“You pour the brandy on the pudding and set fire to it?! You English are strange”.

Whitehorse in the snowy grip of Winter 2001.

Basement apartment.

Our first Christmas together as a married couple.

Our first Christmas away from home.

What was originally conceived as a wildly adventurous honeymoon destination had morphed into a sojourn: our great Yukon Experiment.

Moving to a place where you have no family, no friends, no history is a stout test for any relationship, let alone a new marriage; but four months in and we were still here. Still together.

Even stronger, in fact – drawing strength from each other partly because there was nowhere else to draw it from. The grim prospects of a month ago – no jobs, dwindling reserves of money and patience – had only recently given way to the faint possibility of gainful employment and the potential for a tenuous foothold in the rugged frontier we had fallen in love with (it’s true — displaced urbanites still refer to Whitehorse as a “rugged frontier” with a straight face).

At 28 years old it was probably high time we spent a Christmas away from home and immediate family, but the truth is we were both feeling a bit insecure.

We pushed the creeping loneliness to the margins by trying to carve our very own Christmas out of the frozen North.

Her earnest attempts to replicate the most cherished traditions from both our families was touching and humbling — a profound expression of love that was gradually culled from countless phone calls back to rural Ontario and suburban Montréal to parents who thinly hid their own loneliness behind their zeal to help us get it just right.

I think it’s this blending of traditions that partly makes Christmas feel special. This gradual etching of family histories that could never be co-opted and spoon-fed back to us in a glossy newspaper insert.

The Yorkshire pudding wasn’t quite right.

The angel her brother made in pre-school didn’t top our tree.

My Dad’s annual cigar didn’t waft briefly, deliciously through the kitchen, but what we ended up with was uniquely ours.

Something that we may even pass on someday: marshmallow-drifted snow piled up in the windowsills. A card table in our tiny kitchen laden with the trappings of a rural Ontario/traditional English Christmas dinner; the warm smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns and the cautious, glowing optimism that maybe we had found the place for us after all.