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Maritimers home for the holidays: Who knows Maritime Christmases better than some of our home-grown favourites?

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- 123RF Stock Photo

Christmastime will always be a personal experience since it is wrapped so tightly in emotion. The holiday can mean so many different things to each of us so we thought it would be fun to find out what some of the other well-known Maritimers think about the holiday season.


Heather Moyse

Heather Moyse
Heather Moyse

From Summerside, P.E.I. to the top of the Olympic podium with two gold medals for bobsledding, Heather Moyse is often described as Canada’s best all-round female athlete, accomplishing the unlikely not once, not even twice, but multiple times and in many sports. She was also awarded the Order of Prince Edward Island in 2014 and today is a renowned motivational speaker.

What is your favourite Maritime tradition?

I love tradition, especially over the Christmas holidays. I would have to say that one of my favourites would have to be writing a note to Santa Claus on Christmas eve. My siblings and I, even as adults, whether we are all together or not, try to be as creative as we can — making it rhyme or put it to the tune of a song. We try to make it as amusing as possible for ‘Santa’ to read after we go to bed.

What is your favourite holiday treat or food?

Hmmm …. I would have to say divinity fudge, although we haven’t had it in a few years. We used to get it as a Christmas gift, but it, apparently, takes specific weather conditions to make, and also not many people know the recipe. Besides that, I would have to say the Christmas tree that mom makes Christmas morning out of little cinnamon rolls (obviously covered in icing)!


David Myles

David Myles - Hiep Vu
David Myles - Hiep Vu

Originally from New Brunswick, David Myles now lives in Halifax where he is busy creating his unique brand of music. His folky jazz (sometimes R & B) leanings have garnered him international recognition and countless music awards, including a Juno Award for a rap collaboration with Classified and a number of East Coast Music Awards.  

What is your favourite holiday tradition?

My favourite holiday tradition is eating seafood chowder on Christmas Eve. It’s the time, every year that we all get together, laugh, eat and relax together as a family. It’s not super formal and the excitement of Christmas is right there, especially for my kids. It’s amazing. It’s something we always did with my family growing up and it’s been awesome to keep it going with my own kids.

What is your favourite holiday treat/recipe?

Answer: My mother in law, or Nona, as we know her, makes the most delicious eggnog you’ll ever try. It’s insane. I challenge anyone who thinks they don’t like eggnog to try it and they’ll be an immediate convert. It’s so delicious, it’s dangerous. A real holiday treat!


Lesley Crewe

Lesley Crewe
Lesley Crewe

Lesley Crewe is a writer living in, and loving, Cape Breton. Her meandering musings of a bored housewife whose ungrateful kids left her alone with a retired husband and two fat cats who couldn’t care less have endeared her to Maritimers everywhere. Her 10th novel, Beholden, is on bookstore shelves now.

What is your favourite Maritime tradition?

My favourite Maritime tradition is visiting neighbours and being welcomed with a hot cup of tea and a plate of squares, or Fat Archives or oatcakes. Is there a better way to spend the afternoon?

Who is your favourite person to shop for Christmas gifts?

My favourite person to shop for was my daughter, Sarah. After having two boys, I was thrilled to be able to buy dresses when she was little, but she soon put an end to that. She hated dresses and now hates everything I pick out for her. Ever so gently, she suggested gift cards were a nice idea. Sigh.

Clear or coloured Christmas lights?

Coloured lights, definitely. It saves the aggravation of having too many red lights and not enough green.


Jillian Saulnier

Jillian Saulnier
Jillian Saulnier

Jillian Saulnier was a member of Team Canada’s under-18 national hockey team that brought home silver (2009) and gold (2010) medals at the IIHF World Women’s U18 Championship. In 2015, Saulnier was the first Nova Scotia player to compete at the IIHF Women’s World Championship, capturing a silver medal and again in 2016. Saulnier and Team Canada brought home silver at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

What makes a Maritime holiday season unique for you?

I think what makes a maritime holiday unique is being able to reunite with everyone back in Nova Scotia for the holidays. So many of my family and friends have ventured all over the world to follow their respective jobs, travel opportunities and other commitments, so being able to come back every Christmas and know that everyone will be there is an exciting time for me for sure!

Who do you love to buy gifts for?

I’ve been involved for a few years in programs that wrap up gifts for families that can’t quite afford to have presents under the tree. To be able to help chip in for that and to know that we can make the slightest difference in someone’s Christmas is a pretty amazing feeling and definitely my favourite gift to give!


Premier Stephen McNeil

Premier McNeil attributes his core values and strong commitment to public service to his large, close-knit family (he is the 12th of 17 siblings born and raised in the Annapolis Valley). He became leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party in 2007 and led his team to majority election wins in October 2013 and May 2017. Stephen lives with his wife Andrea in the house where he grew up in Upper Granville, Annapolis County and they have two grown children, Colleen and Jeffrey.

What makes a Maritime holiday season unique?

There are many traditions that make the holiday season so special here, and I always look forward to the events around the annual gift of a Christmas tree for the people of Boston. From the harvest to the send-off, it brings people together and reflects the spirit of giving and friendship that the holiday season is all about.

Families across our province also have their own traditions that make the holiday season unique. I come from a large family, and a highlight of the season for me is our Boxing Day gathering, when many of my sisters and brothers and their families come to our childhood home to celebrate the season.

What is your favourite holiday music, song, album?

I enjoy a variety of holiday music, but when I hear White Christmas, it always puts me in the spirit of the season.


Vernon Oickle

Vernon Oickle
Vernon Oickle

Vernon Oickle is an international award-winning journalist, newspaper columnist and author of 29 non-fiction and fiction books. His previous works include Ghost Stories of Nova Scotia; I’m Movin’ On: The Life and Legacy of Hank Snow; Strange Nova Scotia; Bluenoser’s Book of Slang; the bestselling ‘Crow’ series; the Nova Scotia Outstanding Outhouse Reader and The Nova Scotia Book of Lists. He is currently the managing editor at MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. He resides in Liverpool with his family.

What your favourite local place to shop for gifts?

I like to shop for gifts at bookstores. Is there really anything better gift you can give or receive for Christmas than a book, especially if it's written by one of the many talented authors we are so fortunate to have here in Nova Scotia? No matter the interest and no matter the age, you can fill just about all your gift giving needs in your local bookstore. They are such a magical place.

What is your favourite holiday song? Movie? Book?

My favourite song is Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer because it rekindles so many strong and wonderful memories of my childhood Christmases with my family. And I can remember all the words.

My favourite movie is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Come on. Is there anything more hilarious than seeing the underdog, Clark Griswold played by Chevy Chase, go through so many trials and tribulations while trying to organize the "best Christmas ever" for his family? It's a family tradition in my household.

My favourite book is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The classic with its message of love and compassion appeals to every age level.

Fake or real tree? Elf on the shelf or no elf?

I like a real tree because of the smell.

No, to Elf on the Self in our house. Maybe it's because our children are now adults, but I think the little critter would quickly become very annoying.


Mark DeWolf

Mark De Wolfe is the president of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers. Prior to becoming a sommelier and wine educator, Mark worked with some of the country’s finest chefs, gaining an expertise in food and recipe development. He is the food and drink editor of Occasions magazine and plans and leads some of the With Zest tours to some of the most amazing countries in the world.

What is your favourite holiday food or recipe?

Without question it is my mom’s tourtiere. There's nothing quite like it. Every Christmas Eve it is our go-to dinner. The aromas of winter spices that fill our house when it is baking are an immediate reminder of the holidays of the past. Thankfully, mom's recipe makes two pies, so while one gets eaten on Christmas Eve, the other can be frozen and enjoyed later during the holiday season. It’s a great backup to have when you have unexpected company pop over for an impromptu dinner. We also love our Christmas brunch. After the kids have finished opening their presents, we always have bagels with smoked salmon, capers, red onion and cream cheese alongside a massive charcuterie board full of locally made cured meats and French cheeses. My six year old daughter devours the duck prosciutto we buy from Ratinaud on Gottingen Street in Halifax.

What is your favourite holiday cocktail?

Admittedly, I have the good fortune of having a wife that manages a large portfolio of wines and spirits. One of the brands in her portfolio is Wayne Gretzky Red Cask Whisky. We often use it to make Old Fashioned cocktails made by muddling sugar soaked in bitters and topped with whisky, and even though it is often considered a summer cocktail, we also enjoy whisky sours (whisky, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup). Usually, we add a couple dashes of whatever new aromatic bitters found in one of our stockings to add a little additional character to the cocktail.


Doug MacLean

Doug MacLean
Doug MacLean

Doug MacLean has coached the London Knights, UNB’s hockey team, the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings. As head coach for the Florida Panthers, MacLean led them to the Stanley Cup Finals, earning him Hockey News Coach of the Year and being named as head coach of two Eastern Conference All-Star teams. MacLean was president and GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets and was inducted into the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. He is currently a hockey analyst for Sportsnet.

What is your favourite Christmas movie?

The Polar Express

What is your favourite Christmas song/album?

Manneheim Steamroller Christmas album

What is your favourite Christmas tradition?

Christmas tree lighting with family in Delray Beach, FL.


Port Cities

Port Cities
Port Cities

This group’s rise to stardom is no accident. Instead, it is exactly what happens when you combine the nimble dynamism of Breagh MacKinnon’s smoky, jazz-indebted delivery, Dylan Guthro’s simmering and soulful R&B swagger and Carleton Stone’s razor-sharp, romantic rock ‘n’ roll. Together, Port Cities has earned five Nova Scotia Music Awards, a SOCAN Award and several stints as the number one song on CBC and Spotify charts.

What is your favourite holiday event?

Carleton Stone: For the past few years, we have been hosting a Facebook Live Christmas party in mid-December. Basically, we invite a few of our musical friends from around Nova Scotia, and have a mini concert at our manager, Sheri Jones’ house. Last year, we had Neon Dreams, Quake Matthews and Shannon Quinn. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s become one of our favourite band traditions.

What is your favourite holiday song/album?

Breagh MacKinnon: My favourite holiday song is Let It Snow.  I love the melody, and it has really great lyrics. One of my favourite versions is by Jennah Barry on the Home For Christmas album by The Woodhouse that was released in 2014. If you’re looking for a modern take on classic sounding Holiday songs, check out this record!

What makes a Maritime Christmas special?

Dylan Guthro: What makes a Maritime Christmas special to me is the endless supply of jamming with family and friends. Nova Scotia is known for kitchen parties but there’s truly nothing like a kitchen party over the holidays.


P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan

Premier MacLauchlan was sworn in as Premier of Prince Edward Island Feb. 23, 2015. He has deep roots in P.E.I., born in Stanhope and today living just a few miles away in West Covehead, with his partner Duncan McIntosh. Premier MacLauchlan was named to the Order of Canada in 2008 and to the Order of Prince Edward Island in 2014.

What is your favourite holiday treat or recipe?

My favourite holiday recipe is seafood pie, which I share as gifts with many friends and family in the holiday season.

Wade MacLauchlan’s Seafood Pie

  • The following instructions will produce two 9” seafood pies.
  • 4 cups of shellfish meat. Use a mixture of mussels, bar clams, lobster and/or scallops, according to what is available or concerns about allergies. Lightly poached salmon can also be included.
  • Save the cooking or bottling “liquor” from the mussels and bar clams.
  • 2 good-sized starchy potatoes, such as Green Mountains, Fabula, Yukon Gold or other yellow-fleshed varieties. This seafood pie follows the tradition of the Acadian rappie pie, or râpure. Peel and grate the potatoes. Cook half of the grated potato at a moderate heat in the seafood juices (add water as necessary,) stirring with a whisk to produce a glutinous paste and add the other half part-way through to leave some of the potato intact. Don’t overcook.
  • 1 cup of chopped green onions, fennel, and/or celery. Sauté lightly in two tbsps. of butter, adding 1 tbsp. of dill and/or oregano, plus caraway and black pepper to taste. Don’t skimp.
  • Gently combine the shellfish, potato starch and savoury ingredients in a bowl, adding one egg.
  • Prepare (or purchase) two 9” pie shells. A “bought” pie-shell can be handy for gift-giving. Depending on what you do for pastry, this recipe is gluten-free.
  • Prick the pastry shells and fill each with half of the shellfish mixture. Cover with preferred pastry (I use a butter pastry recipe), puncture the surfaces, brush lightly with milk and bake at 450 degrees F for 30 minutes. The pie tops will be lightly browned and firm to touch.
  • Serve hot, after resting, or keep in refrigerator. The pies can be kept unfrozen for several days. The potato starch helps as a preservative. They reheat well, in a low oven or a microwave.

What is your favourite Maritime holiday tradition?

My favourite holiday tradition is the New Year levees, which are particularly popular on Prince Edward Island throughout New Year’s Day, starting with the Lieutenant Governor’s levee and concluding (at least the formal levees) at the Premier’s levee.


Chef Michael Smith

Chef Michael Smith
Chef Michael Smith

Chef Michael Smith is Prince Edward Island’s official food ambassador, an award-winning cookbook author, newspaper columnist, professional chef and home cook. His simple, sustainable home cooking inspires families across the globe to create their own healthy food lifestyle and he is the host of Chef Abroad, Chef at Home and Chef at Large seen on Food Network Canada.

What is your favourite Christmas tradition?

My favourite Christmas tradition is orchestrating our grand family feast. It’s my favourite time of year to be my family’s cook!

What is your favourite Christmas (holiday) recipe/treat?

My favourite holiday treat is the legendary Sparkle Cookies my kids and I make for our annual family gift baskets.

Back to basics with Chef Michael Smith's Sparkle Cookies

Every now and then you stumble onto a bit of perfection. Years ago my buddy, renowned Vancouver pastry chef Thomas Haas, introduced me to these cookies. I promptly introduced them to everyone I know — they’ve been a staple in my holiday gift baskets ever since- and now I’m proudly telling the world: these are the best cookies I’ve ever baked. Thanks, Thomas, for sharing them!

Makes about 60 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (450 g) of bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) of butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of pure orange extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup (250 mL) of sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 2 cups (500 mL) of ground almonds
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Set up a double boiler to melt the chocolate while insulating it from direct, damaging heat by placing a large heatproof bowl over a smaller pot of barely simmering water. Put the chocolate and butter in the bowl and gently stir the works until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in the vanilla and orange extracts, and then remove the bowl from over the water.
  2. Toss the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on the highest speed until the sugar is smoothly dissolved and the mixture thickens dramatically into smooth ribbons that fall from the beater, no more than 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ground almonds and coca powder.
  3. Pour the egg mixture over the chocolate mixture, then sprinkle with the almond mixture. Fold the works together with a rubber spatula until everything is evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and firm, several hours or even overnight.
  4. Preheat your over to 325 F (160 C) and turn on your convection fan if you have one. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper or a non-stick liner. Pour a little sugar into a shallow dish. Scoop out tablespoons of the dough and roll them into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls. Toss the balls in the sugar, evenly coating them with sparkly bits Arrange 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. They’ll slump a bit and crisp on the outside but the inside will stay delightfully fudgy. Transfer to racks to cool. As soon as they’re cool enough to handle, cram a few in- strictly for quality-control purposes — then serve and share!

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