An ode to spring (in all of its forms)

Spring may be unpredictable, but it’s still my favourite season.

Is it sundress season yet? I thought it was, until that glorious snowstorm we all woke up to on Thursday. Before that, I had set out to write an ode to spring in honour of the frost finally thawing, but the weather reports laughed in my face. “Is spring still your favourite season?” they wondered, cackling and rubbing their hands together. Despite the unpredictability of the season, I will defend spring to the end. 

Okay, so maybe the haters of the season have a point. Even once the snow finally melts (and stays away for good) it isn’t the easy-breezy sunshine and green grass transformation we see in cartoons. It’s more like brown slush, ground littered with ancient cigarette butts, and fossilized dog sh—well, I think we all know what I’m talking about. 

The springs of my childhood outside of the city weren’t much prettier, to be fair. The snow piles sometimes didn’t fully disappear until June, and I have vivid memories of flooded roads and the soccer field turning into a swamp.

Where is the glamorized version of spring we desperately need, the one with bees and flowers and blooming buds that all the poets are so obsessed with? That version of the season often doesn’t fully come around until May or June, by the time we’re already a couple of months deep into spring. March and April are really more of an awkward transition, an uncomfortable dance between winter and the vague promises of summer. 

Still, the glimpses of sunlight make it all worth it. What I love about spring is the chase: the exhaustion of winter and the tension of constantly checking the weather, followed by the thrill of finally being able to stash the winter coats. There truly is no better feeling than the first true feeling of spring air. Not only can you breathe better, but also the joy is palpable. Everyone can attest to the weight that gets lifted when winter finally passes. There’s an undeniable mood boost that hits at the end of seasonal blues and brings droves of hibernators out into the thawing parks.

Not only that, but we also get to witness the days get longer and longer. The joy of not being plunged into darkness at 4 p.m.! More sunlight means more Vitamin D and overall health improvements—both physical and mental. 

And sure it might be a little while until the flowers bloom, but the snow right now will only make the wait more worth it. Soon the icicles will melt from the trees, and you know what comes next. There’s nothing cuter than buds on the trees—sure they aren’t proper leaves, but they’re trying to be, and I think that should be enough. 

My strongest case for spring though is absolutely indisputable, no matter what anyone else says: the best concerto in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons is Spring. I will not be taking arguments; this is a fact, not an opinion. So here’s my advice to you: to fully embrace the beauty of spring, throw open your windows (when the weather permits), blast some Vivaldi, and trust that the spring is here for real. 


Sledding my woes away on the mountain

How I discovered that snow days are good for the soul.

If you know me personally, you’d know I’m not an outdoor girlie. My dad, on the other hand, is the king of the outdoors. Whenever he wants to go for a walk, I always pass. Little did I know, fresh wintery air would do me good—both physically and mentally.

The last couple of months haven’t been the best. I’ve never been one to complain about every single detail in my life, but when things pile up, my anxiety shoots straight through the roof. 

Once 2024 hit, I was excited to start the year off fresh. I was prepared to leave behind all the dark thoughts related to my surgery in 2023. But one week into 2024, my car decided to give me a nice little welcome gift: the “check engine” light. Not only that, but my brakes were squeaking like mad. 

When my boyfriend and I dropped off Jukey (my beloved Nissan) at the mechanic, I was praying that this wasn’t going to cost me more than $500. I was shaking like a leaf as we drove off. 

The following day, the mechanic dropped a big one on me—the whole job would cost me $1,700. My heart fell out of my chest and anger bubbled inside of me. I told the mechanic to go through with the job. I couldn’t afford it, but I had no other choice.

In these scenarios, my anxiety jumps to the worst situations. I started thinking that I wouldn’t be able to save towards my goals for the year. I wouldn’t be moving along how I’d planned. I had a bit of a breakdown.

Luckily, my boyfriend was there to help me get through this time. My anxiety still loomed over my head but at least I had something positive to look forward to: snow tubing with my friends and boyfriend.

I think a bit of fresh air was just what I needed. According to the Ontario Parks website, we should be aiming to move our bodies 20 to 30 minutes per day outdoors during the winter time. By doing so, we’d immediately feel calmer mentally and our blood pressure would go down.

The day of the activity, I was looking forward to a change in scenery and getting some fresh air. We opted to get the full experience package at the mountain near Saint-Sauveur that included an option to bobsled.

Bobsledding for the first time was the most exhilarating thing that I’ve done in a while. I felt like I was in the Olympics, and I’d never felt such an adrenaline rush. I opted for my boyfriend to be the one to push the sled and jump in as we went down. Knowing me, my clumsy self would probably fall to the side or hurt myself.

Going down the mountain at lightning speed, I was so focused on the feeling of being so happy with wintery air gliding against my face. For the couple of hours that we spent at the mountain, I wasn’t focused on my anxiety. I only had positive thoughts and a really good time. I screamed it out, laughed it out, and most importantly, made memories that I’ll cherish for a long time.

If I can recommend anything to anyone going through a tough time right now, this is it. Get outside and get some air—it’ll feed your mind and soul.


We need to address the real causes of homelessness in Montreal

Thousands of unhoused people are victims of a broken system and especially vulnerable as winter arrives, yet little thought or empathy is given to the issue. 

As the streets get colder, it becomes even more urgent to address the homelessness crisis in Montreal. Temperature drops are life-threatening to this vulnerable population and exacerbate their already harsh living conditions. It’s time to talk more in depth about homelessness and its causes.  

According to the CBC, the population of unhoused people* in Quebec doubled between 2018 and 2022—totalling nearly 10,000, half of whom are in Montreal. I’ve noticed that casual discourse around homelessness is often damaging and fails to address deeper issues. I have heard the topic be approached with disgust or contempt toward unhoused people, sometimes accompanied with demeaning jokes and comments. This contempt should instead be directed toward the systems that cause homelessness and the governments that do little to address the issue. 

The lack of affordable housing and subsequent housing crisis is just one cause of homelessness. Traumatic events, extreme poverty, domestic abuse and discrimination can all play a role. Those who struggle with sickness and mental illness are more susceptible to homelessness. Systemic and personal issues create dire situations, especially for marginalized groups.

In Montreal, Indigenous people are 27 times more likely to suffer from homelessness than other demographic groups, according to a recent count. The Inuit community is particularly affected, making up 25 per cent of unhoused Indigenous people. This is the result of systemic racism, inter-generational trauma, and lack of services for those who need them most—but most of all, it is a direct example of the ongoing effects of settler colonialism.  

It is essential to view homelessness through this lens and realize that unhoused people are victims of an oppressive system. We must be particularly mindful of this fact and put pressure on governments to establish better solutions. 

The city’s relationship with homelessness is a complicated one. On numerous occasions, Mayor Valérie Plante has called on the provincial government to provide more funding and work with the city to make a long-term plan. “[W]hat I’m looking for is a bigger conversation with the entire ecosystem,” Plante said to The Montreal Gazette in June, “…and that includes the provincial government and the Ministry of Health and Social Services, because they are in charge of homelessness, mental health and drug use, because often these things are connected.” 

In early November, Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant announced that the Quebec government will grant nearly $10 million toward increasing space in shelters and establishing emergency services as the cold approaches. While this is a positive and essential step, it is not enough.

Broad reform is needed. Alberta advocates for a “Housing First” approach, which aims to break the cycle by setting up unhoused Albertans in permanent housing and providing them with ongoing support. This support would aim to address mental health, employment, and addiction. Montreal should take a similar approach with a decolonial focus, and move away from emergency solutions.

If you want to help, it’s impactful to volunteer and donate when possible. But first of all, we must flip the narrative around homelessness. Mocking and pejorative comments are dehumanizing, and it’s essential to consider the systemic issues at play. The simplest way to help is by speaking mindfully about unhoused people and considering the causes and effects of homelessness. 

*A note on vocabulary: the term “unhoused” is growing in usage due to the sometimes derogatory connotations of the word “homeless,” and to emphasize that unhoused people may have outdoor or community spaces they call home. In this article, I switch between the two terms, but use “unhoused” when referring to the people themselves for this reason.


Adopting a pet is so easy… right?

An animal rescue and a cat café want people to know that animal adoption is a lot more work than they think

Animal rescues are experimenting with new approaches to ensure careful adoptions of pets, through educating people and encouraging interaction with the animals.

During the pandemic, many people wanted a little companion to keep them company. Adopting a pet to have a companion is great, but people sometimes forget the responsibility it requires to be a good pet parent. Additionally, animal rescues often struggle to keep future pet parents in check for adoption. Rescues offer online resources to prepare people for the steps of adoption, such as articles or chats to ask questions about the process. Most importantly, rescues recommend future parents know what kind of animal they want in their home.

Patricia Durocher is the communications coordinator at Proanima Animal Rescue in Boucherville. She is in charge of promoting the rescue through social media and helping people through the adoption process. Durocher is also head of a sensitization program she started in 2014 where she visits schools to educate students on how to be good adopters. 

“[The students] knew all the right answers. They knew, it’s very instinctive. I would say how to recognize the signs that an animal is uncomfortable, it’s scared, things like that. Then it seems like it gets lost over time,” said Durocher.

Adults tend to lose that perception about pets and later get confused about what kind of animal is best for them, according to Durocher. Even though she works with students, educating the adults on adoption must continue.

“It’s super important, but there is work with the adults that still needs to be done all the time,” said Durocher.

Durocher says that Proanima have younger animals who are in good shape, they just get adopted really quickly. She says that there is a stigma behind rescue pets which claims that they are damaged, old, or sick, which makes adopting them harder. 

“When [people] want an animal, they want it to be fast, they want a healthy animal and everything. This means that not everyone is ready to go find a shelter animal, which has an older animal, which has health problems,” said Durocher.

Durocher says there are many reasons as to why people abandon their pets. She believes that financial issues, a lack of time to care for the animals, and health concerns are some of the reasons that come up after an animal is adopted. Despite this, Durocher has noticed fewer animal abandonments and more adoptions in recent years.

When she is helping clients find their ideal pet, she notices it can be complicated. Sometimes during adoptions people have a specific idea of what kind of animal they want, without properly preparing for the experience. 

“You can’t necessarily adopt on a whim, but the problem it causes is that the person, if they find [the adoption process] too complicated or too long, they’ll just go somewhere else,” said Durocher.

Durocher feels that there needs to be a balance between an effective adoption process and ensuring that whoever is adopting a pet feels comfortable doing it.

Clément Marty is the owner of Café Chat L’Heureux in Montreal. His love of cats encouraged him to open a place where cats and humans can connect on a deeper level. By offering a new approach to animal interaction, Marty hopes that people will learn that altering their behaviour to understand the cats creates better adopters.

Café Chat L’Heureux, Catherine Reynolds/THE CONCORDIAN

“This is one of the things that will contribute to this, to be selective, to raise awareness around adoption,” said Marty.

Proanima and Café Chat L’Heureux have been partners since the café opened in 2014. The café’s cats are all rescues. There are eight older resident cats and every three to four months, two to five kittens from Proanima come to the café as part of their adoption program. Their cats walk freely around the café, interact with the clients, and remain independent when they feel like it. Marty has rules where the cats can do whatever they want, but the humans, not so much. Instead of mindlessly picking up or petting the cats, the people learn how each cat behaves.

“They will learn to take the time to look at the animal, to be interested in it. It’s all the little things that will help, in any case, to go in the right direction: to promote adoption in shelters, to promote good practices with cats,” said Marty. 

Marty and Durocher agree that people impulsively adopt animals without knowing what challenges to expect. This complicates things between the person considering adoption, the person interviewing the potential new parents of the animal, and the animal itself. The café allows the cats to wander free and gives people an opportunity to get to know the cats who roam the place. People can then have a clearer idea of what kind of cat they want in their homes. 

There are a lot of people who adopt a cat, but who are not even aware of what it costs. They’re not even aware of what it requires. Offering a place like this, is to offer an alternative,” said Marty.

Café Chat L’Heureux Catherine Reynolds /THE CONCORDIAN

Marty makes it his mission to educate people on effective adoption and the cats in his café. He provides them with the tools they need to make a clear decision on their future pet. Plus, he feels that animals are more than just an investment. He wants to remind people of this when they consider adopting either from a rescue or from the café.

Having a pet, it’s not a right, it should be a privilege,” said Marty.

Durocher admires what Marty has created and continues to create. Not everyone can open a cat café, but she believes that the project can work as long as it is done with pure intentions. 

“I think it’s just a positive experience. There’s another café that could open and do this all wrong, just take 10 cats and put them in the café. You can’t get there and then see cats that aren’t well, and that are terrified,” said Durocher.

Durocher and Marty continue to expand their businesses and help people adopt a pet the right way. Jumping the gun when adopting is not the way to go, it takes patience and a real idea of the kind of pet you are looking for. By doing it right, you will get a purrfect outcome.


Our beloved groundhog has passed away before making his prediction

What does that mean for spring?

When Feb. 2 rolls around, we all come together to celebrate Groundhog Day. Whether you partake in making a prediction or not, it’s always fun to hear what the predictions might be. 

Some of you might find yourselves asking, why do we have Groundhog Day? 

Well to begin, Groundhog Day falls right in between the winter solstice and spring equinox. In many different cultures, Feb. 2 brought many events of various significance, the most popular being the event celebrated in Christianity. 

Christians celebrated Candlemas, which was a feast that commemorated the presentation of Jesus at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. If the weather around Candlemas was sunny, Christians believed that there would be 40 more days of snow.

According to the History channel website, the first official Groundhog Day was celebrated on Feb. 2, 1887, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The celebration was the ingenious idea of the local town’s newspaper editor Clymer Freas.

Freas at the time sold a group of groundhog hunters and businessmen, known as the  Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, on the idea. 

At first, the annual Groundhog Day festivities took place at a site called Gobbler’s Knob. Nowadays thousands of people flock to this site in Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day. 

But unfortunately in our neck of the woods here in Quebec, tragedy has struck this Groundhog Day. Fred la Marmotte passed away on Feb. 1, the night before he was supposed to give his prediction.

According to Global News, when the organizer of the event at Val d’Espoir, Roberto Blondin, went to wake Fred up during the night, he wasn’t showing any signs of life. 

Blondin explained to the crowd at Val d’Espoir that Fred most likely passed away during hibernation. 

The celebration of Groundhog Day still went forward despite the tragic turn of events. A group of volunteer children came in and made the prediction in front of the crowd at Val d’Espoir in Quebec. They predicted six more weeks of winter.

Close to Quebec in Ontario, Wiarton Willie predicted an early spring from a plexiglass box on stage in front of a big crowd.

In Nova Scotia, Shubenacadie Sam also predicted six more weeks of winter. She ventured out of her enclosure at the Wildlife Park and saw her shadow.

Next year, the tradition of Groundhog Day will continue with Fred la Marmotte’s successor, Fred Junior.


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.”


Homeless Deaths In the Past Month Highlight a Flawed System that Needs Reform, According to Some Experts

Organizations supporting the homeless in Montreal say they lack funding and resources

Hugo, a homeless person for over seven years, roams the streets of Montreal. As the frost-covered snow treads under his boots on Ontario St. in Hochelaga, each step leads him to an undetermined destination. Though he’s currently refuged on a hidden street corner in a “non-declared shelter” to avoid the frigid temperature, he tends to avoid legitimate centres, fearing not only the loss of his autonomy but also not having access to the varying services he so desperately needs. “There are things that we need that are not allowed in shelters. When we need to take care of our morale, sometimes we hastily move to illegal aid even if we don’t have a choice.”

 Limited capacities and service closures at shelters stemming from Omicron have steered some homeless people back to the streets.

On top of this, January has not been forgiving towards people who have either chosen or who have been refused access to shelters, as two homeless people have died within the past month. Those nights frigid temperatures dropped to -25 degrees Celsius.

 Centres everywhere are feeling the constraints caused by Omicron. Welcome Hall Mission’s CEO Sam Watts can attest that organizations less fortunate than his own are feeling the effects, such as a lack of funding and resources. “There are a lot of organizations that have had to reel in their activities, in some cases shut down permanently or temporarily and who’ve struggled to supply adequate services for people in need.”  

  According to Mobilizing for Milton-Parc founder Sophie Hart, some shelters closed due to a lack of preparation for Omicron. “Shelters are congregated settings. Everyone eats together and sleeps in close proximity of each other.” 

This setting creates a higher risk of transmissibility, prompting shelters to limit admissions. “[The] services they use when they need support are having to limit what they can offer,” Hart said. She’s personally dealt with people who are scared to catch Omicron.

 Jocelyn is another person that has dealt with homelessness for roughly six months. Having many health problems, he hesitates to admit himself into a shelter solely due to his fear of catching COVID. “People in shelters don’t take care of their hygiene and end up with bacteria, microbes, and viruses,” he said. “I’d rather be out in the cold with a candle than die of COVID.”

 According to Watts, there are two main reasons why some prefer autonomous living. One reason is based on some people exhibiting independence as a character trait, and another relates to the notion of social connectedness. 

“One of the reasons people fall into homelessness is due to a loss of social connectivity, if you don’t have that network anymore you have lost that ability to connect into the system,” said Watts.

 The rules put in place in shelters across Montreal have people like Hugo think twice about administering themselves into centres for help. “You have to be in accordance with the social workers whose job it is to fill in their own responsibilities for your safety.”

 Though there are challenges regarding a “loss of freedom” that some people in shelters complain of, Watts considers these less like rules, and rather, expectations on how to behave within a shelter. “When you’re living in any kind of community setting, there are expectations people have,” Watts said. “A lot of people don’t like to live under certain norms and expectations and choose to live on the outside.”

 Though two deaths outside of shelters are already too many, Watts believes that these outcomes are a product of an already flawed system that must welcome reform. Both Hart and Watts believe that a more tailored system is needed in order to accommodate the many varying needs and problems homeless people face. “What we should move towards are services for a variety of people,” Hart said. “There has to be services created for everybody in mind,” 

 According to Watts, the way in which people are currently cared for are based on principles of charity that must modernize within the 21st century. “It’s a handout, it’s ‘here take this,’ and then come back tomorrow and we’ll give you the same thing again.”

 What Watts proposes is a system of “urban healthcare” that mirrors the steps one would experience when going to the hospital. “You’re registered, you’re triaged, you’re evaluated, a bunch of questions are asked of you, the healthcare professionals understand what the issue is, and chances are you get moved onto some other place in the hospital network where you can get the care that you need,” Watts said.

 Watts is optimistic that a well connected, properly funded network will improve not only transparency between shelters and the homeless population, but also help them improve upon their situation. “Not that homelessness will disappear, but somebody who is experiencing homelessness will not have to wander around for months or years in a network of disconnected, charitably-oriented organizations to get care. They’ll be part of a continuum of care that actually seeks to help a person to get from A to B to C.”


Photo by Kaitlynn Rodney

Opinions Student Life

Is it really that rewarding to be a winter athlete?

The real motivation behind going out in the cold

There are many ways to enjoy the outdoors during wintertime.

Of course, it all depends on the climate that you live in. How cold does it get? Do you have snow, ice? Or is it more of a mild winter temperature, where you get the occasional snow, but wearing heavy-duty winter gear isn’t a necessity to get your groceries?

Either way, there’s a lot you can do.

But is being outside in freezing cold weather really what our hearts desire? Or are we just trying to fit into the wishful image of a winter-loving well-rounded human being?

Most of us hate winter — it is a time reserved for the holidays, followed by a three-month hibernation. Maybe you’ll go outside once a day for a smoke, or perhaps a cup of coffee, but most of us make use of the extra dark hours of the day to binge-watch our favourite TV shows and eat lasagna.

Say you do want to go outside; what do you want to do? It all depends on access. In Montreal, it’s possible the best you can do is the Mont-Royal — not a bad spot. You see, when you live in the city, getting out to the wilderness to breathe fresh air and fall into fresh powdery snow is difficult, and a lot of the time expensive.

First, you gotta get out of town. Unless you have a car, you have to take a bus or a shuttle, but the bus may drop you off at a random gas station on the side of the highway. Nice.

Next, you need equipment. Whether you want to do alpine skiing, cross-country, or just some snowshoeing, you either need to carry it with you all the way to your destination, or you need to rent — expect to spend $40-50 per person. Finally, you need to make sure you have a suitable backpack to carry your food, extra layers, and water bottle, and don’t forget a good winter jacket on top of a breathable base layer of clothing.

Just writing all that down was exhausting.

But new sports and new ways to explore the outdoors keep popping up, and apparently, there is some real interest in winter sports.

Recently, a faction of alpine skiers is reigniting the interest in an old sport with its debut tied to medieval Norwegian traditions: alpine touring.

Now, strap on spikey “skins” to the back of your skis, and invest a couple thousand dollars on a new pair of “walking ski boots” (some claim they are comfortable, I have a hard time believing that), and climb up any mountain you desire!

Not exactly, but you get the idea.

In all honesty, I think I am just jealous of those who have the means and the time to invest themselves in outdoor sports like these. Right now, all I crave is to witness the silence of a snow-covered forest, and the void of a mountain valley.

But, you know, whatever. I’ll just keep being bitter from the comfort of my home, wasting away looking out of my window into the world, instead of living in it.


Photo by Laurie-Anne Palin

Looking for winter activities to get the holidays started? I’ve got you!

Our list of things to do in Montreal this holiday season may help make up for the dreadful winter weather around the corner.

It’s getting darker, colder and, and let’s be honest, kind of gross. Our days are getting shorter, while night dominates most of the hours in a day. The light in the sky escapes our eyes at 4 p.m. and, once again, we find ourselves taking our “afternoon” walks in the dead of night. I’m being a tad dramatic, I know. I can hear my mother’s voice making its way through my ears, telling me to “Look at the positive side, bun.”

While it may be easy to dump a cloud of doom and gloom over the Montreal winter, why not embrace the fact that the holidays are just around the corner?

Glistening lights and holiday drinks have entered the chat folks, so pay attention. In the spirit of the season, I’ve put together a few fun and festive things to fill your winter days.

Get skatin’

It’s time to dig your skates out of that bag in your closet, wear your thickest socks, and hit the ice. Let’s be honest, nothing quite says “Montreal holiday season” like skating outdoors. While rinks remain open throughout the winter, there’s something special about strapping on a pair of blades during the holidays.

If you’re thinking of locations, the Old Port is definitely the place to be. The twinkling lights of the city paired with the sound of music and the mystic St. Lawrence River right by the rink makes for an enchanting outing.

If your feet start to hurt (and, let’s face it, they always end up doing so), you can always take a step back from the rink and grab a hot cocoa… or a beer. Did I mention how perfect this activity makes for a fun and flirty date? You couldn’t have picked it better.

If this activity doesn’t seem perfectly storybook enough, I don’t know what is.

Markets, markets, markets! 

Tis’ the season to venture out to holiday markets! This has to be one of my favorite holiday traditions, no matter what city I’m in. The best news is that there’s no shortage of them in Montreal. What better way to join in on the holiday-spirited fun than by embracing the magical sights and sounds of each unique holiday market?

Whether you’re hitting the Village de Noël de Montréal at Atwater Market, the Marché de Noël de Jean Talon or Les Jardins d’Hiver at the Esplanade de la Place des Arts, you have options. Of course, several measures have been implemented at these different venues to ensure the safety of all visitors and employees, including the government-mandated vaccine passports.

Regardless of which location you decide to visit, you’ll find food, drinks, and fun little knick-knacks you can pick up for your loved ones as kitschy holiday gifts. Nothing says “holiday season in Montreal” quite like warm and welcoming holiday markets, right?

Let there be light (and sparkles) 

As the days get shorter and the nights grow longer, Montreal has several different activities that will light up your winter days — literally. Time to fill up your thermos with a hot drink of your choice (I don’t judge), bundle up, and enjoy some light installations around the city.

First stop: the Luminothérapie playground at the Quartier des Spectacles. Getting your hands on the funky mixture of interactive art and light pieces will make you feel like a kid again. After you’ve had your fun there, take a stroll downtown. Allow yourself to be amazed by the holiday decor and lighting installations, all of which are guaranteed to distract you from the icky winter streets.You can also enjoy some pop-up shows and holiday activities offered from XP_MTL.

Your last stop? You don’t want to miss the stunning multimedia show Aura at the Notre-Dame Basilica. The universally-acclaimed show features stunning visuals and incredible music. The luminous experience will truly take your breath away, making it an unforgettable, magical evening.

Get your tickets for holiday music and shows! 

Holiday music and theatre shows are back and better than ever. From Dec. 9 to 28, you can catch The Nutcracker, presented by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, at Place des Arts. After years of watching the Barbie Nutcracker version (which will never get old), I can say that this activity is definitely at the top of my wish list.

The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal is contributing to the festive joy with several different concerts. Included in the line-up are La Poste du Paradis, Handel’s Messiah, Hervé Niquet and Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ (The Childhood of Christ), and many more. You can also make your way to the Bourgie Hall at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to enjoy their holiday concerts, including A Very Merry Christmas by the Montréal Guitare Trio and A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Taurey Butler Trio.

Take a break from that essay, lab, or project, grab your winter gear, and go enjoy some festive fun! Let’s embrace Montreal’s holiday sparkle while we still can.


Feature graphic by Madeline Schmidt

My new favourite winter accessory — the balaclava

No, I don’t mean the delicious snack baklava, I mean balaclava

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve also noticed the revival of a knit ski mask-like accessory in the fashion scene. The balaclava, a fun, multi-purpose scarf/hat hybrid, has quickly made its way onto the heads of all the cool kids around Montreal, New York and Copenhagen.

If you aren’t familiar with what a Balaclava looks like, picture a ski mask, tight around the top of your head with an opening for your eyes or face that extends down around your neck like a neckwarmer. Unlike your typical ski mask, a balaclava is knit and can adopt many different styles — thicker or thinner, soft yarn or thick cotton, sometimes even mohair to give it an airy look, or the all-important devil horns and bunny ears if you want to stick out.

Balaclavas were first invented in the 1800s when soldiers fought in the Crimean war, specifically the battle of Balaklava — a port of support for the British, French and Turkish against the Russians during an indecisive battle. The tightly-knit wool hats would help keep soldiers warm and slowly made their way into popular culture and fashion. By the 1970s, fashionable balaclavas with fur trimmings and opulent details started popping up.

Today, the resurgence of the warm winter accessory is attributed to the avant-garde and high fashion community, with most of the viral balaclavas coming from designers like Miu Miu, Rick Owens or Isa Boulder — most retailing for more than $400.

Funny enough, the current resurgence of the northern hood came hand-in-hand with the uptick in knitting and crochet as hobbies. During the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, many started to pick up needles and yarn and make all sorts of creations. We saw the rise of granny squares, hand-knit blankets, and even checkered bags all driven by our favourite guilty pleasure: social media, and TikTok in particular. I’ll admit, I too fell victim to each trend.

This is an accessory with many functions — warmth, fashion, and even anonymity. Historically, many protest groups have worn ski mask like hoods to disguise their identities from the police. However, these efforts have been criticized due to the intimidating nature of the all-black look.

One example of balaclava’s cultural impact is their specific protest aesthetic, rocked by many anti-fascist and anti-white-supremacy groups. The balaclava, combined with the head-to-toe black outwear, and military accessories like gas masks, represents activism and protesting against fascism and racist ideals. While the look can be intimidating, the safety in anonymity it gives to protesters is an important use of the balaclava.

But you don’t have to look intimidating in a cagoule — I would argue many look very endearing in them. The variety of colours and shapes we are seeing emerge in fashion create a sea of wandering specks of colour walking around in the cold, grey weather, and I’m here for it.

I have recently started knitting my own balaclavas and, as with all crochet projects I take on, I recommend everyone try and learn how to make their own — it’s so rewarding! 

When considering what kind of balaclava you should make or buy, ask yourself: what kind of feel do I want on my face? What colour scheme is my wardrobe, and what balaclava could best compliment that? And lastly, what type of shape am I looking for?

Finding the right yarn for your skin is important, because no matter the style, the balaclava will touch and brush against your face. I know that I have acne-prone skin, so wearing balaclavas can be a big risk factor in making my skin act up if I don’t pick the correct material.

When thinking of what colour balaclava to make or purchase, it’s important to consider your wardrobe: do you wear a lot of neutrals? Or more bright colours? Are you the type to only wear black, grey and white?

If you wear neutrals, maybe pick one that stands out slightly more — like burnt orange or khaki green to bring in a pop of muted colour. If you wear lots of colours, stick with a staple: yellow, blue, red, white or black. You want something that will complement any outfit without clashing.

Finally, the shape. The main consideration is how tight you want it — think of your hair and skin again. Do you have a tendency to get frizzy? Do you lose volume easily? If so, maybe a little looser.

If you want a specific cone shape or specialty ears, it’s pretty straightforward. Find someone who can do that on Etsy, or even try it out yourself! You can always knit stand-alone customizations that can be woven in and out of your balaclava.

No need to freeze for fashion — you can now stay fashionably warm all winter long. You’re welcome! 


Feature graphic by James Fay

Seasonal depression is approaching— here’s what I wish I knew before to fight these depressive times

The weather is getting colder, the sun doesn’t shine as long, and for many of us our moods are following suit

In high school, I didn’t fully understand what Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was, nor that it affected me and every aspect of my life: mental health, relationships, and academic performance.

When I was in grade nine, around November when it first started snowing, I noticed that I was having symptoms related to depression — oversleeping, having low energy, moodiness, becoming easily irritated, and often feeling exhausted by doing the smallest tasks.

At that time, I was going through a lot of changes in school and in my personal life. It was easy for me to think that I was just going through a funk that I would eventually outgrow. Which I did, but the “funk” came back the following winter.

This “funk” lasted for about five months, roughly the whole duration of the season, but right as spring came by, I would feel like myself again.

Over the years, I noticed that this “funk” was recurring, and always happened around this time of year. Sure, the warmer seasons didn’t erase all my tiredness and sadness, but nothing felt as depressing as during the winter.

Full disclaimer: I have yet to be diagnosed with SAD by a professional. I’ve been gaslighting myself into believing that these depressive episodes are just the usual “winter blues,” and something normal that everyone experiences. Until I see a doctor and take all the tests, I am only self-diagnosed with SAD.

I only recently started researching and learning more about SAD and how to cope with it. So, what is SAD exactly?

The specific cause for this form of depression remains unclear, although the Mayo Clinic suggests that it is directly related to sunlight which affects several essential factors in our bodies.

The first factor is our circadian rhythm (biological clock). The decrease in sunlight during the winter and fall may disrupt the body’s internal rhythm, and can lead to feeling depressed.

Another potential factor is serotonin levels. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness, which may trigger depression.

Finally, the change in season can disrupt the body’s melatonin balance, which affects sleep patterns and mood.

A misconception about SAD is that it only happens in the winter, hence the “winter blues.” However, it doesn’t only occur in the colder months. This form of depression is a lot more complex. The symptoms can be distressing and overwhelming, and can interfere with daily functions.

SAD usually begins in the fall when the days get shorter, and lasts through the winter. Weather affects people’s moods. A sunny day can make us happier and energized, while a rainy day can make us feel gloomy and down. Though these minor mood shifts don’t usually affect people’s ability to cope with daily functions, some may be vulnerable to depression that follows a seasonal pattern.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, about two to three per cent of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime. In comparison, 15 per cent will experience a milder form that will leave them slightly depressed, but able to function without any significant symptoms.

Personally, every winter, I experience the same symptoms, but they have worsened over time, which makes me wonder if I have SAD.

SAD symptoms are similar to those of chronic depression. Common symptoms include fatigue, even after having enough sleep, and weight gain associated with overeating and carbohydrate cravings.

As previously mentioned, SAD affects not only my mental health but also my relationships. In previous winters, I would hibernate at home and avoid all sorts of socialization and activities. Any kind of non-essential task became too exhausting. Even doing basic daily tasks like checking up on friends required extra effort. This affected my relationships with those around me, and made me more distant and very lonely.

I’ve also seen it affect my academic performance. I usually perform very well in the fall semester, but I’ve noticed a drastic change in my grades and a lack of motivation during winter semesters.

My SAD has made it hard for me to even get up in the morning without crying. No joke. Only a few days ago, I woke up at 5 a.m., got dressed, sat on my couch and cried about how stressed I was. Then, I left the house to catch the bus, and missed it. Cried even more.

By waking up every morning and seeing how dark it is outside, I instantly feel depressed. The cherry on top: when I take the train going back home at 6 p.m., it’s already pitch-dark, which is very discouraging, and makes me extremely tired.

The transition between the summer and fall seasons has been excruciating. How will I cope with my undiagnosed SAD, and prepare myself for the brutal winter, you may ask?

I will try to be active and spend time outdoors during the day, but most importantly, I’m finally going to see a doctor for a diagnosis, and finally start therapy.

SAD is a form of depression that needs to be treated just like any other mental illness.

SAD is still a stigma around many people, especially students. If you’ve had similar experiences, I encourage you to reach out to a mental health specialist and get the help needed.


Feature graphic by James Fay


The pleasures of making a backyard rink

The activity may gain prominence with public outdoor hockey on hold

Blizzards, icy roads, power outages, and howling winds are some of the many struggles that characterize the cold winter season. Additionally, the prominence of the pandemic and the evolving restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus will make an already rough season for some even more difficult.

While Canadian winters are undoubtedly ruthless, the burdens that plague the season can sometimes overshadow the positive aspects that are unique to these times. For one, hockey becomes considerably more accessible with the opening of city-operated outdoor rinks, enabling kids and adults alike to better indulge in Canada’s prideful tradition.

This winter, public rinks will be open, but hockey games will not be allowed. Fortunately for winter sports fans, physical activities that have limited contact amongst individuals such as free skating and skiing will be permitted.

While the news comes to the dismay of hockey enthusiasts, hope is not entirely lost. The uniquely Canadian hobby of making a backyard rink lends itself well to today’s circumstances. Unlike the city rinks and indoor arenas, these personal rinks can offer intimacy that is difficult to replicate in organized hockey.

Stacey Elissa Anne, a mother of two who lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, said that growing up with two older siblings who played hockey meant her family was often busy splitting time between organized teams and outdoor rinks.

“Living in Winnipeg, my dad made sure to build us an outdoor rink every single winter,” Elissa Anne said. “It’s safe to say our lives revolved around the sport.”

Elissa Anne learned about the work involved in making a personal rink and the dedication it required when her family took to creating one of their own in 2019.

“We couldn’t have enjoyed it more,” Elissa Anne said. “The kids and their neighbourhood friends used it every single day.”

Some individuals continue to build an annual backyard rink in an effort to pay their childhood debts forward. The Tecumseh, Ontario-native Jason Bain has made building a rink a personal tradition that he has upheld for over a decade, but credits his late father for inspiring him to pass on the generous ritual. Bain believed it was his father’s way of connecting with the local kids.

Growing up, my family couldn’t afford to play hockey,” Bain said. “My dad would build an old-school rink out of snow every year, standing outside for hours even after working strenuously long work shifts.”

Nowadays, the time he spends alone outside maintaining a backyard rink for his own children is Bain’s way of connecting with his father, who would go out of his way to do the same for him as a child. Bain added that last season was the first year in which he did not build a rink in over 10 years, something that does not sit well with the Ontario-native to this day.

“Last year just didn’t seem right,” Bain said. “Even if the kids only get to skate on it once or twice, when they get older it would be immeasurably rewarding to see them do the same for their kids.”

Jeff Baer grew up in Stockbridge, Manitoba, skating on local ponds. As a child, Baer always dreamed of building his own rink one day to avoid having to trek through rough terrain and private property to find a place to skate.

This year will be the sixth in which Baer builds a backyard rink for his children, in hopes of forging unforgettable memories. While his two kids are passionate about hockey, his son is particularly fond of everything Canada’s sport has to offer.

“My 14-year-old son was born with cerebral palsy,” Baer said. “For him, hockey is everything and its tremendously helped him overcome his impairment.”

The father of two added that his son would skate at five in the morning before heading to school in past years. While his 10-year-old daughter’s team and their season are uncertain due to the pandemic, Baer has offered to host practice if the situation ever presents itself and is permitted.

“The rink may not be an ideal size to accommodate a full team,” Baer said. “However, it’s plenty large enough to host small skating workouts and drills.”

Rebecca Podniesinski’s family in Keene has resorted to making her yearly rink larger to better accommodate members of the local New Hampshire hockey club.“If we have ice that we can safely share,” Podniesinski said, “it’s just the right thing to do with the weekly shutdowns preventing kids from exercising and doing what they love.”


Graphic by Carleen Loney

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