were all lying on the ground, completely hung-over from the morning passed.

As fun as it is to escape from reality for a while, being wasted all the time makes you lose sight of what we’re actually here for. And so, with that being said, I announce my quest for sobriety. For the next month, I will be leading a completely alcohol-free life. And yes, that does include Halloween.

You don’t need to follow my example, especially seeing as we’ve laid out this week’s issue with a kick-ass Mac-inspired drink, beer reviews and hangover cures. But as you indulge in our suggestions and advice, just be safe, use your judgment and remember that we're all coming together this weekend to respectfully celebrate our school.

So thank you, alcohol, for helping make and erase a long string of memories. But I think it may be time for things to change.

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