It was a cold and snowy Christmas morning in the City of Canada, deep, thick white mountains of snow drowning the streets and freezing the sea over, creating nature’s own ice rink by the beach. In stark contrast, all the citizens were wrapped up warmly in their beds, wearing many layers of woolly clothing and double pairs of socks to keep them from getting cold feet and hypothermia.

Suddenly, children across the city woke up in excitement of what day it was today, shaking their parents awake. “Dad, it’s Christmas! Wake up!” Calgary exclaimed to his father, Edmonton, climbing onto his bed. “Please, Dad! It’s Christmas! I wanna open my presents!” Winnipeg begged his father, Winnipegosis. “Mom, Dad, come on, it’s Christmas,” Pictou reminded his parents, Port Hawkesbury and Stellarton.

Lots of the adults were waking up excitedly too. “Oh, snow outside, it must be Christmas,” Halifax remarked, smiling as he saw the snow softly fall outside his bedroom window. “Oh, lovely! It’s Christmas! Time to get roasting that turkey, then,” Kitchener smiled too as he began to think up some suitably festive recipe ideas. “Oh, wow, Christmas time! Great, I’ll be at the market today!” Longueuil exclaimed as he collected all his fruit candy-making kit and ingredients. “Christmas time? Guess I should make mulled wine instead of milkshakes today,” Chicoutimi remarked, noticing the bitter, cold air outside.

However, a few citizens were not looking forward to Christmas at all, rather like Scrooge. “Argh… That time of year again…” Blacks Harbour moaned angrily as he whipped his fishing rod out, only to see that the sea had completely frozen over. “Too bloody damn right!” his equally irritable brother, St. John’s, roared in his strong Newfoundland twang as he also noticed the frozen sea. “Christmas? Och, nae, no!” Antigonish snarled as he saw the bright lights and white snow falling outside. “Christmas? The only present I’ll ever get this year is business for kids’ pleasure!” Fredericton complained as he dragged himself out of bed, shivering with cold despite the fact he was wearing three layers plus socks.

For the majority of the city, however, they had been eagerly looking forward to Christmas Day with childlike excitement and impatience. The children and adults all rushed downstairs to their sitting rooms, their eyes firmly gazing at the pile of presents below the colourful glow of the Christmas tree.

Calgary and Winnipeg darted towards the first presents they lay their inquisitive eyes on, Edmonton and Winnipegosis crouching down by their side. Calgary unwrapped his first present of the day, rolling the paper off to reveal a little blue camera with handles. “Oh, guy! Now I can record all the things I want to remember forever!” he exclaimed, turning on the camera and snapping a photo of the Christmas tree and Edmonton. Winnipeg uncovered a small sketchbook for him to draw and paint in. “Now you can finally put your creativity where it rightfully belongs,” Winnipegosis told him. “But where’s my crayons and brushes?” asked Winnipeg.

Pictou unwrapped his first present to reveal a baking cookbook. “Ooh, this’ll help me come with ideas for things to sell at my stall,” he remarked. He then uncovered a rather large crinkly-looking and rough present, which gave way to an oakwood hamper containing a variety of tasty goodies, like cookies, seafood, condiments and candy. “Aw, you know I’m into my food, don’t you?” he cooed at Port Hawkesbury and Stellarton, who nodded in agreement.

Halifax found a neatly-wrapped gift box sitting on top of the television set. “Ooh, I wonder what that could be,” he wondered as he stepped over to the TV, gently prising the lid off the box. Inside lay an organizer with tabs so he could jot down important dates, contacts and tasks. “Oh, it’s even got a little pen with it,” he added, sliding the complimentary pen off the front cover and beginning to fill in his personal details on the first page.

Winnipeg tugged out a large, rectangular present from beneath the Christmas tree, Winnipegosis helping him carry it to the middle of the room. He slowly tore at the wrapping paper, a rainbow pattern showing through the holes, piquing his curiosity further. As he peeled away the last shred of paper, he found a mega art case. “Oh! So here’s the crayons and brushes!” he yelled joyfully as he opened the case up, revealing a collection of crayons, coloured pencils, paintbrushes and paints. “Told you I’d get those,” Winnipegosis smiled at him, and Winnipeg picked out a handful of crayons to draw with in his new sketchbook. Calgary unwrapped a new tablet which he could play games and watch videos on. For a little festive fun, he photographed himself and Edmonton in front of the Christmas tree making silly faces. Calgary began to edit the photo by adding suitably seasonal doodles and colourful writing.

Pictou spotted a rectangular gift box under the coffee table. “Hmm… What could this be?” he thought aloud as he swiped the box from the table and tugged the lid off by the ribbon. It was the newest issue of Canadian Cook magazine! “We bought a subscription to that magazine, so it’ll arrive on our doorstep each month ready for you to read,” Stellarton explained. “Oh, and this one, too.” Pictou took another present from beneath the Christmas tree, which was also rectangular in shape, but he could feel a gap around the edges. Making a tear in the gap, he uncovered a binder with the Canadian Cook logo on the cover. “Oh, this’ll keep all my magazines neat and organized, eh?” Pictou giggled as he opened the rings and slotted his magazine inside. Port Hawkesbury and Stellarton nodded in agreement again.

Halifax found a gift bag hanging on the sitting room door handle. Pulling it off, he peeked inside to find a calendar for the new year, a new cellphone with a blue snap-on cover and a digital watch with a full-colour screen. “Oh wow, I’m really organized for when I go back to work after the holidays,” he laughed as he turned on his phone and watch, beginning to set the time on both his new gadgets.

Edmonton spotted another present by the fireplace for Calgary, picking the tag up. “Another one for you, Cal!” he called to his son, and Calgary promptly rushed over, catching sight of the present. “What’s this?” he wondered aloud as he tore off the wrapping paper in a roll, giving way to a mini laptop with a red shell. “Wow! A new computer! Better set it up!” Turning on the wireless, he opened the lid and pressed the power button to prepare it for use. Over at the dinner table, Winnipeg was drawing a festive doodle of himself and Winnipegosis under a Christmas tree decorated with rainbow-coloured lights and baubles. Toronto unwrapped a copy of his new album to keep as memorabilia of his own creations and achievements, signed with his autograph. Vancouver got a new notebook, pen and folder as his old one had fluffed around the edges from being carried around for so long. “This one’s for you too,” said his girlfriend Victoria, handing him a small rectangular present. Vancouver ripped off the wrapping paper to find a hole punch, and he slotted the edge of his folder under the lever, creating some holes that he could thread paper through to keep it secure and organized.

Pictou went over to the fireplace to dig into his stocking. “There’s something really special in there from a good friend of ours,” Stellarton told him. Pictou rummaged further inside his stocking and pulled out a clear plastic box with what looked like black caviar in water inside. “Caviar? Pretty classy,” Pictou thought aloud as he brought the box over to Port Hawkesbury and Stellarton. “It’s not caviar, dear,” Port Hawkesbury corrected him. “Look inside your stocking again. There’s a little letter in there.”

Pictou dug deep down into his stocking again and pulled out a letter, sniffing the paper. “Mmm, smells just like our Nova Scotia home,” he commented, the memories of his childhood beginning to re-emerge in his mind. He slowly unfolded the letter and began to read the message.

Dear Pictou, Port Hawkesbury and Stellarton,

How I still remember your names after all these years! Especially you, Pictou, as your charm and sweetness left so much of an impression on me. I loved that little conversation we had about lobsters when you were a little pipsqueak – remember I showed you that pregnant lobster? Since then, she’s obviously had her babies. Only they’re not babies now – they’re big, big lobsters! About as big as their mommy! I bet she’s really surprised how big her little ones are now. One day they might have little lobsters of their own! The girls, obviously. (Trust me, I’m a lobster expert, so I know which lobsters are boys and which are girls!)

We’ve had quite a few new residents join us too, some of them a little more unusual than the others. One of the new lobsters is half-white and half-green! We’ve had quite a few lobsters like that caught in the cold waters off our home Nova Scotia, so it’s a real proud point for our visitors and staff alike.

If you’ve already looked inside your Christmas stocking, you’ll have found a box with black lobster eggs inside. We carefully extracted them from another female lobster who got pregnant recently and stored them in a little seawater fresh from the harbour. After seeing me do my job at the hatchery, I thought you’d want to try your hand out at being a lobster carer of your own. These eggs won’t hatch for a good few months, so you’ll need to keep a careful eye on them. When they do hatch, you’ll get a bunch of tiny little lobsters! They won’t be big enough for you to boil them in a pot and eat in a chowder, however!

I’ll see how you get on with looking after these eggs when you write back to me. Of course you will, won’t you, after this?

Yours truly,

The Prime Lobster Carer

Pictou Lobster Hatchery

Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada

Pictou’s mind flooded over with memories of his old life as he read the closing paragraphs of the letter. He rushed up to Port Hawkesbury and Stellarton, embracing them tightly. “Aw, what a sweet little letter, Pictou,” Port Hawkesbury cooed at her thirteen-year-old son, tenderly touching and stroking his hair. “And a sweet little present, too,” Stellarton added, gently patting Pictou’s back.

Halifax looked inside his wardrobe, catching sight of a blue gift box beside his black laced shoes. He gave it a gentle shake, hearing a fabric-like rustle inside. “Ooh, a shiny new suit, I guess?” he thought, smiling as he pulled the lid off. It was more than just a new suit, however – inside was a blue trenchcoat to match his suit and trousers, a bright blue flowing scarf, a pair of black cotton gloves and a pair of black leather shoes with laces and snow grips on the soles. “Oh, a new outfit to brave the winter weather!” he laughed again, beginning to dress himself out of his gown and pyjamas. He looked at himself in the mirror as he got changed into his suit and tie, then layered his trenchcoat on top, pulled on some warm cotton socks and slid his new shoes onto his feet, tying the laces securely. Wrapping his scarf around his neck and pulling his gloves onto his hands, he turned around in front of the mirror to get a glimpse of his new outfit from both sides. “Well, I guess I’m ready to go out into the cold,” Halifax commented to himself as he glanced into the snowstorm raging outside, and he descended the stairs into the hallway, picking up his phone and watch as he opened the front door.