Exclusive: Melissa Grelo shares her favourite holiday traditions, from chestnuts to time with horses

By Sarah Trumbley

This piece has been adapted from a much lengthier interview. To read the full chat and see more of Melissa, Ryan and Marquesa's lovely home, pick up Issue 693/694 of HELLO! Canada, on newsstands now!

Melissa Grelo is getting her makeup touched up in a spare bedroom when she hears a knock on the door. It’s her daughter, five-year-old Marquesa, coming in to check on Mom.

“I’ll give you five seconds!” she adorably declares to the room, before kindly compromising, “Ok, I’ll give you 10.”

She’s anxious to get on with the photo shoot so she can get back to playing with the decorative reindeer she has claimed as her newest toy.

Laughing at her daughter’s take-charge tendencies – which, Melissa admits, she likely passed down – the star jokes, “Ladies and gentlemen, there she is: mini me Mel!”

After spending just a few hours with her, it’s clear that Melissa – co-host on CTV’s daytime talk show The Social – was made for motherhood. Her stunning Toronto home, which she designed alongside her contractor husband, Ryan Gaggi, 38, is full of love and laughter. Together, the two of them make the perfect parenting team.

“I’m much more on the academic cerebral side,” Melissa, 42, tells us. “Marquesa and I read a lot together, I teach her spelling, we speak French together. While Ryan is so good at letting loose, having fun and not being serious all the time. So we really are complementary that way.”

It’s hard to believe, though, after seeing them together, that it wasn’t love at first sight for the TV host and her husband of now 11 years.

“There was zero chemistry. Zilch,” Melissa says, as she tells the story of their first meeting – an unsuccessful set-up at a bar in Toronto.

Photo: © Constant Van Ruymbeke, HELLO! Canada

It wasn’t until they ran into each other a year-and-a-half later – at a different Toronto club – that sparks began to fly.

“I was in a different headspace this time,” she continues, explaining that she had just gotten out of a serious relationship the first time they met.

“We started talking, and I was just smitten… we’ve been inseparable ever since.”

A WONDERFUL LIFE

Luckly, things for Melissa re just as bright and cheery at work as they are at home, and for that, she is grateful.

“I’m able to do all the things I love to do there,” says she star, who has been on The Social since its start in 2013. She’s also a recurring co-host on CTV’s Your Morning. “I’ve never woken up once and not wanted to get to work, which is a very big deal for anyone in life. I feel lucky… it’s the dream job.”

Here, inviting HELLO! Canada into her home for the holidays, Melissa shares the not-so-glamorous Christmas traditions she’s been carrying out ever since her childhood days at her parents’ horse farm in rural Ontario.

HELLO! Canada: It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Tell us, what’s your favourite thing about the holiday season?

Melissa Grelo: It just feels like everyone is running around so much now. I think we’re trying to cram a lot into life… and I’m guilty of it, too, no doubt, trying to juggle six balls at the same time. So in the age of hustle-bustle, I feel like the holidays are the one time when you can actually, without an excuse, just be like, “I’m offline. I’m stopping. I’m going to eat. I’m going to sit around in my elastic-waist pyjamas. I’m going to just do nothing… and that’s OK.”

Photo: © Constant Van Ruymbeke, HELLO! Canada

Walk us through Christmas Day with your family. What does it look like?

I’ve been doing the same thing for Christmas since I was born, and it all revolves around my family’s horse farm in Caledon. My mother, who is an amazing cook, makes us a Christmas Eve feast like you’ve never seen – it takes her days to put together. Nothing means more to her than feeding her family and being with family. Christmas Eve goes pretty late, we do midnight mass after dinner and actually open all of our gifts that night. It’s for a practical reason, though, because on Christmas Day, my sister, my father and I have our own tradition: We take care of all the horses [so the employees can have the day off]. It’s not your classic Christmas morning. [Laughs] We’re in the barn with a wheelbarrow and a pitchfork – it’s really glamorous! Then, once I’ve taken a shower and de-horsed myself, as I call it, the next phase of celebrations picks up, which is heading off into the city. My aunt’s birthday is Christmas Day, and my other aunt’s birthday is Boxing Day, so Christmas Day turns into a joint birthday party with a huge Filipino feast. It’s just an absolutely beautiful time for the family to be together. Then we all roll home after midnight and sleep in on Boxing Day.

Photo: © Constant Van Ruymbeke, HELLO! Canada

How has Christmas changed for you since becoming a mom?

It changed significantly. What really changed for me was getting back into the magic of Christmas. Being into horses [as kids], my sister and I were never like, “Oh, my gosh, Santa is here!” We always questioned physics, like, “Reindeer are very closely related to horses. We know horses can’t fly. We know they’re really heavy. If they stood on our roof, it would be problematic.” [Laughs] We were always kind of suspicious and skeptical. But boy, oh boy, having a daughter now, it’s like you better buy into it 100 per cent, and you better make it magical. So that’s been a real shift. But I don’t know how long I can keep it going. Marquesa is a smart, smart girl. She asks a lot of questions and she’s already wondering how on earth Santa gets to every child in the world. I’m just like, “Babe, it’s magic!”

Everyone has that one thing they associate with the holidays – whether it’s a movie, a recipe. What’s that thing for you?

My mother actually roasts chestnuts. My dad’s Portuguese, and chestnuts are huge for the Portuguese people. It’s an acquired taste. As a kid, the first couple of times I had them, I was like, “Umm, OK…” But then I started associating them with the holidays. It’s the only time of year we do it. Now it’s a taste of the holidays for me.

As we get ready to celebrate 2020, do you have any resolutions?

I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I do use the end of the year to reflect on the year before… and think about where I would like to go and what I would like to do or experience next. I really like the idea of optimism that the New Year brings. I love the idea of a fresh start.

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