A beautiful blanket of white glitter covers the ground after the first snowfall every year. There’s nothing more magical than watching tiny snowflakes fall down from the sky! The perfect start to the holiday season. A spirit raising change after what is often a long gloomy couple of weeks in November. Whether you’re a two-year-old making tracks with your boots, wondering, “Where feet go?” or a thirty-two-year-old making tracks with your antique John Deere sleds; the excitement is felt by everyone, young and old!

For me, the first snowfall brings a flood of memories of my cousin Garett. Memories of how much excitement a snowfall would always bring to his face. Any of you who knew Garett know how his presence in a room always brought so much laughter and warmth. When I’m shivering in the cold while feeding calves on these beautiful crisp, cold mornings, I pause and tilt my head towards the sun. With my eyes closed, I let the rays warm my face and I smile. It’s as if Garett is reaching out and giving me one of his warm, giant bear hugs. Every time I watch the sun shine down on the glistening snow, I know it’s him smiling down at us, excited to watch all the mischief we’ll get into this winter. I have many fond memories from growing up with my cousins, but the most special ones come from those cold days spent out under the sun, being pulled behind the old Jag on GTs, tunneling through snowdrifts, and flying down sliding hills.

Our family always found special ways to enjoy winter, whether it’d be family sleigh-rides with my dad’s team of Clydesdales or a bonfire and skating on the pond behind the farm. The first snowfall often brings frustration for many who dread horrible driving conditions and freezing cold temperatures. Not for me. Instead, my heart is filled full of memories. Memories which spread warmth deep into my soul. Anytime I get caught up in the stress of the holiday season or the discomforts of winter, I turn to the sun for one of Garett’s hugs and I focus on the beauty around me.

The holiday season is now in full swing. Christmas music is playing, stores are prepared for swarms of shoppers, the smell of baking is in the air, and favourite holiday movies play on everyone’s TVs. It truly is the most magical time of the year, full of so much joy, love and laughter.  We may once again have empty chairs at our table for another holiday season, but let’s not let that be the focus of our celebrations. We must cherish all the memories of past family gatherings, not take for granted the people we can spend time with and make the most of the beauty the magic of Christmas brings to us.

Use this holiday season as an opportunity to set aside differences and make amends with loved ones and friends. Safely hug a loved one a little longer. Appreciate those dreaded kisses from Great Aunt Marge, because there are many who are not able to share these moments with loved ones, once again this year.

Embrace family time. If you start to get caught up in the stress of finding the perfect gift or making the perfect meal, pause for a moment and watch the ground sparkle in the sunlight.

Let the suns’ rays warm your face, take a deep breath and relax. The most important gift you can give this year is love. Make sure you spread love and cheer, whether it be at your table, beside a bonfire, or over the phone. As long as your loved ones know you care, the true spirit of Christmas is being shared.