Christmas is almost here, and we are ready. For a family so focussed on traditions and making memories and family time, this time of year is extra special.
Our Christmas begins one November weekend when we pull out and hang the outdoor lights, bake our first few batches of shortbread and gingerbread, and curl up with mugs of hot chocolate and platters of Christmas cookies to watch the Toronto Santa Claus parade on tv.
The next weekend we bundle up and head out to watch the local Santa Claus parade under the stars and twinkling lights of our town's Main Street Christmas decorations.
Then it's the Town tree lighting ceremony and celebration with carolling, Christmas crafts, a visit from Santa and storytime with Mrs. Claus.
We pick out and decorate our own Christmas tree (a real one - nothing looks or smells better than the real thing!) and make a whole afternoon of it with Christmas music and Santa hats and more Christmas baking. We decorate the house from top to bottom in glitter and gold - sparkly gold ornaments dripping from every mirror and spilling from bowls on every table - and the kids each decorate their own small tree for their bedrooms.
We set up Santa's village and Christmas train and leave them on all season, twinkling lights and tinkling tunes as the colourful, toy-laden train trundles round and round the glittery snow-covered workshop full of elves.
We count down to Christmas every morning with a chocolate from our advent calendars and watch Christmas movies every night before bed. We write letters to Santa and check the mailbox every day for his response. We visit him at the mall to pass on wish lists and take photos. We make Christmas crafts and cards for the kids to give as gifts and one special ornament each.
We bake and bake and bake and bake - shortbread, gingerbread, candy cane cookies and chocolate mint bars and fruitcake. We build and decorate an epic gingerbread house, more icing and candy than actual cookie.
We hang the stockings on the fireplace mantel - the most beautiful, hand-made stockings embroidered for the boys by my grandma - and wait with delicious anticipation as the colourful packages pile up under the tree.
We enjoy every minute of this magical season. It really is the most wonderful time of the year!
All the best to you and yours for a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season!