For the youngest person in our household, Christmas can’t come fast enough. The jubilant announcement a few weeks ago that there were only 50 more sleeps, had my daughter bouncing in her Nike Frees and me doing immediate calculations for my “Holiday Checklist Manifesto.”

There is a natural order of things when it comes to Christmas at our house. My husband and I have wiled away many hours tinkering with the little details that over time have been
accepted as tradition. Many of them have been plucked from our own cherished childhood memories and some our own manifestations of yuletide.

The lights, the baking, the appearance of the elf, shopping trips, our infamous Christmas card production, parties, the trimming of the trees (yes trees), the annual Christmas Eve Eve celebration (yes two Eves) on the MacKinnon side of the family, the arrival of the American cousins, then finally when we are all but completely exhausted and eggnogged out, the big night is finally here.

Christmas is the season where we all hold tight to our traditions. No matter how superfluous many of the things that I named on the list may sound they are the things that make Christmas special for our family. I have an immense gratitude that life has afforded all of this joy because for many in this world all of the trappings of the season do not come as easy. So another part of our holiday manifesto is the support of our favourite charitable organizations.

It is not all Norman Rockwell. We have had holidays where kids were sick or simply in meltdown, trees crashing on hardwood, snowstorms messed with travel plans and times when Santa just messed up. Around the same time when my daughter started the 50 day count down she asked me to sit down and scroll through the library of holiday photos on my laptop that captured it all. Even in the photos where there was someone in tears we sat
and laughed, reminisced and wished.

But as every Christmas season comes and goes our lives are all a little different. Our children grow, our parents age, we welcome new family and we say good-bye to others. For families experiencing loss and grief, Christmas is an especially hard season to navigate and traditions that were once all enjoyed together are painful reminders of what used to be. From my experience the absence of loved ones eventually takes on its own form and their imagined heartbeats warm the spaces that they left empty.

In the expanse of life there is only a pinhole of time where all the stars align and all that we love surrounds us. Being able to live beyond the comfortable and safe confines of these brief moments, celebrating the past while making room for new traditions will help you find the light in Christmas and keep everything Merry and Bright.

I think we have a lot of merry making on the pages of our holiday issue. Our cover story Merry & Bright featuring the Lighthouse inspired home of Val Ryan illuminates the fun you can have when you blend history with modern life. And what happens when you take the bright lights of Olympic glory and start setting down roots on a wind swept hilltop in River John? Well the joy in the smiles of Tracy Stuart and her daughters Olivia and Brooklyn pretty much says it all in our At Home with conversation. And from that hilltop to the bottom of the lane we take you to Caldera for Christmas with Tracy’s husband Jarret, where we warm you up with a finger or two of whiskey, east coast style.

It’s time to come together, from near and from far to celebrate with the people who we love the most, to share with others who need it most and make this Christmas your most happy one yet!

Now it’s time for me to get back to that check list!
Merry Christmas from our home to yours.

Crystals Signature

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Crystal Murray
Crystal likes to think about her forays in journalism like interval training. " I have had a wonderful freedom to be home when I needed to be and work when the spirit moved me. In the spaces between I have learned things about myself, my family and my community that I hope will find a rightful place in the new and refreshed pages of At Home on the North Shore. "