Feeling festive and up for more holiday content? Check out our holiday series.

Growing up in Pakistan, I never formally celebrated Christmas or any other mainstream western occasion for that matter. But I guess when you consume western media your entire childhood the holidays are without a doubt glamorized and romanticized to a great extent. While I may have certain reservations with the fact that I knew more about mistletoe, Santa and western traditions than I did about my desi culture, I have to say the holidays are truly magical even if the closest thing that I have to a Christmas tree is a Himalayan Pine in my grandmother’s garden.

Now here’s the real issue: how do I unwind for the holidays when the weather is, at its lowest, 16 degrees Celsius in my city, when there are no hallmark gift cards around, no jingle bells playing at the local store, or young girl scouts coming to the door to sing a few carols. First things first, winter finally hits differently when school is off, the temperature drops to a great degree, the day decreases in length paving way for long chilly nights and my sisters and I get cozy to binge-watch every romantic comedy with a bowl full of halwa (A Pakistani specialty)  made from carrots! Trust me, it’s super delicious! Truth be told, without hot carrot halwa (gajar halwa in Urdu), it never feels like the holidays. Food historians claim that the first known recipe of halwa appeared in the 13th century in the Middle East, but I first laid my eyes on this confection in my early years of childhood. To this day, my grandmother waits all year round for the season’s best carrots to cook some mouth-watering gajar halwa for her grandchildren! It would be a crime on my part to not share it with you, so consider it my holiday gift to you! 

 Ingredients: 

  • 1 kg carrots
  • Almonds, pistachio and cardamom (to taste)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2-3 cups milk
  • cups oil
  • Chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Silver paper (optional for garnishing)

Method: 

  1. Grate and peel the carrots. Make sure to dry the water from the carrots when you’re done!
  2. Take 1½ cup of oil in the pan and add in the cardamom.
  3. Add in the grated carrots and cook them till they have a shimmery texture.
  4. Add in the milk, sugar, and walnuts if you choose, and cook until the milk evaporates.
  5. When the oil starts separating, the halwa is ready.
  6. Garnish it with boiled almonds, chopped pistachio and silver paper

 Now, I have the right amount of halwa and the perfect rom-com (The Holiday is a winner!) and yet, it still doesn’t feel like I am fully ready to unwind myself for the holidays if I have not pampered myself with the best and most effective self-care items. 

 A facial humidifier

A facial humidifier set.
[Image Description: A facial humidifier set. ] Via Amazon
This can be used in the morning and before going to bed. Since the weather is almost always dry and chilly this product is essential to ensure that your skin stays fresh.

Get this facial humidifier kit from Amazon for $49.95!

An essential oil diffuser

A blue and brown essential oil diffuser.
[Image Description: A blue and brown essential oil diffuser.] Via Amazon
This is another great product if you want to protect your skin from going dry and rough this season.

Get this essential oil diffuser from Amazon for $27.99!

Free Your Mind: A Self-Care and Mindfulness Activity Book

A blue book titled "Free Your Mind".
[Image Description: A blue book titled “Free Your Mind”.] Via Amazon
Looking to self reflect and rejuvenate? This book is a must-have.

Get this mindfulness book from Amazon for $15.99!

A self-care sticker book

A pink journal titles "Self Care Stickers".
[Image Description: A pink journal titled “Self Care Stickers”.] Via Amazon
This book contains all the aesthetically pleasing self-care themed stickers, so just peel them right off and paste them on your phone case or your journal. A daily reminder of self-love!

Get this sticker book from Amazon for $9.99!

And, that’s it! That is how I plan to unwind this winter break with the company of my mother, sisters and of course, grandmother. Their company is as always complemented with our traditional gajar halwa and essential self-care items.

I know my plans may not be one’s mainstream holiday traditions, but they are still incredibly special to me because I get to share them with the people I care about. That, based on what I’ve learned from western films, is what the holidays are all about. 

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  • Areesha Rahim

    A feminist in progress, Areesha is a high school student aspiring to have a career in journalism and film making. Her work on pop culture has been published on BuzzFeed. When she's not writing for the opinion column in her school newspaper or taking pictures of Karachi's evening skies, you can find her sharing and writing stories beside her grandmother.

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