What Easter Means to Me, an Atheist

Easter is this coming weekend and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s not necessarily in my top three for favourite holidays, but I definitely enjoy it all the same. I actually grew

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Communion photo of a child vampire. Just kidding, this is me around 1997, the pale future athiest!

up going to a catholic school, but started to question the religion introspectively in my early teen years. I was baptized, had a first communion, and I’m even confirmed, but that was all by age 13 and who really understands the things our parents have us do back then. What’s important is that what I knew then and what I know now are the same, you should be a good person whether you’re spiritual or not.

 

As a kid, I remember two things about the Easter holiday: one, I loved the times spent together with my family dying eggs, taking part in mom-and-dad-run scavenger hunts for chocolate eggs, or sitting down for a big meal; and two, my Catholic school teachers would always be ‘disappointed’ on Tuesday morning and mildly shame the kids that didn’t bring in palms that were supposed to prove that they went to church for Palm Sunday (we never went and I never brought in a palm). I understand and recognize the importance of Easter within Christianity, but now, as an adult atheist, I appreciate the holiday

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Left to right: Mom, my older sister, my niece, myself, and my deceased grandmother. Four generations of women in our family in 2015.

for the non-spiritual family traditions that I have always been lucky enough to enjoy. Tomorrow night, Chris and I are going to dye some eggs together to continue a family tradition and have fun doing some arts and crafts. We will see our families throughout the next week and a half because of busy schedules, but it’s less about the exact day and more about the act of seeing family.

 

What happens at a non-denominational Easter celebration? We will likely: go for a big dog walk; have afternoon drinks while we talk and laugh; eat a big meal together; cheers to things instead of praying; pig out on junk food in the shape of eggs, bunnies, or chicks; and continue to have drinks while we play games like Cards Against Humanity.

 

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Our now deceased dog Daq.

Does it sound pretty similar to a religious family’s celebration? Probably, because although I don’t believe in God, I do respect family traditions and believe that each holiday is a time to celebrate being happy. I use holidays as an excuse to dedicate extra time to family and each celebration secretly feels like Thanksgiving because of how appreciative I feel (maybe this is why Thanksgiving is a boring holiday for me, I feel like it’s like any other one).

 

So even though I sometimes group God in with the Easter Bunny, realize that we’re still pretty similar and that atheists can be good people too.

What are some of your Easter traditions? Do you celebrate Passover instead? How has your personal family celebration changed from when you were a child?

Valentine’s Day: Cheap Dates and Quality Time

As Valentine’s Day is fast approaching (February 14th is this coming Tuesday), you may still need to come up with an affordable date idea. If we broke the bank to celebrate every holiday throughout the year, we’d be broke ourselves.  

Yes, you can absolutely splurge a little on an expensive dinner out, but if you’re looking to save money this year maybe you can try some of the following five activities:

  1. Instead of spending money on typical Valentine’s products, mutually decide on an at home activity that you could invest in.

16299381_1291067520951162_1872430606541810506_nThis year Chris and I bought a new boardgame that we can play with just two people (up to six) called Pandemic. We had a night recently when we became more familiar with the rules so that we can really enjoy it on Valentine’s Day. Romance can mean different things to different people, and to us in our first year of marriage (third year of living together), our best-friendship is a big part of our love. We embrace our friendship by making sure we will both have fun – we hang out. If you’re on a smaller budget I suggest checking out the games section of Value Village, I’ve found some great games there for under $5.00!

  1. Find a recipe on Pinterest.

the_best_of_dean_martinIf you have the time, cooking together can be a lot of fun. Chris and I often like to put on a playlist that works well with our meal. For example, when we cook pasta I like to put on my Dean Martin album, or sometimes we just put on a 90’s Spotify playlist to sing and dance to. You will either share pride over your delicious meal or laugh at what bad cooks you are which will make for a funny memory – it’s about the quality time you spend together more than it’s about the quality of the food.

  1. Write a love letter.

Chris and I have done this a few times for past Valentine’s Days as well as anniversaries. It costs nothing and makes you feel really good about each other. This is the kind of gift that takes a little thought and effort, but goes a long way. Writing each other letters is also a good practise to keep up healthy communication and remind one another why you’re together. Don’t be afraid to add some humour into it with inside jokes, love letters don’t have to be all serious (they’re meant to make you smile).

  1. Borrow a classic romance movie from the public library.

Sometimes Netflix just doesn’t cut it, especially if you’re like me and have watched basically every romantic comedy on the list. When that happens, you can check out this incredibly useful resource that exists in most cities called the library. You can even put things on hold or find out which branch has which DVD via the good ol’internet – this is better than Blockbuster. My local library carries modern movies as well as many older classics, including a personal favourite: Roman Holiday. Watching a movie on a comfy couch (not necessarily the big one with dust bunnies), having the ability to pause for bathroom breaks, and not paying outrageous prices for snacks are all good reasons to avoid the movie theatre this Valentine’s Day.

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  1. Explore a local art gallery.
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Hand Embroidery I made of the RMG last year.

Want to actually leave the house? Many cities have art galleries with free or donation based admission like The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) in my hometown or the Station Gallery one city over. I strongly encourage people who “don’t do art” to try this date idea, I think you’ll be surprised at how much you might enjoy yourself. Galleries are fantastic places to walk (healthy) and talk (healthy for your relationship). You can see how similar you are or just how much your tastes differ. Chris and I also like to make fun of the odd piece, again an art gallery doesn’t have to be a strictly serious environment – have fun!


These five ideas are simple and affordable, some also allow for comfort which is a huge plus in my books. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about extravagant gifts, it should be about celebrating your love for each other by spending time together and creating positive memories.

Let me know what some of your plans are in the comments!

Bad Holiday Movies that You Actually Love: Netflix Canada 2016 Selection

Scroll down for a list of 16 ‘bad’ holiday films on Netflix

Remember those bad ‘made for TV’ movies that your mom used to watch when you were growing up? Somewhere along the line, somehow, my sister and I ended up loving them too and there are a lot more to choose from now compared to when I was a kid. Thanks Netflix Canada!


A Brief Reality Check:

Hallmark Channel (yes that Hallmark) seems to be mass producing low-quality Christmas rom-coms – they actually released 22 holiday TV movies just this year alone. Adrienne hallmark-storeGibbs, of Forbes, wrote it best when she said that the channel is “capitalizing on Christmas,” not a surprise when you think about the card company in context with every other holiday or celebration of the year.

So why do I watch these movies when I also acknowledge how awful they can be? People may think that it’s a ‘guilty pleasure’ of mine, but I don’t feel shame in my enjoyment. I, like everyone else, think that I have incredible taste in quality media productions; however, again like everyone else, I like to watch meaningless bad television and movies from time to time. Hallmark Channel movies are no better or worse than the average reality television show

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Screenshot from Once Upon a Holiday (in the list below).

detailing the latest fad occupation (i.e. Shows about being a baker, a stay-at-home pageant mom, an ice truck driver, etc.). Both genres have productions that are: often poorly scripted; predictable; funny without being intelligent; cringe worthy; good to be on the background while you’re doing something more important; and lastly, they frequently star nostalgic actors and actresses who we haven’t seen since the 90’s or early 2000’s.

I’m not telling you to not expect more out of Hallmark movies though – they should still be held accountable for their white-heteronormative plot lines that consistently push the need for a prince charming and feature an insanely low percentage of racial diversity in their cast. We as an audience need to voice our want for more depth and options as white heterosexual women are not the only viewers. There is likely a very diverse audience that wants to watch low quality holiday love stories. If Hallmark Channel is making as many as 22 films for just one season, why do they all have to feature single white women looking for Mr. White – er I mean Right – as their Christmas wish? They don’t. The demand is out there so supply it to us you capitalistic card company conglomerate!


Back to my ‘So Bad It’s Good’ Holiday Movie list:

holiday-favouritesPhew – got that out of my system, so now let’s list the selection of bad-holiday-rom-coms on Netflix Canada 2016. I’ve already watched a bunch, but you may need some background fluff to put on the TV while you finish the last of your gift wrapping or while you get ready for Christmas with the family.

Here they are (not ranked), feel free to click the links below and watch the trailers ahead of time! You can type the title into your search bar or browse for these in the “Holiday Favourites” category on Netflix.

PS. I’ve watched the first seven
PPS. As an atheist I often just choose to ignore whatever religious undertones come with Christmas movies as it’s the original basis for the holidaymovie-collage

  1. Dear Santa 
  2. Holiday Engagement
  3. A Dog Walker’s Christmas Tale
  4. Merry Kissmas 
  5. Christmas Crush
  6. Once Upon a Holiday
  7. My Santa 
  8. A Christmas Kiss II
  9. Christmas Belle (not an actual trailer)
  10. Naughty & Nice
  11. Back to Christmas 
  12. Christmas in the City 
  13. Small Town Santa 
  14. Santa’s Little Helper
  15. How Sarah Got Her Wings 
  16. Angel of Christmas 

Whether you watch these low-budget productions this holiday season or not, I hope that you enjoy yourself (celebrating or not celebrating Christmas)! Be safe, be smart, be merry.

Collection of Christmas Covers: A Video Series from my Past

Scroll down to see collection of Christmas cover videos or you can find them on my YouTube channel.

Second disclaimer, the header features some jingle bells and my autoharp (people often ask what instrument it is). I’m a singer first and an instrumentalist only when I have to be.

I haven’t really discussed my love of singing on my blog yet, I mentioned that Chris and I met at an open mic, but that’s about it. After high school, I started singing in public and was in a series of duos and a short-lived band.collage-1 I sang quite often during the four years that I took off between high school and university, but my university studies then took most of my focus until I graduated. I still sing at events occasionally, but going on tour is now an old dream in the back of my head.

Three years ago I decided to do a small collection of Christmas covers (six to be exact) and I thought that I’d share them with you here as well. The videos also feature musical guests including: my husband Chris who prefers the drums, but played some guitar; one of my best friends and the other half of our duo Darling and the Fox, Darling Meadow; Ryan Alhage, co-creator and friend from our old band Foxy Droids; the talented fiddler Seann Battams of The Doozies and Hairy Holler; and my good friend Heather Luckhart, jazz/folk/blues extraordinaire. With the help of these talented musicians we put together some covers of Christmas favourites and had a lot of fun while doing it.


I started the series with a solo Canadian cover of the Bob and Doug McKenzie comedic version of Twelve Days of Christmas.


Second, I sang with Chris on guitar – Santa Baby.


Third, was my cover with Ryan Alhage, a homemade recording of Baby it’s Cold Outside set to a video of my old dog Daq (a free download of our version of Baby it’s Cold Outside can be found here)


The fourth installment featured Chris on guitar again, but this time he loved me so much that he even performed it with me at an open mic I used to host in town – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.


Fifth, was a very fun cover of Blue Christmas with Heather Luckhart and Seann Battams (we had too much fun with the creepy elf at the beginning).


Lastly, Darling Meadow and I sang Jingle Bell Rock with a cute, but disinterested Daq.


So there you have it, I hope you put on some Christmas songs tonight while you’re making dinner and have a bit of Christmas Kitchen Karaoke with your loved ones (wine encouraged) – try not to hate the songs just because every retail store around you is overplaying them.

Christmas Tree Trimming: Nostalgic Newlyweds

Decorating the Christmas tree is one of my favourite traditions and I look forward to it every year. Depending on my husband’s overseas work schedule, I have done it both with and without him over the last few years. I’m really lucky that he’s home for the holidays this year so I only had to wait until December 8th to decorate.

I appreciated that Chris wanted to participate in the tree decorating tradition, he seemed just as excited as I was. He made us Old Fashioned’s (we love bourbon) and I put on a Christmas record. A good friend of mine gave img_9725me A Charlie Brown Christmas: Vince Guaraldi Trio on Vinyl as an early birthday present and I’ve listened to it all the way through approximately five times already! For some reason, the slight crackle of vinyl makes me feel cozy, a similar feeling to having fireplace lit in the winter.

As the needle followed the grooves, I took a sip of my drink, and lit a candle that smelt like a balsam fir. It officially sounded, tasted, and smelt like the holidays – I was blissfully happy. We lugged out our fake tree and box of decorations from under the basement staircase and let Summit have a whiff of Christmases-past.

Approximately three Christmases ago, Chris and I purchased our first tree together. We bought a 6ft tall pencil tree, my dad thinks that it looks funny and weird, but we think that it is perfect for us. The small tree fits into our space and is quirky enough to suit our family. That first tree year, we had a Christmas

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Chris standing beside our nearly finished tree this year.

party where we asked our friends to bring us ornaments to decorate our new tree with. We were so happy with the outcome: an eclectic mixture of homemade, outlandish, store-bought, and traditional decorations that contribute to its unconventional nature. Each guest was also given a homemade ornament from Chris and I – a lot of work when you make 43 of them!

Back to 2016: Chris, Summit, and I enjoyed a quiet night of decorating. This is the first year that Chris and I are officially husband and wife for Christmas so I made us a wedding ornament and also a fun Eric Andre themed ornament (tried my hand at wood burning for the first time and loved it). The best thing about having had an ornament party is that every year we are reminded of the friends and family in our lives. Each ornament has a backstory and is associated with a familiar face. Unwrapping each trinket leads to talking about the loved one from which it came and this process really adds to the nostalgia that comes with the tree tradition.

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Top: Our stockings hung with care (temporary stocking until we print a photo of summit). Bottom left: Daq’s stocking. Bottom right: Daq and I at my mom’s in 2012.

Aside from ornaments, we also pulled out our Christmas stockings. I took a minute or two to cry when I held Daq’s old stocking that would now be handed down to Summit. She was a truly wonderful friend who I still miss very much. The mourning process is long and unforgiving, but I was lucky to be a part of Daq’s long and happy life. Chris and I, however, are excited to spoil our new fur-baby this holiday and have been taking her to the now snowy dog park twice a day. Life is all about change and making the best out of what you have – we do our best!

After turning the room lights down, Chris drank some eggnog with bourbon and I had some baileys in my hot chocolate. As if in a film, we excitedly watched snow start to fall out of our back window. We talked about how much we still love our eccentric tree and about the possible future trees we may purchase if we move into a bigger space someday. Isn’t it beautiful that sharing the tree decorating tradition with my husband not only reminds me of happy memories from the past, but also sparks romantic thoughts about the future? It’s who you’re with that matters most; fake or real, the tree itself shouldn’t affect the experience – a reflection of what Christmas is really all about.

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