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the gift of a mem•o•ry

Christmas is my favourite time of year. Period.

It’s busy.  It’s hectic.  It’s full of sugar.

I love it all.

My fondest childhood memories are of Christmas.  My Polish-Canadian family Christmas was always something I looked forward to as a child.  My family would gather on Christmas Eve at my Babcia’s house in Toronto every year.  I remember how excited my sister and I were as we got into the car and made the almost always snowy drive into the city.  I can still smell the pierogi and the hot, fresh drop donuts sprinkled with icing sugar that my Babcia was always making when we arrived.  We sat down to dinner as a family and then headed to church for Christmas Eve mass.  The church we went to had the most beautiful nativity scene set-up and after mass was over, all the kids ran over to the display to take a closer look.  Once church was done, it was back to my Babcia’s for dessert and gifts followed by the snowy drive home.

It was magical.   Every time.

Christmas Eve evolved over the years as we grew older.  My Babcia sold her house and moved in with my aunt.  My parents and aunts started taking turns hosting Christmas Eve and as the kids turned into adults, sometimes not all of us would be there – taking turns celebrating with the families of significant others.  Traditions changed and will continue to change.  This will be the first year my family will celebrate Christmas without my Babcia – the glue of our family.  It will be difficult and it will be sad but my beautiful Babcia gave me the best gift –  Christmas memories.  Those precious, innocent childhood Christmas memories – that I will continue to recall year after year.

I want my kids to have the same.  I want them to remember what we did, what they saw, what they smelled, what they tasted, and what they felt over the holidays.  That’s why last Christmas, my husband and I decided that we would give our kids the gift of memories for as long as we could.  We decided to take the money that we would’ve spent on toys or clothes and decided to put that toward our own little family trip to the mountains to take in Christmas kick-off celebrations in Banff.

It was fantastic.

It was such a great experience, we just got back from our 2nd annual Banff Christmas kick-off trip.  What was a one-time trip last year is turning into our family’s Christmas tradition.  This year, we got a stunning Airbnb in Canmore – just a quick 15 minute drive outside of Banff.  We spent two nights in a beautiful two bedroom condo with a spectacular view.  Last year’s hotel experience was less than ideal as both kiddos ended up sleeping in our bed with us.  The seperate bedrooms this year made all the difference.  The kids were excited about their huge double beds but I promise, they weren’t as excited as my husband and I  were when we didn’t have to wake up to a foot in the face or an elbow in the rib.

We spent Saturday getting into the Christmas spirit.  We started off at the Banff Railway Station where the kids took a photo with Santa.  Let me tell you – Santa here is top-notch and you can’t beat the real deer we saw feeding outside the station nor the train’s whistle as it passed through.

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Magic.

Next stop was the Banff Gondola where we enjoyed a Mountaintop Christmas.  We stumbled upon this last year when we decided to take the kids up the mountain (both hadn’t been).  This year, it was even better.  Once on the mountaintop, the kids got to work on their own craft (a Christmas picture frame), decorated cookies, completed a scavenger hunt, wrote letters to Santa, and even got to meet with Santa….again!  Later that evening we took in the big event – the Santa Claus Parade of Lights.  Hundreds of excited kids (including our two) lined the mountain town streets to see the floats, sip hot chocolate, and play in the snow.

 

After two nights and a Christmas activity packed Saturday, we drove home – hearts full and happy.  The eldest is already talking about next year’s trip.  And just like this little family tradition will evolve as the kids get older (maybe we will stay an extra day next time or add in some skiing when the youngest is a little bit older), our hope is that they remember the drive down and the visit with Santa.  The smell of the mountain air and the taste of the whipped cream covered hot chocolate.  The feeling of happiness, joy, and excitement over Christmas.

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We want their Christmases to be magical – every year.