It’s been two days since “When Calls the Heart” heralded in the annual tradition of its Christmas movie special, and this year's “Home for Christmas” was so full of heart and meaning that a cardiac specialist needed to be on standby. The Hallmark Channel’s most beloved and watched series in the network's history had a lot to live up to, with countless warm and cozy moments from Christmas specials past, chronicling the giving ways of the neighbors and newcomers in Hope Valley. This year, though, conveyed the surety that the community is indeed home to all.

The “When Calls the Heart” cast was swept away by the tide of love and gratitude, too. A peek into thankful social media posts (from December 25 on) filled the hearts of fans with almost as much joy as watching “Home for Christmas,” and faithful “Hearties” displayed their gratitude in some very unique ways.

The season is about living, loving, and giving beyond one’s self, and “When Calls the Heart” has a television legacy of teaching those lessons through the lives of hope Valley. “Home for Christmas” has something for everyone, from baby Jack to a humble new salesman, and certainly to every loyal fan who will treasure it forever.

A big birthday and a bigger crowd than ever

Elizabeth Thornton (Erin Krakow) is completely devoted to giving her son the most wonderful first birthday experience possible, but as she shares with Rosemary Coulter (Pascale Hutton), she never imagined that this milestone would be celebrated as a single mother, without her husband. During a beautiful scene, right after Rosemary declares “Why build a house when you can build a mansion over little Jack's gingerbread house, she assures Elizabeth that “you are not alone,” even though the pain of her husband missing all of his son’s Christmas moments is “overwhelming.”

Kudos go to Pascale Hutton for once again perfectly conveying her character’s longing for motherhood in such a palpable, unspoken sense and strength.

She insists that Elizabeth doesn't need to “tiptoe around me” regarding the subject of children. Let's hope that Rosemary and Lee Coulter fulfill their dream in their own way to Season 7.

While Rosemary naturally plans on spoiling baby Jack, his godfather, Bill Avery (Jack Wagner) is frantic about finding a very personal and special gift. Rosemary agrees with her husband that a train set makes a wonderful gift-- for an older boy.

They commission Mike Hickam, a former employee of Lee, to create a wonderful gift for this Christmas, which can last to be passed down.

One fan created a Lego rendition of Hope Valley, getting notice from Chris McNally. Speaking of the actor’s character, Lucas Bouchard, he shows his gratitude to Hope Valley by throwing an authentic, full-fledged German festival, like those he enjoyed with his family as a youth. The celebration is such a success that the Northwest Territory community is flooded with visitors.

Lucas and Ned from the general store clear out the foodstuff shelves, but crowds keep coming. Oddly enough, it is nurse, Faith Carter (Andrea Brooks), the same who said she is content with a can of beans, who suggests that the kitchens and home cooks of the community can meet the demand. The result is a home-cooked feast from the heart as only “When Calls the Heart” can serve. In the Christmas spirit, both Jesse and Clara (Aren Buchholz and Eva Bourne) work as waiters and hosts.

The festival is a huge success, but Lucas isn’t done with his display of truly heartfelt spectacle. After sharing with Elizabeth his memories of paper lanterns lifting in Shanghai, he enlists the town’s help in launching lanterns to fill the evening sky.

The effort and generosity of the gesture is profoundly moving, and many “When Calls the Heart” faithful, myself included, were wiping tears away in seeing the scene. Elizabeth realizes that the entire day was Lucas’ way of honoring his family memories in love. She stresses that creating new traditions is equally important.

A change of heart

Faith Carter and Dr. Carson Shepherd (Paul Greene) are caught in crossing paths as they desperately try to spend just a bit of Christmastime together. Along the way, the doctor’s path connects him with a new, completely determined and inspiring “When Calls the Heart” character, Walter, portrayed by Ryan Rosery.

Walter understands that the cleaning brush he is plugging doesn't work very well, but he works endlessly hard to make a sale, never losing heart. Hope Valley doesn't hold success for Walter in sales, either, but he does have an encounter with Henry Gowen (Martin Cummins), who is taken by the man if not his product. Walter is on the road from a sales meeting when he picks up Carson trying to get back to Hope Valley, where Faith has made it to see him.

Walter has a dreadful cough, and Carson insists that he travels to Hope Valley to get treatment. Of course, Walter has no money, and Carson calls the offer his Christmas gift for the miles home.

When a flat tire stops the trip, Carson leaves a blanket and his coat with Walter, and walks to a poor family’s cabin, offering money in loan for their wagon and horse. The mother declines, simply saying, “take it.” The doctor makes it home, gives Walter medicine, and returns with faith to the cabin, bearing gifts and community dinner leftovers.

After the vehicle repairs, Henry Gowen tells Walter he knows someone with a better job in Union City. Hopefully, this resilient character will have many reasons to return to Hope Valley. Henry showed his heart last season by reading with a longing, lovely orphaned girl in “The Greatest Christmas Blessing.” Now, he is showing that he has learned to be the blessing himself, as Jack Wagner noted.

Constable Nathan Grant (Kevin McGarry) gets the job he always wanted, only a year late. The position of inspector at Union City is offered, but he realizes, especially at Christmas time, how deeply his niece, Allie (Jaeda Lily Miller) has established roots in Hope Valley. He plays the “nothing’s the matter” part with Elizabeth and Allie until Allie discovers the truth. She puts on her own brave front of “that's just how it is” regarding the move and the life of a Mountie, yet she is heartbroken inside.

She tells Elizabeth, whose expression upon hearing the news is almost as crushed. Ultimately, Nathan chooses roots and family over his dream job. Nathan gives his niece the soil to plant a seedling from their Christmas tree in the yard of their new home.

When Christmas morning arrives, Elizabeth and baby Jack are surrounded by their circle of love. Bill eventually locates the treasured gift, put away for safekeeping by his housekeeper. He presents the compass belonging to his late father, Mountie Jack so that he will always “find his way home” under the inspiration of his father.

Lee and Rosemary love nothing more than unveiling the rocking horse made especially for baby Jack. As fate would have it, Elizabeth gave her son a cowboy hat for Christmas morning. As she gleefully savors his first ride, he pauses and looks upward, saying “Mama.” It may not be a Christmas miracle, but it makes a wonderful ending for “When Calls the Heart” fans and “Home for Christmas.”

In February, fans will be ready for the romantic adventure to begin for Elizabeth and Erin Krakow.

Two wonderful, but oh so different, men won't make her choices any easier, and her son is always in the first place.

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