T’was the Morning Before Christmas…

There’s a right way to do things in Nova Scotia, Canada, on Christmas Eve day.

Before the house is cleaned for company, before the last shopping is complete, the baking’s begun, or the presents are quickly wrapped, you have breakfast. And you can thank the Kingston Lions for that.

While their community sleeps, the Lions are at the Kingston Lions Hall with the lights on, ovens hot, griddles warming up, and the smell of coffee wafting through the cold December air, because at 6 a.m., the doors will open.

Pancakes, sausages, and ham, scrambled eggs, hash browns, toast, coffee, tea, and juice await early risers at the Kingston Lions Christmas Eve Breakfast. In 1993, the first year of the breakfast, 100 people were served. By 2015, attendance had grown to 1,003 served in just over three hours, says Lion Pat Nixon. Now they average 825 each year.

Employees from local businesses beat the rush and come early, heading off to face a last day of frenzied customers. And families follow tradition and gather.

“At the Kingston Lions, we recognize that the work we do could not be done without the generous and ongoing support of the surrounding community and businesses, and for this we are truly grateful,” says Lion Rick Hiplik. “The breakfast is a way for the Kingston Lions to thank the local community for their generous support.”

The club tried to provide the breakfast at no charge, but generous community members would have nothing to do with it. They wanted to give money for others less fortunate, so in 2001 the Lions’ breakfast became a breakfast with a freewill offering that’s averaging a total of about US$6,000 a year.

Santa and his elves always make time for a visit, but the real help outside the club comes from local Scouts, community leaders, clergy, and Lions’ family members, all willing to serve generous portions and to wash dishes.

Lions purchase the food at Sobeys, the local grocery store, and since 2015, Sobeys has partnered with Lions, subsidizing the cost of supplies.

When the last people are fed at 10 a.m., cleanup begins, and usually by noon it’s lights out again in Kingston Lions Hall. Seventy-five Kingston Lions are free to finish their own Christmas preparations, or to nap.