Stepping into the home of Erny and Bev Hladun is like stepping into Christmas itself. Evergreen garlands trimmed with red bows grace every possible space, and the smell of Christmas baking is in the air.
In front of the living room stands a Christmas tree covered in an eclectic mix of decorations collected throughout the Shoal Lake couple’s 56-plus years together. Stockings are hung by the chimney — one for each family member who will be home this year — with the first of a series of clues pinned to each. The clues, written by Bev, will guide the person to their gift hidden somewhere in the house.
Bev attributes her Christmas spirit to her mother, who raised three children on her own. “Mom made Christmas so special despite being on welfare and faced with hardships,” she said.
Throughout the years Bev and Erny have “put the commercialism of Christmas on the back burner” and kept the focus on family and fun, agreeing that their favourite gift is the joy of family togetherness.
And it’s a gift they receive every year, as the couple’s six children and eight grandsons still enjoy coming to them or having them travel to share in the merriment.
“This is the best place to celebrate Christmas!” said teenage grandson, Cory Mervyn of Strathclair. What makes Christmas extra special for Cory is the fact that his parents, Susan and Wayne Mervyn, have breakfast at their farm home, and then Susan’s parents, Erny and Bev, welcome one and all for dinner, games, lots of laughter, and the scavenger hunt for gifts.
Both Erny and Bev say that gifts over the years have never been on the expensive side, as they feel the sharing is more important than the dollar amount spent.
“Christmas is what you make of it!” said Bev. “It’s not what’s under the tree that matters, it’s who’s gathered around.”