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By Crystal Wood
2020 has been a different year in so many ways, causing us to reflect on and adjust many parts of our lives. So, it’s no surprise that the holiday season may be a bit different this year, as well. We might not be able to crowd around the tree with friends or take in large concerts together, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still share in the spirit of the season.
When thinking about what kind of gift to share with a loved one, remember that the act of giving is itself rewarding. So, instead of wrapping another present to put underneath the tree, consider donating to a charity in the form of volunteer time, monetary donations or some much-needed supplies. Not only will you be sharing a warm gesture with your loved ones, but you could enrich the life of someone in need.
Here are some ideas for where to donate this holiday season.
Assist Animal Shelters
Help out our furry friends this holiday season by supporting a pet-based charity. Organizations across the province are always in need of assistance to feed, house and rescue animals. Monetary donations are always welcome, as are supplies such as pet food, blankets, toys and cat litter. Visit these websites to find out what kind of help they might need over the holidays.
Help the Homeless
If you’re feeling grateful for all you have this year, share the fortune by helping out others in need. Food banks are a great way to ensure that everyone can enjoy a holiday meal, and accept monetary or food donations. You can also give to a homeless shelter, like Saskatoon’s Lighthouse Supported Living, which is always in need of supplies such as socks, underwear and hygiene products. Consider some of these charities if you’re interested in donating:
Sponsor A Family
Holidays are a time to be with family and friends, but not everyone can be with their loved ones at this time of year. Spread some joy by ensuring that families can spend the holidays together feeling safe, healthy and warm. Many hospitals and non-profit groups have special programs to keep families together during the festive season, such as Ronald McDonald House’s Gift of Nights program, which offsets the financial cost for families requiring overnight stays. To donate to the Gift of Nights or another family-focused charity, check out these organizations.
Welcome Newcomers to Canada
Setting up life in a new country can leave little time for celebrating the holidays. Help our newest Canadians celebrate their first holiday season in their new home by supporting a non-profit that assists newcomers and refugees. If you or your family have some time to spare, consider volunteering for a conversation circle to help newcomers practice English or simply get to know their new city. For more ideas to help newcomers feel welcome, visit these sites:
Born in Saskatoon, Crystal Wood writes for television, theatre and the web. Her travel writing has appeared in Hostelling Canada, British Tours, and Canadian Escapes, and she’s also written for outlets like Submittable, Oxygen and InBetween Magazine. As a playwright, her work has been produced in Canada and the U.S., most recently at Alumnae Theatre’s Fireworks Festival.
By Ashlyn George
From October to March, the snow falls and we settle into my favourite season — winter.
There’s no better way to enjoy the outdoors than sliding and gliding through fluffy layers of snow. If dressed properly and with the right gear, it can be a lot of fun.
Here are some of the best winter experiences around Saskatchewan.
Kicksled the Meewasin Valley Trails
There are more than 80 kilometres of trails waiting to be explored along Saskatoon’s Meewasin Trails and the city’s scenic river valley. When covered in a fresh skiff of snow, it’s the perfect playground to rent a traditional Norwegian kicksled from Escape Sports. After kicking along the paved paths, pop into Drift Sidewalk Cafe to warm your hands around a turmeric tea latte and fill your belly with one of their tasty crepes. For the best views of downtown, book in to the Alt Hotel Saskatoon.
Snowshoe in Meadow Lake Provincial Park
A popular four-season park, Meadow Lake Provincial Park is the perfect spot to strap on a set of snowshoes. Join a tour at Grieg Lake guided by park staff or sign out a complimentary pair if staying at Waters Edge Eco Lodge. For those willing to wander on their own, a trip on the Gold Creek Trail offers spectacular views of the surrounding lakes set amongst the hearty pines of the forest.
Snowmobile “1000 Miles of Snow”
In northeast Saskatchewan, 12 communities have partnered to promote their “1000 Miles of Snow,” encouraging snowmobilers to experience a fun and unique way of travelling the trails between towns. To ensure you’re riding the best sled, stop in at Schrader‘s Motorsports in Yorkton. It’s the largest power sport dealer in the province and one of the best locations to get outfitted head to toe in FXR gear, the warmest high-performance winter clothing on the market. Warm up at night at the Carrot River Inn or Hudson Bay’s Jackpine Cabins where they have a heated shop for your sled.
Skate, Ski and Sauna at Ness Creek
During the winter months, festival site Ness Creek turns into a winter wonderland. Cozy up with a hot cider in front of the wood-burning fireplace in one of eight tiny cabins or don your choice of skis, snowshoes or skates on the rink and groomed trails that wind through the Boreal forest. After the sun goes down, head to the sauna for a bit of relaxation.
Looking to bring the great outdoors indoors year-round? Consider Lakeland Log Homes and Timber Products for a sustainable and locally-made log home.
Ski the Don Allen Trails
Every March, the community of La Ronge holds their annual Saskaloppet with distances ranging from two to 77 kilometres (including an overnight camping option for the truly adventurous). Outside of competition days, the trails are open for public use and the views atop the hill from the Don Allen ski shelter are as rewarding as the exhilarating ski back down. The Harbour Inn makes a great waterfront location to spend the night.
By Ashlyn George
Canadian snowbirds — those who enjoy travelling south during the winter months — will be looking within Canada’s borders for their annual winter season escape.
Thankfully, our Great White North is just as gorgeous covered in snow as it is when bathed in summer sunshine.
Grab your mittens, toques and boots to experience the diversity Canadian winters have to offer in these five beautiful locations.
Lake Louise, Alberta
Outdoor enthusiasts will be blown away by the majesty of Lake Louise and its chateau on the water (the lake freezes over and turns into a popular skating rink in winter). This resort community truly has something for everyone, from a day spent on the slopes at Lake Louise Ski Resort to cozying up under velvet blankets on a horse-drawn carriage ride around the lake. Most impressive is the SnowDays Ice Magic Festival that features elaborate ice sculptures crafted by carvers from around the world. A night at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in winter will make anyone feel like an ice king or queen.
Prince Edward Island
While many visit PEI in the summer months, a trip in the heart of winter is worth it. Close travel distances maximize short daylight hours as the island’s numerous snow-covered lighthouses seem to be perpetually bathed in golden hour lighting, perfect for photo enthusiasts. Regardless of season, no trip is complete without a visit to Cows Creamery in Charlottetown for some of the best ice cream in the country, which is conveniently located down the street from an overnight stay at the historic Rodd Charlottetown Hotel.
Quebec City, Quebec
Lit with the warm glow of winter lights and decorations, Old Quebec is the epitome of a fairytale as a stroll within the historic UNESCO-designated neighbourhood’s great stone walls overflows with the charm and romance of centuries past. The city’s festive joie de vivre spills out into iconic Au 1884 and its old-school toboggan run right in the heart of the city. Sample sugary-sweet maple taffy and sip on ice wine while enjoying a city that truly knows how to embrace winter. The Hotel de Glace (Ice Hotel) takes honours as one of the coolest places to rest your head.
Blue Mountain, Ontario
On the shores of Southern Georgian Bay, Blue Mountain Resort is a winter wonderland getaway for anyone from the big city. Whether it’s hitting the 365 acres of skiable terrain, exploring the mystical sights and sounds of the Agora Path of Light or settling in with a flight of beer from Northwinds Brewing Company, there’s a little something for everyone. The Westin Trillium House not only offers great views of the hill, but also has a heated outdoor pool for those cold winter nights.
Winnipeggers know how to make the best of the snowy season — from ice castles and ice towers to artistic warming huts along one of Canada’s longest skating trails. But if that doesn’t convince anti-winter wanderers how great the season is, an outdoor experience and heated hammocks at Thermea Nordic Spa surely will. The multisensory thermotherapy centre will make even the coldest hearts melt in any of the eight saunas and outdoor baths. The Inn at the Forks is a great central location to adventure out from.
By Lisa Greig
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us, and it truly is a magical time of year. Snow-kissed streets. Twinkling lights. Holiday cheer and festive gatherings. While I want to celebrate this season’s merriness, I want to acknowledge that this time of year can also be challenging. I want to make space for grief. You know, that feeling that climbs inside of our hearts and heads and cements itself into every moveable crack? That loud voice in our head reminds us of what we miss when the calm finally finds us. It is the restlessness in the middle of the night when the rest of the world seems to be asleep. All of that is grief. It is the mountain of loss we are experiencing because of the pandemic. As a collective, we are grieving. And I want to unpack this together.
I want to normalize the struggles that occur when we lose a sense of normal. I want to remind you that we grieve every loss and that your loss matters. Since March, we have lost so much. We have lost things that we did not even know we had. I need you to spend some time with that, and most importantly, I want you to know that there is a way through. So, what is your grief?
Loss of normalcy? I will invite you to sit with this one and then spend time finding ways to gain a sense of control over what you can. What does your new every day look like now? Are there new traditions you and your bubble can start this season?
Loss of routine? So many things have changed, and yes, that is hard. Grieve it, and when you are ready, what is your new routine? Do you miss that walk or drive to work in the morning? Maybe you can go for a walk before you start your day. Miss coffee or lunch breaks with colleagues? Set up a zoom meeting. Or keep up some of your old routines; still pack your lunch, so you have one less thing to do during your workday.
Loss of roles? So many of you are wearing all the hats (parenting hat, teaching hat) and wearing them simultaneously. Let us try and take breaks when we can and give ourselves permission to wear one hat focused on self-compassion.
I want you to know that you are not alone, and I need you to understand that it is okay to be both/and. You can be grieving and grateful. You can be happy and sad. You can be excited and overwhelmed. We are all in this together, and let us all work together to spread joy whenever possible. If you can give only one thing this season, show kindness and remember — presence over presents.
Lisa Greig is a Social Worker and creator of Lisa Greig Wellness. She is described as a clinical realist and authenticity architect. She is a lifelong learner with a hunger for deep and meaningful conversations. She believes the answers to life are found in our dying’s wisdom, and that magic exists in our youngest humans. Lisa is passionate about highlighting real life as we all navigate this beautiful, messy world most authentically. She enjoys sharing her own tips, tricks and lessons of mental wellness, community building and motherhood.
By The Toast Team
The pandemic, the upcoming American election, and the overall state of the world can leave one feeling just a tad bit down. However, there’s always something to be thankful for, and this year our Toast Team selected 5 top picks that you can focus on being grateful for this Thanksgiving.
Here’s a teaching moment — teachers during any time of the year are always something to be thankful for. But this year, it’s especially true. Whether in-class or through online learning, they’re doing amazing work keeping students motivated, safe and on task, while most parents still need to stay home and work remotely.
Our frontline workers can’t be thanked enough. The countless paramedics, nurses, doctors, personal support workers, and more have put so much on the line to help us and protect our health during these “uncertain times.” Not only that, but our Starbucks baristas and grocery clerks who kept working throughout the pandemic, and our waiters and our retail workers at the malls who have also given us a sense of normality and comfort when we needed it most.
Obvious and cheesy, we know, but hey — we made it through this year together. Through FaceTime, Zoom, via text, or even in person (safely and from a distance), having others around kept us sane. With restrictions changing what seems like every day, it’s nice to know that you have a constant support group of friends and family only a message or call away.
Sports came back this summer! Maybe not live and in stadiums and arenas, but nonetheless, we still witnessed the same emotions as we would in-person when the Tampa Bay Lightning won one of most historical Stanley Cups and will have more hockey games to watch and look forward to with the winter months to come. The NHL’s, MBA’s and NBA’s safe return to play has ensured that with the protocols and restrictions in place, the NFL and NHL seasons can start up again this winter, so there will be enough in the sports realm to keep us entertained as we head into the cold Canadian winter.
Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, social media — all are an absolute necessity during lockdown. What would we do without watching season 2 of Selling Sunset, or all the drama unfold on YouTube within the beauty community (again). Could you imagine being in lockdown with no internet?! Thank you to the countless amount of TV shows, movies and comedy specials that were released and gave us a laugh when we needed it the most.
The Toast team appreciates those who have kept us safe, healthy and entertained; there is always something or someone to be thankful for — and with that, cheers to our frontline workers, teachers, friends and family, athletes and entertainers who have helped us immensely during these crazy times. Have a safe Thanksgiving celebration and don’t forget to think on the brighter side this year!