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I Heart XMAS! with Crystal Garrett

Welcome to the I Heart XMAS Q&A, where Retro Festive asks notable Canadians about their own Christmas traditions and what they would like to find under the tree!

Crystal Garrett, Morning News Host, Global Halifax

Crystal Garrett Global Halifax
Crystal Garrett of Global Halifax


  1. What is your favourite Christmas movie or TV special?

I LOVE Christmas movies. I sometimes watch my favourite Christmas movies out of season just because of that warm fuzzy feeling I get.   Elf is probably my top pick. Six inch curls people, six inches!!!

My family tradition movie is the 1942 classic Holiday Inn. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s the original source of the song White Christmas. This holiday romp starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire is basically one big flashy song-and-dance number with a little romance thrown in.   Delightful!

  1. Does your family have a special or quirky Christmas tradition?

We go a little overboard with the Advent calendars. Last year, we had four on the go. However, I have three children, so who gets to open which calendar on what day involves making a complicated chart.

The luckiest child gets to open the giant Lindt calendar, the least lucky child opens the small chocolate calendar from the dollar store. The other kid gets to open the Playmobil calendar we’ve had for years, where each day reveals a little woodland animal that gradually fills up an adorable holiday winterscape.   Sure, the boxes are mangled, but everybody loves opening them and watching the scene take shape until Playmobil Santa comes out of his little box on Christmas Eve.

The big daddy of the Advent calendars is a wooden truck that holds 24 wooden drawers.   It was a gift to our children from a dear great auntie who passed away a few years ago. Each of the red and green daily drawers is big enough to hold candy for all three children.   I’ll load it up with treats on November 30th, strategically filling each drawer so that the most exciting treats get opened in the week leading up to Christmas.

  1. Which do you prefer: to give or receive?

I actually prefer to give. I love the process of finding the ultimate gift for each person on my list. Then, I get really excited about seeing the person open it. The joy, especially the crazy, unedited joy kids can show, and knowing I had something to do with it, is a way better feeling than opening a present.

  1. Ugly Christmas Sweaters: Not a Chance – or – The Uglier the Better?

Oh, ugly all the way! My brother-in-law hosts an ugly Christmas sweater party every year. Hilariously, my mother-in-law has a dresser filled with hideous sweaters from years gone by. She actually enjoys lending them out to us, and getting a good reaction.

  1. What do you want Santa to bring you this year?

Last year, I wanted snow. And it did snow. Giant, How the Grinch Stole Christmas-style flakes fell outside the window as we opened our gifts on Christmas morning. That happy moment kept me warm through one of the longest-feeling winters in history!   This year, the ultimate holiday miracle would be if someone could convert my non-working fireplace into a real wood-burning one.   The smell and crackle of a real holiday fire would be the best present ever!



If you find tinsel distracting, or if you are looking for a holiday that is a little . . . out there, Festivus might just be for you!

Festivus was created by Dan O’Keefe, a writer on the 90s sitcom Seinfeld, based on an actual holiday tradition celebrated by his family. Festivus – the holiday for the rest of us – was brought to life by the cantankerous character Frank Costanza in the Seinfeld holiday episode The Strike, which first aired December 18, 1997.

Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way. – Frank Costanza 

Festivus travel mug
Frank Costanza-approved ceramic travel mug

For the Festivus newcomers out there, here are the basic practices:

Festivus begins by displaying an aluminum pole, “very high strength-to-weight ratio,” says Frank. As this is a non-religious and non-commercial holiday alternative the Festivus Pole need not be adorned with decoration.

Festivus Pole
Frank Costanza and his Festivus Pole

Your family and friends should then sit down for Festivus dinner, a meal featuring non-holiday comfort food. The moment dinner is served, the “Airing of Grievances” should begin. This is your opportunity to admit your rage, disappointment and frustration with your kin with no repercussions.

Airing of Grievances
Frank starts the Airing of Grievances ceremony

Immediately following dinner, the head of the family chooses one participant on which to test his or her strength. Festivus is not considered over until the head of the family has been pinned to the ground. The selected participant is allowed to decline the attempt to pin the head of the family – but only if they have something better to do instead . . . like visit RetroFestive.ca for Festivus finds!

Kramer declares a Festivus Miracle


Top Ten National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Quotes

On December 1, 1989 a new comedic film by John Hughes called National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was released. Over the past 25 years this film about a father – Clark Griswold – determined to create a traditional family Christmas against all odds (and cousins and parents and blown bulbs and squirrels) has become a holiday favourite.

Retro Festive is the home of all things Griswold and is the exclusive Canadian distributor of glass Marty Moose Mugs, made famous by Christmas Vacation, so here are our top ten quotes from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!

10. “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?

Clark Griswold and Cousin Eddie
Clark welcomes Eddie to his home with the greeting “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”


9. “I dedicate this house to the Griswold Family Christmas.”


  1. Aunt Bethany’s Christmas blessing


  1. “It’s a little dry!”

    Griswold Family Turkey
    Catherine knew they put it in too early!


6.  “I don’t know what to say, except it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery.”


  1. “We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.”


    4. ” You couldn’t hear a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant.”




  1. “Welcome to our home – what’s left of it.”
    Christmas Vacation


And finally….one of our favourite National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation quotes:

1. “Merry Christmas. Shitter was full.”

 Shitter was Full
Cousin Eddie gets some chores done



A Christmas Story – Rice Stuffing Recipe

When the most unthinkable disaster descends upon the Parker family in the classic Christmas movie,  A Christmas Story, and the Bumpus Hounds from next door steal their Christmas turkey, they are forced to go out to eat!

The heavenly aroma still hung in the house. But it was gone, all gone! No turkey! No turkey sandwiches! No turkey salad! No turkey gravy! Turkey Hash! Turkey a la King! Or gallons of turkey soup! Gone, ALL GONE” – Ralphie as an Adult

The Parker’s decide on the Chop Suey Palace, which was filmed on Gerrard Street East in Toronto, and are introduced to “Chinese turkey” AKA Peking Duck.

We like to think Mother Parker enjoyed her meal at Chop Suey Palace, and it inspired her cooking at home. Perhaps she tried something a little different, like this recipe from A Christmas Story Treasury by Retro Festive’s very own Tyler Schwartz:

Chinese Rice Stuffing

1 3/4 cups short-grain rice, cooked

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

3 shallots, finely chopped

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 garlic cloves, minced

8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, thinly cut, stems removed

1 cup of water chestnuts, sliced

1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cook rice according to package, set aside. In a large saucepan, sauté celery and shallots in the butter until soft. Add garlic, mushrooms, water chestnuts, ginger and soy sauce. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes over moderate heat, stirring as it cooks. Remove from heat, toss in the cooked rice and season to taste with black pepper. Please in a greased 3-quart casserole dish. Bake in the oven at 375°F (190°C) for 30 minutes.

Snuggle up in your pink bunny suit and enjoy!


The Year Without a Santa Claus

The Christmas movie The Year Without a Santa Claus did not become a Christmas tradition for me until recent years. Of course, I grew up with other Rankin/Bass specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and even Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, but somehow, I had no idea that The Year Without a Santa Claus existed.

After recommendations from a few friends, and a long day of shopping in Toronto, I decided to watch it while wrapping Christmas gifts (after Love Actually, of course). I was hooked at the first Miser Brothers song!

The Year Without a Santa Claus is unique among other stop-motion Christmas specials. It features downright sassy humour and offbeat characters voiced by beloved actors such as Shirley Booth, Mickey Rooney and George S. Irving.

Both Mickey Rooney and George S. Irving returned to voice characters in A Miser Brothers Christmas, a 2008 stop motion spin-off which was animated by Toronto-based studio Cuppa Coffee Animation. Canadian voice actress Catherine Disher played the role of Mrs. Claus.

In addition to The Year Without a Santa Claus, Mickey Rooney has played, or voiced, Santa Claus in many holiday specials including Wreck the Halls, The Happy Elf, Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.

The Year Without a Santa Claus has stood the test of time, as Anwar Knight proved with his Heat Miser Halloween costume on CTV’s Canada AM.


Check out this Retro Festive gift guide segment on Canada AM:

Retro Festive makes shoppers feel like a kid at Christmas all year round, so you’ll never have to worry about a year without a Santa Claus!