The lead up to Christmas and certainly Christmas itself is one of my favourite times of year. Aside from the over spending and over consumption of material possessions, I can easily list several reasons why. The frills and frocks of the holiday season is hard for anyone to ignore. Between the trees, tinsel, red velvet, bells, stockings, glitter, ice sculptures, mistletoe, holly and nativity scenes, you simply can’t miss it! From the string lighting that brightens up the towns and cities alike, to the magical Christmas markets with mulled wine, apple cider and hot chocolate. From eggnog on ice and cinnamon scented candles, to cosy pubs with wood fires, snow dusted homes, and Christmas carols in every shop. Suddenly, your normal everyday life becomes a winter fairy-tale over night and I’m totally into it. Hello Christmas!

It’s been 5 years since I’ve been home (in Canada) for Christmas. I spent 3 in Australia, 1 in Bali and 1 in England. All of which have been really special for different reasons. But without doubt, I’m due for a traditional Canadian Christmas with my family.

Part of what excites me about going home, is that it will appease my nostalgic craving for the Christmas I remember from my childhood. After all, my family did Christmas well. Without fail, my parents adhered to a serious of traditions that we all looked forward to every year. On Christmas Eve, we had a 1-hour church service, followed by cheese, wine and snacks at our house. Christmas day, my Mom prepared a full Turkey Dinner that never disappointed. Finally, ‘The Annual Cleland Christmas’ on Boxing Day, when my entire extended family from my Dad’s side get together. I once asked my Dad what he considers to be a simple pleasure in life. He said, ‘The boisterous laughter at family gatherings.’ If you knew how large my extended family is, you would understand what he meant by boisterous. My Grandfather, who started the tradition, undoubtedly felt the same, as it was written all over his face. He was so proud of his family. Unsurprisingly, the feeling was contagious and is now shared among all of us – ultimately cementing in the importance of family, and heightening the overall Christmas cheer.

What I’ve realised, is that my fondness of Christmas goes beyond external pleasantries. The frills and frocks are more like the icing on the cake, rather than the cake itself. Yes, I love watching Home Alone, The Grinch and Love Actually on repeat, I enjoy going sledding, making snow angels and eating pumpkin pie. But more than that, I love the togetherness Christmas brings. People give themselves permission to stop fussing over work, obligations and to do’s. Instead, we come into the present moment, soaking up the familiar and oh so sweet feeling of being home with our loved ones. Sure, sometimes there’s drama, sometimes there’s chaos, but what lies at the core of it (more often than not) is love. That’s the special ingredient that makes it all worth your while.

So here’s to the the ‘togetherness’ Christmas brings, regardless of what that looks for you. In the spirit of family and friends, I’ll quote a classic Christmas film,  ‘No man is a failure who has friends.’ It’s A Wonderful Life

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!