Saturday, December 20, 2008

This is how Christmas begins...

Holidays begin when exams end. Today marked my one-and-only December exam, and hence, Christmas has now begun in earnest. However, before we bounce cheerfully onto the topic of holiday festivities, let's pause for a moment and bid a ponderous adieu to school:

I've had some people scoff at the fact that I only have one December exam. All I can say to that is that this week marked some of the most frenetic studying in my academic career. The exam covered literally hundreds of pages of notes spread over four broad subjects - Cardiology, Respirology, Pharmacology, and Biochemistry - all of which we had to digest over the course of a single month. It might sound easier having our courses lined up consecutively instead of concurrently (hence we essentially only have one exam at a time)... but it's not -- think summer school.

I do take issue with people trying to trivialize my "one exam" from an undergrad perspective (i.e. five exams). It is a different system; and I mean, it's not like I didn't do undergrad as well, so what is there to look down on really? This past exam trumped some of my most dismal undergraduate studying nightmares (Pharmacology 450 and Microbiology 461), and deserved it's own MSN icon-of-doom.



That said, the exam is over now. The answers were available immediately upon completion (they had an answer key, and we were allowed to keep the question sheets), and I'm happy to report that I did fine. Onward to Christmas.

After a celebratory meal at Baldwin Street, I headed back home to prepare Christmas cards. I had been planning something different this year for quite some time, and had assembled all the materials I needed in advance. Because of exam preparation, I hadn't actually had time to make good on that planning though - and tonight, at Maximus' post-exam bash/birthday party, I was going to get my last chance to catch some of my classmates before they boarded planes back to the West Coast to share the holidays with their families.

The cards were printed on thick paper, and utilized some of the chibi characters I had drawn of my classmates. I had designed the cards to run on 8.5x11 paper with two folds so that I could employ standard letter envelopes, so I wouldn't have to cut the paper, and so that I could print on both the inside and back of the card without having to flip the page over.

At first, I was going to print "Happy Holidays" on the inside flap, but realized that if I did that, I wouldn't have any text to go with the cover. I opted instead to write a poem relevant to our medical school experiences for the inside flap:

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And through MSB,
Not a student was stirring,
Not even [name removed] Li.

The cadavers were packed
For next year with great care…
“Now anatomy’s passed!”
1T2’s dare declare.

Embryology’s conclusion,
We salute with a toast.
But Cardiology’s finish
We lauded the most.

Respirology, Pharm,
And Biochem too.
We survived through them all,
And bid fall term “adieu.”

Now retreating to warm,
Cozy homes and fireplaces…
Eating sumptuous meals;
Opening gifts with glad faces…

But two weeks of devouring,
Omegas three, nine, and six,
Will have us measuring pressure
And resp rate for kicks.

Yes that stuffing may lead,
To an early M.I. –
All that holiday drinking,
May cause your liver to die.

So remember as you go out,
To eat and to play,
To have a fun-filled but safe
Christ-mas holiday!

After designing the card layouts, writing the poem, printing, adding a personal message, and stuffing and sealing envelopes, I was about 2 hours late for the party. Still, it was pretty much an all-night affair, so nobody really seemed to mind. The cards went over well too, so I was quite happy. I think maybe I missed my true calling by going into medicine... just kidding.

The next two weeks are a heavily planned balancing act between various parties and events with different groups of people from high school and university, as well as family dinners and excursions. It's going to be really exciting but very densely packed - leaving a less than copious amount of time for genuine relaxation. Two weeks is just not very long.

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The holiday tree - an epic fail

While we're on the topic of Christmas, I'd like to touch on one more thing that's been on my mind - the "holiday tree." Back in 2003, I wrote an article about the "holiday tree" for my school newspaper. Essentially, Toronto city hall had opted to rename their enormous Christmas tree a "holiday tree" in order to be politically correct.

At the time, I had argued that this was taking political correctness too far. There are various holidays going on at this time of year - Christmas, the Christian holiday of the birth of Christ; the secular offshoot involving Santa and trees and gifts; the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, etc. In being an diverse and open society, we should encourage each other to express and embrace our own beliefs, not water them down in order to ensure uniformity and inoffensiveness.

A Christmas tree, by any name, is still a Christmas tree - by symbolism and origin. Some argue that the Christmas tree is in fact an early Christian adoption of the pagan Yule tree. Certainly, if a person celebrates Yule, than they may have a Yule tree. In that case, a Yule tree is a Yule tree. Calling it a "holiday tree" does not make it any more representative of those who do not celebrate Yule, but merely causes the symbol to lose its meaning.

This year, the controversial "holiday tree" has reared its ugly head again, this time outside the Quebec legislature. David Borzykowski, a master's student in political science at the University of Manitoba, recently wrote a concise and sensible diatribe on this issue, echoing my original sentiments of many years ago. It's all well and good to be sensitive to the beliefs of others (I often write "Happy Holidays" in cards to those who don't celebrate Christmas), but this doesn't mean trying to scribble out our own awesome diversity as a society. As Borzykowski argues - a Menorah is not a "holiday candelabra" and a Christmas tree should not be a "holiday tree."

1 comment:

sandlot said...

I see you used the same Holiday '08 template for my Christmas card.