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Tamara with husband Dave Genn and their three children, Poppy, 6, Zoë, 8, and Beckett, 9
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Tamara with husband Dave Genn and their three children, Poppy, 6, Zoë, 8, and Beckett, 9

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The longtime CTV anchor invites TV Week home for the holidays, reflecting on the unique magic of Christmases past—a magic she’s passing on to her children

"I think that nostalgia—it’s probably in every fibre, in every cell of my body,” says Tamara Taggart when asked what the word means to her. She points out that friends and family tease her for being a hoarder, but in reality it’s memories she’s collecting. “I think that all you have is memories. That’s all we really have, at the end of the day.” So what more perfect holiday than Christmas, with its countless traditions and memorable moments, to stoke her affection for the past?

Over the years, the holidays have become increasingly more important for Taggart. Rather than just 24 hours of merry festivities, Christmastime has evolved into a multi-week extravaganza, featuring baking, decorating, open-house parties, pajama days, family and friends, and most importantly for the longtime CTV anchor, a time to act out and create traditions that will resonate with her family for a lifetime.

Each year, alongside husband Dave Genn of 54-40 and her three children (Beckett, 9, Zoë, 8, and Poppy, 6), Taggart luxuriates in the season. It’s a chance to unwind at the end of the year and truly embrace the holiday spirit with gingerbread houses, advent calendars, movies, popcorn and puzzles. It is the special time of year for the family.

Taggart says she can pinpoint the exact moment that Christmas took on almost mythic proportions.

“I must have been five or six years old. I remember we came out of our bedrooms early in the morning. It’s always that supermagical feeling that Santa has been there—you can feel it in the air. I came down the hallway, and there was this orange tent set up in the living room. It was tiny. It was perfect for a five-year-old. It had a little door, and it had these little windows that rolled up. I couldn’t believe it. I went to go inside the tent and there was a book, The Night Before Christmas, laying in the doorway. It wasn’t wrapped. I said, ‘What’s this book?’ My mom said to me, ‘It must have fallen out of Santa’s sack after he put the tent up.’ I just remembered being in awe,” she says, laughing. “Of course that’s what happened; of course it fell out of his sack. It totally makes sense.”

It’s memories like these that she wants to pass on to her kids, who as they age are becoming more active participants in the festivities and have begun to carry the torch of tradition. “I just want to create stuff like that for our children. It’s just a memory. You never remember the biggest or fanciest present. You remember something like that—the book that fell out of Santa’s sack.”

For the first 10 years of her life, the holidays were a time of happiness and wonder. But after her parents’ divorce, Taggart notes, things changed and she wasn’t able to recapture the magic that had so strongly resonated with her. It wasn’t until her 20s, living on her own and single, that she started to rediscover the joy of holiday tradition; having her own space allowed Taggart the freedom to create new memories.

And so, 20 years ago, she held her first open-house party in a 700-square-foot apartment with a group of close friends singing on karaoke machines while eating and drinking. It might not sound like much—it’s about as standard as merrymaking comes—but for Taggart, it was a rediscovery of how much she loved the holidays. 

“I just like tradition. It makes me feel happy to have my friends around or to have my family around and do things with them.” And so the open house evolved: bigger spaces and more faces; eventually, her now-husband Genn joined the picture; kids entered the fray (they stay at grandma’s for the open house—it’s currently an adults-only party); and so on. The party has evolved as the years have gone by, and will continue to do so.

“Eventually, our kids will be a part [of it]. I have memories about when I was a little girl. My parents had a lot of parties when we were kids and I have photos of me downstairs in the rumpus room while my parents and their friends are having fun. That will happen with our kids, and then eventually our kids will probably have their own friends come over to our open house.”

The kids have taken on an increasingly active role in the festivities. Where once they were content to let the holidays happen to them, they’re now seeking out opportunities to take part. This has led to happy moments for Taggart, who recently shared her grandmother’s whipped shortbread recipe with the trio, who for the first time could grasp that the cookies had been handed down through generations. “They’re like, ‘Wait a minute—so grandma’s mom, this is her recipe?’ And I explained, ‘Yes. When I was a little girl I used to eat these cookies, and so now grandma’s making them for you.’”

It’s touches like these that really excite Taggart, as she imagines her children having a similar discussion with their own kids one day.

But their maturation also causes a few headaches now that the catch-all “it’s magic” explanation doesn’t simply wave away inconsistencies, like when Elf on the Shelf’s Pete didn’t show up on December 1 like he’s supposed to. “I said, ‘We tried to call Pete, and he’s not answering, so I’m sure that he’s on his way.’” But these minor hiccups are nothing compared to the satisfaction Taggart feels when she detects echoes of herself in her children’s experiences, like seeing the presents under the tree for the very first time.

It’s these powerful instances that hold so much meaning for the anchor, who knows that they don’t last forever. Genn’s father passed away two years ago, and the family has honoured his memory with special ornaments to make sure his presence is felt. Taggart, a cancer survivor, acknowledged that her own health history has influenced just how important these moments—everyone together, happy and healthy—are.

“Maybe it has something to do with being sick years ago, but I really think that once we’re gone—you can leave all the wine glasses, all the jewelry or whatever it is, you want. That stuff, yeah, it means something, but it’s just material, so it can disappear. Whereas the feeling that you leave somebody with, the memories that you leave them with, those are forever.

“I think that what I’m always trying to do with our kids is give them as many good memories as I can, so that they respect nostalgia, because I respect it. And I crave it all the time in everything I do.”

So for Taggart, the cookies, snow, rest and presents are icing on the cake. The true gift is seeing the past, present and future coalesce into something that can only be explained as if to a child: magic.

 

Tamara's Christmas Classics

Top holiday movie: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Christmas song: Boney M, Mary’s Boy Child

Holiday food: Brussels sprouts and mom’s stuffing

Holiday drink: Rosé

Snow, Yes or No? As long as it arrives on Christmas Eve and is gone by the end of Boxing Day.