During the holidays, we gather our families to relax and create memories — we bake together, eat together, and laugh together. But when a loved one passes on, its a big blow to any holiday cheer: moving forward and keeping long-held traditions we once cherished takes extra effort.

When Breanne Esplana’s family suffered some abrupt losses, she worried her mother wouldn’t be able to enjoy Christmas festivities in the same way ever again. But to keep the spirit of the season going, Breanne planned a surprise that would leave everyone in the room speechless…

Breanne Esplana of Redwood City, California, liked to surround herself with family. She jumped at any opportunity to laugh and make memories with her loved ones.


In fact, Breanne and her brother Johnny shared an incredibly close bond — so much so  the duo ran a sibling YouTube channel. They posted hilarious videos of the two of them in silly scenarios, like getting their eyebrows waxed, traveling, and goofing off. 


The tight-knit bond between the siblings was encouraged by their mom, Margaret Sims. The three of them had a special connection and made family time a priority, but around the holiday season, they really amped up the fun.

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Then in 2013, the family endured some tragic news that would bring them closer than ever. Margaret’s mother was diagnosed with an aggressive type of lung cancer. Breanne and her family united to support her. All had high hopes as she bravely fought the disease.

breanne_esplana / Instagram

Sadly, after battling the illness for seven months, she passed away. It devastated the whole family, but Margaret took the loss of her mother hardest of all. Breanne said in a post about her grandmother, “Everyone says it, but I truly had the best grandmother in the world and I think about her all the time.”


The blow of losing their grandma was massive. It was made more difficult because they had lost another family member only a few months earlier. In April, Margaret’s father had passed away. Still grieving one parent, she suddenly had to cope with the loss of the other.

Margaret Sims / Facebook

Breanne knew her mother would try and make the holiday season just as special as always, but the absence of her grandparents loomed heavy on all their hearts. She hatched a plan to do something special to honor their memories.


Each year, Breanne’s family had a long standing tradition of crafting a handmade ornament to add to their Christmas tree. Store bought baubles were strictly forbidden. The personal touch of making the ornaments was half the fun!

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To brighten her mom’s spirits for Christmas in 2013, Breanne made two special ornaments, rather than one. She included two photos of her late grandparents. Margaret was beyond touched by her daughter’s thoughtfulness.

Margaret Sims / Facebook

However, the next Christmas, the family had another unfortunate setback. The storage facility where all their precious ornaments were kept was broken into. In a moment, years of family history was stolen away.

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The ornaments Breanne created were gone, but so were the decades’ old decorations passed down to Margaret by her late parents. Their tradition of creating a singular yearly ornament seemed like a cruel joke compared to what they had lost. 


Most people would be discouraged by losing family mementos. But, not Breanne! She turned this obstacle into an opportunity. Calling on her brother and the rest of her family, Breanne devised a plan. 

The family conspired to blow Margaret away with holiday spirit! Breanne set out to recreate the missing ornaments with brand new ones. First, they donned their festive best, headed to the mall, and took some photos with Santa!


Then, with glitter, glue, and old family photos heaped on the table, Breanne and her family set to work! Using their Santa Claus photoshoot snapshots and gathering other pictures from relatives, they worked some magic. If they couldn’t have their old keepsakes, creating new ornaments, as a family, was the next best thing.

Johnny Magick / Youtube

Christmas day arrived! Breanne and her family gathered to open presents. Little did Margaret know, her daughter had another heartfelt surprise under her sleeve. Johnny grabbed the camera to capture her reaction.

JohnandBretv / Instagram

Making her promise to keep her eyes closed, Margaret sat in a chair and smiled. She knew her kids were unveiling a gift, but she had no idea what it could be. They presented her with a large red plastic Rubbermaid container.

JohnnyMagick / Youtube

“What did you do?” Margaret questioned, a big smile planted on her face.  Then the moment she lifted the lid, tears filled her eyes. Breanna and Johnny nailed it. 


The tears kept following as Margaret unwrapped each handmade ornament. She turned over the little frames holding smiling pictures of happy family memories. Her kids knew how much losing her cherished trinkets truly mattered to her.

Johnny Magick / YouTube

The box contained dozens of ornaments, enough to completely fill the tree! She laughed at the sillier photos but had to pause to cry and process the effort her family made to bring her joy. Margaret wrapped Breanne in a huge hug.

Breanne had pulled off the most memorable Christmas gift her mom could receive. Johnny captured Margaret sniffing into her ear, “I love you. Thank you,” she said. It goes to show that even in the most trying of circumstances, the love of your family pulls you through.