After amusing themselves with snowball fights, it was time to head down to market to buy the ingredients for tonight’s Christmas dinner. Pictou stored the gifts from his hamper in the appropriate places around the kitchen, emptying it out ready to house the ingredients from the market. “That’s a good idea to reuse the hamper, Pictou,” Stellarton remarked, seeing Pictou wielding his new hamper. “It’s not just a fancy basket just for storing special foods one time.”

Halifax stepped on board the bus heading to the Central Business District, holding his card against the ticket reader and taking an empty window-side seat. He gazed out of the window into the outdoors, the city awash with snow and ice, snowflakes billowing softly onto the frosty glass. A new message from Lloydminster prompted him to retrieve his phone from his pocket, checking the mailbox. Halifax tapped in his confirmation of attendance, pressing the ‘send’ button. “I’m coming, Lloydminster,” he smiled at his phone, even though Lloydminster wasn’t really there, only in letters.

On another bus behind the one Halifax was travelling on, Pictou sat beside Port Hawkesbury and Stellarton, his gloved hands tightly wrapped around the handle of his hamper. “I’ll need to get the best-quality turkey there is,” he told his parents. “And some equally fresh and flavoursome potatoes and gravy to accompany it.” “Aw, you’re a real foodie, aren’t you, dearie Picky-tou?” Port Hawkesbury giggled sweetly, touching and stroking Pictou’s hair. “Hee-hee, indeed I am,” Pictou smiled, nodding in agreement.

Soon enough, the bus halted beside the entrance to the Canadian Christmas Market, and the driver called over on the tannoy proclaiming his final destination. Everybody disembarked the bus, including Pictou and his parents, and promptly began to head towards the entrance, which was liberally decked with suitably festive tinsel, holly and baubles in many colours. Stepping into the central plaza of the market, Pictou noticed the food stalls all around, sniffing delicious, juicy and meaty aromas in the lively, nippy air. “Oh! This is a foodie paradise!” he exclaimed joyfully, patting his hamper. “That means lots more tasty presents to fill my basket with.” “And you sure deserve it, Pictou,” Port Hawkesbury smiled at him as the Denoons strolled off into the deep of the market. Halifax was still riding the other bus as he was going to the Central Business District to see his colleagues and boss for the office Christmas party.

At the other end of the market was a festive fairground with winter activities like ice-skating, sledding and hockey. Edmonton and Winnipegosis held Calgary and Winnipeg’s hands to stop them rushing off in excitement as they gazed in awe at all the rides, attractions and diners. “Dad, we wanna ride the rides!” Calgary enthused, as did Winnipeg. “Well, we have to get some tokens first so we can pay for them,” Edmonton told them, and they headed towards the ticket hall, Winnipegosis retrieving his purse and zipping it open as they approached the window. “A roll of tokens, please. Calgary and Winnipeg will want to ride everything in the park,” he asked the attendant. “That’ll be ten dollars.” Winnipegosis handed the attendant a ten-dollar bill, receiving a roll of tokens in exchange. “Thanks. Off you go and enjoy your time at the fair!” the attendant called to Edmonton and Winnipegosis as they entered the depths of the fair, Calgary and Winnipeg in hand.

Stellarton jotted down Pictou’s shopping list in his notebook as he told him what he needed for tonight’s Christmas dinner. “Of course, it wouldn’t be a Christmas dinner without a turkey, would it?” Pictou giggled, then he spotted a stall selling freshly-roasted turkeys run by Kitchener. “Oh, turkeys just when I needed one,” he giggled again, approaching the counter.

“Hello, Merry Christmas,” he greeted Kitchener. “Oh, Merry Christmas to you too, sweetie,” Kitchener smiled. “Haven’t I met you before? When you were giving away chocolate chip cookies in the park?” “Oh, yes,” Pictou smiled at the memory, nodding. “And now we’ve met again, would you please be so kind as to sell me one of your lovely, juicy turkeys?” “Oh, certainly, my dear. You want stuffing inside?” Kitchener began to examine his turkeys one at a time. “Yes, it’ll bring out the flavour more,” Pictou nodded again, and Kitchener picked out a turkey packed with sage and onion stuffing. Pictou handed him a five-dollar bill from his wallet, and Kitchener wrapped the turkey in tinfoil to keep it warm and safe from the snow. “Alrightie. Here’s your turkey.” Pictou stored the turkey inside his hamper, pulling the blanket over to conserve even more heat. “Thanks. This’ll be the centrepiece of our Christmas dinner,” Pictou remarked, peeking inside his hamper at the turkey. “Aw, you were so polite back there, Pictou,” Port Hawkesbury praised him, stroking his back. “Hee-hee, thanks for your custom,” Kitchener beamed at Pictou, and he promptly moved on to another turkey to be roasted. Stellarton ticked turkeys off Pictou’s shopping list in his notebook. “Now for the next ingredient,” said Pictou, eagerly clutching his hamper in his hands.

Halifax stepped off the bus outside his office, thanking the driver. He answered another text from Lloydminster. “I’m right outside. On my way.” He strolled through the automatic doors, signing himself in at the reception. “Enjoy your Christmas party,” the receptionist smiled at him. “I will,” Halifax nodded at her as he stepped inside the elevator, pressing the button for the fifth floor. The doors silently swiped against each other, and the elevator swiftly glided upwards. Halifax checked the time on his new watch and tucked his phone inside his upper left trenchcoat pocket.

The elevator pinged as it halted at the top, and the doors slid open again, revealing Halifax’s joyous colleagues in festive fare, Lloydminster in front. “Merry Christmas!” they all greeted Halifax in unity, waving their glowsticks in the air and tossing colourful confetti. Halifax beamed as he sauntered up to Lloydminster and tightly embraced him. “Merry Christmas, Hal,” he smiled, patting his back and giving him a little kiss on the cheek. “Merry Christmas to you too, Lloyd,” Halifax replied, kissing Lloydminster and patting his back in return. He stepped back to admire Lloydminster’s new trenchcoat, which was black to match his suit, like Halifax’s trenchcoat matching his blue suit. “You look so elegant and sleek today, Lloydminster. Black fits you perfectly.” “Why, thank you, Halifax. Black is such a classic colour,” Lloydminster agreed, glancing down at himself and twirling around slowly to reveal all sides of his coat. “But blue makes you look equally as elegant.” “Oh, thank you, Lloydminster,” Halifax smiled back, also glancing down at himself. “Here, come through. The boss has something for us,” Lloydminster called to Halifax, and they cut a path through the party-ready crowd of their colleagues up to the boss’ office.

Halifax opened the door to find the boss at his desk, which was decorated with holly wreaths and tinsel around the edges and legs. “Merry Christmas, Halifax and Lloydminster,” he greeted them both, shaking their hands as they took a seat. “Merry Christmas,” Halifax and Lloydminster greeted him back.

“As always, this year you’ve put in so much good work and effort into your jobs,” the boss began. “Especially you, Halifax. More Employee of the Month awards than anyone else, eh?” “Oh, yes, sir,” Halifax agreed, nodding. “Oh, not leaving you out, Lloydminster, you’ve done very well too,” the boss smiled at Lloydminster to help him feel included. “Oh, yes, thank you,” Lloydminster nodded too.

“So to celebrate your hard work and excellent performance throughout the year, I’ve brought you both a gift,” said the boss, bringing out a large gift box from beneath his desk. “Go have a look inside.” Halifax and Lloydminster gently tugged the lid off the box to reveal two coffee flasks, a sack of instant decaf coffee, a box of mixed chocolates and a bottle of elderflower water. “Oh, now I can finally carry my own coffee with me to work,” Halifax smiled, holding up the blue flask, while Lloydminster took the black flask. The boss kindly handed them a roll of white stickers to mark with their names and stick on their flasks for easier identification.

“Well now, since it’s Christmas and it’s our annual office party… Let’s celebrate!” the boss cheered as he rushed outside into the office, sliding across the floor on his knees, everyone else laughing and clapping. “Come on, Hal, let’s party the night away!” Lloydminster called to Halifax, also rushing out into the office as catchy music started to play over the portable speakers on the boss’ desk. “Better be needing lots of coffee to keep me awake, then,” Halifax laughed, joining in with Lloydminster and the boss as everyone began to dance, nibble and drink away.