Twenty-three years ago when I was a new bleary-eyed mum, I met three wise women who all shared their special gift of friendship with me. We first bonded at a breastfeeding network meeting and decided we needed another reason to get together, so we formed a book club. One of our books, Larry’s Party, by Caroll Shields, inspired us to throw our own dinner party and introduce our husbands. I guess you can say the rest is history. For the first few years we did almost everything together but, as the kids grew up and their activities had first dibs on the calendar our time spent together started to shorten like the days of December. There have been times when months would pass that we didn’t see each other but we never missed a chance to celebrate a birthday and we always carved out a night for our own special Christmas dinner. The festivities have been hosted by the same couple every year. It’s a simple formula because we are usually all coming from different directions. Our menu these last few years has taken a hard left from a four-course turkey dinner to pizza, salads and a few coveted bottles of wine. There is always peanut ice cream, the hosts, “secret” family recipe and I bring along a cake that gets crowned with a growing number of candles every year as we sing happy birthday to our hostess with the “mostest.” We exchange gifts and we reminisce about Christmas dinners past; the one when we booked a babysitter to keep the wee ones upstairs or the year we all got our first pair of adult footie pajamas and the one when the festive rubber duckie family made an appearance in the upstairs lavatory. (I don’t have time to explain that one but there’s a repeat performance every year). We start with drinks by the kitchen fireplace and then gather around an elegant dining room table that had a previous life in a Royal Bank board room. It’s just pizza but the good china comes out, the wine glasses have been polished and the crystal sparkles with the reflection of the candlelight from the votives scattered over the tabletop. There is a place card for each of us and in a few more years we might actually need them. We debate who sat where last year, we fill our plates, we charge our glasses and we toast our friendship. What happens around that table from the moment it gets set until we clear away the last of the dishes is one of my favourite moments of the holiday season. Most of us have traditions that have been passed down from family before us and we will pass them along to the next. But traditions with friends are more finite and someday they will disappear like a curl of smoke from the chimney and drift away.
We are spicing things up this year. Our usual venue is under construction, so our annual fête is moving to their cottage. Knowing our hosts as well as I do I know the crystal will sparkle in the candlelight, we will fill our plates, we will charge our glasses and toast to another year of friendship. I will be grateful that another year has passed and we all still have a place at the table no matter where it is.
We are celebrating traditions in lots of different ways in our holiday issue. We meet newlyweds Kristina and Mitch Fraser, who are excited to start creating new memories in an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Westville, Pictou County in Lori Byrnes cover story, ‘Love is in the Air.’ Then it’s a straight shot over the Pictou Causeway to Scotch Hill Road where I had a chance catch up with Dave Gunning as he gets ready to run the gauntlet of holiday concerts and hear what he and wife Sara have up their sleeves for festive fun with their three boys. And if you are hosting your own family and friends for Christmas dinner, stylist Allison Gaudett has set two inspiring tablescapes for you in ‘Setting a Place for Love.’
It’s Christmas time and love is in the air.
Breathe it in!

Crystals Signature
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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. "