Wishing you a considerate holiday season

The holidays have become the most wasteful and self-centered time of the year.

The Christmas lights went up earlier than usual at my house this year. We normally wait until the beginning of December, but the colours and warm lights felt like a hug amidst an exhausting November. While I’m a sucker for Halloween, I have to admit the holidays have a different kind of magic, a comforting one. Still, the activist in me is bothered by the extreme culture of consumerism and (ironically) individualism that the holidays inspire. 

Shades of green, red, blue and gold start replacing the purple and orange in the seasonal section of retail stores in mid-October. As people run from shop to shop for gifts and plastic decorations, I can’t help but wonder what makes the urge to participate in the commercial-Christmas culture so much stronger than the desire to be considerate of our environmental impact. 

Back in 2020, I interviewed a family friend who had been working for a few years on switching to a zero-waste lifestyle. Mélanie Major is a mother of four and is raising her children to be compassionate, kind, and aware of their impact. 

“When you decide to make the switch to zero waste, you notice the waste even more,” Major said. “You tell yourself, there just has to be a solution to all this.” 

Major shared some sustainability tips for the holidays, starting with reducing food waste. She eliminates as much meat as possible from her Christmas menu to reduce her environmental footprint. She also makes smaller quantities and turns her leftovers into new recipes to prevent waste. 

With Christmas inevitably comes panic shopping—or, as Major puts it, “buying a gift just for the sake of buying a gift.” She opts instead for more thoughtful gifts such as activity gift cards and passes, books by local authors, secondhand items, meals, and other handmade presents. 

Major didn’t switch out her old decorations for new sustainable ones—that would be counter-intuitive and wasteful. Instead, she decorates her tree with ornaments her mother attaches to their gifts every year and ornaments handmade by her kids. She also reuses old gift-wrapping materials and even wraps presents in towels, scarves and other textiles that can become part of the gift.

We should make decisions according to our values, rather than exhaust ourselves in trying to keep up with the commercial calendar. “When I first got pregnant, it just clicked,” Major said about her decision to go zero waste. “It’s nice to have a child, but what world do we want them to grow up in?” 

We share this world with nearly eight billion people and an estimated 20 quintillion (yes, it’s a word) animals. We are surrounded by beautiful and abundant life, which we pull a profit from with unjustified entitlement.

If the holidays are a time for kindness, they should also be a time to consider what we blissfully ignore and to reflect on the broader impact of our actions. 

You indirectly cast a vote with every decision you make to buy something—what do you encourage with every swipe of your credit card?

While the holiday season is a comfort to some, it can be a nightmare to others. I encourage you to be considerate not only of the environment, but also of your fellow human beings who are in need of love, kindness and support. I would even go further and urge you to not only do this for the holiday season, but to keep this mindset all year round in your breast pocket, right next to your heart.


Stranded for the holidays

Concordia students struggled to fly home to their families amidst delayed and cancelled flights

For many, snow storms over this holiday season meant dreams of a white Christmas came true. However, for other students trying to fly home to their families, snow storms meant flight delays and unforeseen challenges. 

Emily Jans, a first-year therapeutic recreation student from Alberta, faced these challenges when her flight from Toronto to Edmonton was cancelled on Dec. 21. Jans said she was forced to choose between spending Christmas there or an extra $850 to be with her family in Alberta. 

“Basically, I was stranded in Toronto,” she said.

Jans said she was notified by Flair Airlines that her flight had been delayed by three hours after she arrived at the airport. 

Three hours later, as she was getting ready to check in, she got another email. 

“I didn’t really check it, but I go upstairs, and I see a big line of other angry people, and I was like ‘oh no, what is happening?’ And then I checked my email; my flight was cancelled.” 

said Jans

According to Jans, the flight was cancelled because it did not have a crew for the plane. The next available flight was on Dec. 28. Unless she had found another option, she would spend Christmas alone in Toronto.

“That’s when the panic ensued,” she continued. Because she would have to stay in Toronto for a few days, the airline was responsible for arranging hotel accommodations for her, according to Canada’s Air Passenger Rights. But for Jans, spending a week in Toronto was not an option. 

She started looking for different ways to get home, including a three-day train leaving on Christmas Eve. She tried calling the airline and was told that she was the 400th customer in line. She requested a callback, which she never got. 

She found an available ticket on a Westjet flight for $855.55 plus baggage fees. The total price of her initial flights was $637.04. 

She decided to pay the extra, but said: “The one thing I kept thinking when I bought my ticket was: ‘This is the price of a flight outside of Canada.’ My friends were going to France and Mexico… That’s the price of going to France, but I was just going to Alberta.”

On her way back to Montreal, Jans’ suitcase got damaged. According to her, “a lot of people had broken luggage.”

Jans  hopes she will get a reimbursement for the cancelled flight. According to a customer service agent with Flair Airlines, the refund can take up to 10 days. For now, Jans has not heard back from the airline.

For Rodrigo Allison, a second-year finance student from Mexico, these flight difficulties resulted in spending three hours in a plane during a snowstorm. 

Allison was scheduled to fly home to Mexico on the morning of Dec. 16, with a layover in Denver. He got an email from Air Canada warning him that the weather might affect his flight, but until the day of the flight, everything seemed to be running as scheduled.

Once inside the plane, the pilot announced that the weather was not safe enough to leave. Allison ended up spending three hours on that plane. “They didn’t give us any information [about what was happening],” he said. 

Allison missed his layover by an hour and a half. He got to Denver in the early afternoon and was told that the next available flight was the next morning. He spent the rest of the day and the night alone in the airport.

On Jans’ end, she is very disappointed with her experience. “I’m a student, and if they offer it [cheap flights], if they have low-fare airlines, that’s amazing. But I don’t think that should be taken away from the respect that we deserve as people. We were not treated with respect at all.”


Ritz-Carlton’s viral holiday social media post was not what they said it was

The luxury hotel chain backtracked on it’s promise that every share would equal one gift for a sick child



Ritz-Carlton Montreal spokesperson Katia Piccolino said that the intention behind the campaign was never to deceive the public. Rather, the purpose was to raise awareness and get people to donate to the Tree of Lights campaign for Sainte-Justine, which many people did, she said.

It all came down to the wording of the post itself, she said. “If we would have put a cap on the number of toys we were going to donate, then this problem wouldn’t have occurred.” Piccolino apologizes for and admits to this error.

Finally, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal decided to extend their donation to the Montreal Children’s Hospital as well as Sainte-Justine. Children from both Hospitals are expected to receive toys in time for the holidays.


Ritz-Carlton Montréal’s viral Instagram post was suddenly taken down on Monday morning, Dec. 7, after having been up for less than a day.

The video post featured essential workers in a hospital during the late hours of night, as well as sick children who were unable to be in proximity of their families due to the global pandemic. An inspirational piano tune played the background of the video as the closing caption read “far from our eyes, close to our hearts.”

The heart-warming video was paired with a caption that stated the Ritz-Carlton would be collaborating with Decarie Motors et Vo-Dignard Provost Groupe to deliver toys to the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.

The post stated that every Instagram story share would result in one toy donated to a sick child in need.

Due to a high number of shares, the post blew up overnight. Within nine hours, it reached 150,000 views, according to MTL Blog. Representative for the Ritz-Carlton Montréal, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Concordian, “it created a buzz that was so unexpected we had to take it down.”

The representative further explained that the post had reached its goal of 500 shares, a number that would guarantee a toy for every child at Sainte-Justine. The original post made no mention of this 500 share limit.

People who shared the video were not happy about the secrecy that went in taking the post down. The video was put back up after the backlash. Angry social-media users took to the Ritz-Carlton’s latest Instagram post to express their disdain for the alleged questionable campaign.

Accusations that the luxury hotel used sick children as a publicity stunt to better their image were many people’s concerns. One Instagram user said, “got more shares than y’all thought and didn’t want to start having this be a non-profitable venture.” Some threatened to boycott the hotel all together if they didn’t release a statement saying that they would donate all the toys.

A statement was released to the hotel’s Instagram, claiming that the objective was to raise awareness for the children of Sainte Justine hospital. The statement issued an amended goal of donating toys according to the hospital’s needs rather than for every share to Instagram as originally promised.

The controversial video still received  2.1 million views. Over the time of this two-day campaign, the Ritz-Carlton’s Instagram account saw an increase of nearly two-thousand followers, yet the hospital’s Instagram account following remained constant.

The Ritz-Carlton Montréal representative is disappointed that people would assume that the hotel company would not honor their word. But when asked why there wasn’t more transparency behind the campaign and the deleting of their post, he refused to comment.

The representative says the Ritz-Carlton is an annual supporter of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation. The luxury hotel chain has previously thrown Breakfast with Santa Claus events and have done similar campaigns in the past. They promise to deliver 500 toys on December 20th.

The CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation did not reply to multiple requests for comment.


Screenshot of Instagram post.

Student Life

December Calendar

The end of the semester is near! During this last month of the year, here are some festive events happening around the city.




Nov. 28-Dec. 8: The Nutcracker Market

Nov. 29-Dec. 22: Montreal’s Atwater Christmas

Nov. 16-Jan. 22: Notre Monde Magique de Noël

Dec. 5-Dec. 22: Le Marché de Noël chez Maison Pepin

Dec. 6-8 & 13-15: Puces POP: Édition Hivernale 2019

Dec. 13-15: Holiday Market

Dec. 16-17: Time Out Market Montréal: Marché de Noël


Dec. 4: Don’t buy that! Free holiday gift making

Dec. 6: Swap print and de-stress

Dec. 7: Bazar Vintage Du Plateau

Dec. 7-8: Vegan Christmas Market

Dec. 18: Concordia Farmers’ Pop-Up Markets


Nov. 1-Jan. 5: Illumi – A Dazzling World of Lights by Cavalia

Dec. 5-Feb. 2: Imagine Van Gogh

Dec. 7: Holiday Skating Party


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Fighting homelessness with art

The St-James Drop-In centre takes everything into consideration

While a blanket of fresh November snow falls on Montreal, the St-James Drop-in Centre is warm with laughter. The front room buzzes with activity, and dishes clink together as members serve lunch. In the corner of the dining area is a piano painted in bright colors. In the kitchen, crates of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains are spread out across the counters and in stacks on the floor. Downstairs in the art studio, drawings and paintings hang on the walls, unfinished projects sit on easels and shelves are lined with supplies.

St-James’s members have painted bright portraits on the piano in the centre’s dining room.
Photo by Hannah Ewen.

St-James is a community centre located in the Gay Village, about a block up from Ste-Catherine St. It’s open five days a week and serves as a space for marginalized people. Its members are predominately homeless or struggling with mental illness; as St-James intervention worker Lisa Zimanyi pointed out, the two often go hand in hand.

“We are much smaller than most centres, and the idea there is to make people feel more at home,” Zimanyi said. With just three rooms, the space is certainly cozy. “People who struggle with anxiety or different types of mental illness don’t always feel safe in larger places, so we are kind of an alternative resource for them.”

In addition to offering counselling, crisis intervention or just a conversation over a cup of coffee, the centre hosts poetry, music and art workshops. The centre’s team also hosts several art events in the community, including art exhibitions to showcase the pieces that members make. Although the centre has exhibited work at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the past, Zimanyi said it’s the smaller vernissages held throughout the year that allow members to connect with the community.

According to Zimanyi, the staff at St-James works hard to get to know members on a personal level. Having worked full-time at the centre for five years, Zimanyi said she has had the chance to “accompany them through all different aspects of their life.” Although the centre provides members with a roof, a shower and hot meals, the staff’s focus isn’t just on survival. “We do meet people’s physical needs, but at the same time, we’re trying to build relationships with people,” Zimanyi said.

Members are also encouraged to volunteer and help out at the centre as much as they can. “I actually rely on the members to help me out with running the place on a day-to-day basis,” Zimanyi said. “The members feel at home, and we get to know each other in a more informal context. It’s more like a family.”

The way the centre hums with jokes, and hearing members greet each other when they walk in, it is clear St-James has created a unique atmosphere—one that feels like home.

Concerned with more than basic necessities, the St-James Drop-in Centre and art studio serves as a safe space for marginalized people.
Photo by Hannah Ewen.

Lysanne Picard is the creative arts program coordinator at St-James and oversees the Concordia art education students who intern at the centre. A Concordia alumna herself, Picard said the students are in charge of running their own workshops with the members and she encourages the students to think outside of the box. “The student workshops really add some diversity and excitement.” This year’s interns, Concordia students Stephanie Talisse and Jude Ibrahim, have done exactly that. With Talisse, members assembled and drew still-life scenes of the things they kept in their pockets. In another activity, Ibrahim had members make prints on postcards, focusing on social change and the message they want to send to the world.

“It’s really neat to see the members meet other artists and experience that artist-to-artist connection they might not get otherwise,” Picard said.

Even after members have gained some stability, they are still welcome to spend time at the centre, and many do. Paul Hicks, a long-time member who also works at the centre, joined the community in the 80s, when the centre first opened. Hicks often participates in the art workshops offered at the centre, but said he particularly enjoys working with the interns.

“I really like when the students come in and do lessons,” Hicks said. Behind him, one of his recent paintings, an intricate and colourful scene of a gondola in the canals of Venice, was hung up to dry.

A few of Hicks’s pieces, along with those of other members, will be available to purchase at the centre’s annual art sale fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 1 from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. All profits will go towards supporting the centre. Anyone searching for a unique Christmas gift or simply looking to support the centre can stop by 1442 Panet St. to shop and chat with the artists. The centre also accepts donations year-round.


‘Tis the season to be broke

Graphic by Phil Waheed.

It’s that time of year again. The first snowfall has passed, the jolly tunes have come out, and, most importantly, preparation has begun for the annual visit from the big man from the North Pole. Christmas trees are up, decorations are set, and Starbucks has officially started serving Christmas in a cup.

With this time of year comes something I like to call “the list.” It seems that, year after year, this
“list” gets exceedingly long and expensive. I am indeed talking about the Christmas gift list. The grandparents, the parents, the close friends, the siblings — it seems that there is an endless supply of people that you need to get presents for that have us creating a budget worthy of passing through parliament. The stress of having enough time and money can sometimes be unbearable, but anything is better than having that feeling in the pit of your stomach of not coming through with your list.

This, my fellow jolly friends, doesn’t sound like a very pleasant start to your Christmas, does it? It sounds like the start of a bad Christmas horror movie. Who would want to experience such stress in what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year? Mark my words, this list is what has ruined everyone’s Christmas spirit.

Is this really what Christmas has come to? Spending hundreds of dollars in presents that people may not even want, as a sign of love? The American Research Group recently did a study to determine Americans’ average spending during Christmas this year. A sample 1,100 adults were asked the following question: How much are you going to spend on Christmas gifts this year? The average was $854. Needless to say, a hefty amount.

Call me corny, call me old-fashioned, call me one of those annoying people that always goes against the norm, but no, this isn’t what Christmas is all about. It isn’t about expensive gifts, it isn’t about trends. Well, maybe for the kids it is, but they too need to be taught from a young age that just because they didn’t get the latest Apple product, Christmas can still be the most amazing day of the year.

So let’s go back to the basics. Christmas is about family. Family, the way I see it, represents the closest people in your life. It could be your immediate family, it could be your best friends, it could be your dog, if that’s how you feel. As long as you’re happy surrounded by those you love the most, you’ve succeeded in finding the true meaning of Christmas.

But what can we do to escape the incessant shopping fueled by Christmas? My past observations of different family traditions have given some pretty good ideas, and here’s the one I like the most: organize a secret Santa gift exchange with the people you always spend Christmas with. This means putting all of your names in a hat, picking out only one name, and buying this person a present. Can we all live with one present? I think so. Put a certain spending limit that everyone must follow for the gifts, and make it reasonably priced because you only have one gift to buy. This way, everyone gets one good, quality gift, instead of 82 gifts that, to put it nicely, can be ‘decorative’.

“It’s a great way to save money,” said Amanda Sotos, who will be doing this with her family for a second-straight year. “It’s as exciting as having a bunch of presents all at once.”

But what to do with all this extra money? Well, not only is Christmas a time of family, but also a time of giving. Give some of it to those who are less fortunate than you, and I guarantee you it will be money well spent.

I can only hope for the future of this one-of-a-kind holiday that people will start praising the core values that Christmas portrays: love and family. Presents are great, let’s not kid ourselves, but one good gift, as mentioned above, is much better than a great number of bad ones, and your wallet will also end up thanking you in the new year.

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