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Real talk: for the past two years I never quite got into the holiday spirit. I tried playing my favorite Christmas album on repeat (“A Very She & Him Christmas” by She & Him — an oldie, but goodie). I boiled up simmer pots filled with rosemary sprigs from the garden, cinnamon sticks, cloves, oranges, you name it. I refreshed my holiday wrapping paper stash with the prettiest prints and watched the movie “Elf” over and over until our family nearly memorized the whole thing, certain that the combination of these things would get me out of my funk and into that most-wonderful-time-of-the-year vibe.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t.

The season approached quickly, as it always does, then felt painfully long; crammed with never-ending to-do lists, a jam-packed calendar of holiday happenings, and more trips to Target than I’d like to admit. Call me Grinchy, fine, but I blame it on the linger- ing pandemic, a strong bout of perinatal distress, and an over- powering longing to embrace the things I simply could not at the time.

With the holidays approaching this year, I was worried that another December would come and go without really feeling it. Then our team of writers began submitting their story assignments for this issue and as I read through each of them, I remember lighting up with excitement, and well, Christmas cheer even though it was only October.

I found myself being drawn to a common theme of intent to spark joy. It’s an idea that feels good to get behind and it flows so effortlessly throughout this issue.

With each gift-wrapping tip that Melinda Morris of Arni Paperie gives our readers she’s truly embodying the joy of gift giving. The precise cut, the sharpest fold, the fullest bow; none of that is done without the anticipation of that hand-off moment, that first look, that makes you feel warm and fuzzy and connected.

Alyssa Reed, a local artisan who spends nearly half the year carefully curating holiday décor, designs the most personal and thoughtful themed Christmas trees you’ve ever seen. Although she has trees displayed in just about every corner of her own home, she also curates and creates trees for clients. She thoughtfully picks each ornament, ribbon and berry sprig and it’s in those small details that Reed finds maximum happiness.

And if there’s anyone that’s familiar with the desire to spark joy it would be the creator of Gingerbread University himself, Fred Terry. After all, his business’ mission is to do just that. At Gingerbread University, the sole intent of the experience is to make people smile while enjoying a delicious, artistic endeavor.

These stories and more reminded me why we find cheer in the holiday season, and for that I find myself extra thankful this month. Mindful of those people and moments around me that do sincerely and intently bring joy. And guess what, you readers are amongst that list just for being here and for following northforker as we close out another year. To my wonderful team of writers and contributors, you provided me with the stories that I needed to read this holiday season and this December is joyful because of you.

Michelina Da Fonte, Content Director