Virtual Advent: Christmas in the City

Welcome to Day 7 of the Virtual Advent Tour, hosted by Kelly of The Written Word and and Marg of The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. This is my first year participating, and I’ve been excitedly planning out this post ever since I signed up!

Silver Bells has always been one of my favourite Christmas carols; I grew up in Vancouver, and while we didn’t always get snow, the song always brings up such fond holiday memories for me.

Last November, we moved from the suburbs to Toronto. Now, Toronto’s quite a bit different from Vancouver; it’s bigger, for one thing, and there’s a lot less rain. But it’s still Christmastime in the city!

We didn’t join in on many of the festivities last year, though; moving from a 3000 square foot house into a 1180 square foot condo six weeks before Christmas took a lot out of us, and we didn’t really feel truly settled into our new home until after the holidays.

This year, though? This year will be completely different!

In the community we used to live in, there weren’t that many Christmas-y events, so we developed a lot of our own, stay-at-home type of traditions. Putting up the Christmas tree was usually the first of these traditions: we’d do up lots of appetizers, have hot chocolate with whipped cream, and make a night of it.

But this year, we’ve added a whole bunch of new traditions. And most of them are free!

One thing’s for sure: Christmas in the city makes for a very busy, event-filled month!

Cavalcade of Lights

This year we kicked off the festivities with Toronto’s Cavalcade of Lights. It’s held at Toronto City Hall, and there were a variety of musical performances to entertain everyone while we waited for the official lighting of the giant Christmas tree.

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But the highlight of the evening (for us, anyway) was the magnificent fireworks display later in the evening. They even had someone zooming along on a zipline with fireworks on his back!

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It’s the first time we’ve attended the Cavalcade of Lights (thank you, spell check, because I nearly always spell cavalcade wrong!), and we had such a delightful time. It will definitely be one of our new traditions.

Santa Claus Parade

The Santa Claus Parade

We actually managed to catch the Santa Claus Parade last year; the parade route was just a few blocks from our place, so it was an easy thing to fit into our schedule. No struggling with parking :)

This year, however, we weren’t able to catch the Parade. Or at least, we didn’t think we would be able to. We had tickets to see the National Ballet of Canada’s performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the ballet was on at the same time as the parade.

But, as luck would have it, the parade route passed right by the Four Seasons Centre, where the ballet was being performed. We came out for intermission and caught the last part of it – we ended up having a great view, as the lobby of the Four Seasons Centre fronts University Avenue, where the parade was passing by, and since the foyer was slightly elevated above street level, we were able to see everything beautifully!

We’re hoping we won’t have a schedule conflict next year. It’s even more fun sitting right on the curb, watching the parade from beginning to end.

The Christmas Windows at The Bay

Going to look at the Christmas windows at The Bay department store (whose roots go back to its days as a fur trading outpost before Canada’s Confederation) is another Christmas tradition we started last year as well. The department store devotes several of its windows on Queen Street to lovely Christmas vignettes:

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And when we’re done? It’s off to the chip truck parked in front of City Hall for fries and gravy; it is so much fun eating piping hot fries with loads of gravy in the cold. The steam pours off the fries, and everything cools down just quickly enough, you don’t burn your tongue scarfing it all down!

The Nutcracker

Back when my two older children, Sean and Hayley, were younger, going to see the National Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker was one of our traditions; we made a day of it, driving into the city for the show and then going out for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory afterwards.  Unfortunately, ballet wasn’t really something either of them enjoyed that much (and it didn’t escape their notice that it was the same production every year – the complaints we heard about that!)  – although they did like the Old Spaghetti Factory!

We’re reviving this tradition this year for our youngest, Dylan. Dylan loves the ballet, so he’s really looking forward to going.

But we’re going to more than one Nutcracker performance! In addition to the traditional one performed by the National Ballet of Canada, we’re also going to see The Pia Bouman School’s Nutcracker. The Pia Bouman School is Dylan’s dance school. He didn’t audition for the show, but it will be great fun to go and see his fellow students in the production.

So these are some of the new traditions we’re embracing this year – taking full advantage of being in the city! We’re hoping to also go to at least one Christmas concert, too, although so far we’ve only got the Blind Boys of Alabama’s Christmas show lined up.

What about you? What holiday traditions do you and your family enjoy during this time of the year?

And make sure to check out the other stops on the Virtual Advent tour today: Bellezza, at Dolce Bellezza and Snowball at Come, Sit by the Hearth!

16 thoughts on “Virtual Advent: Christmas in the City

  1. Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll)

    What fun — I love all the Christmas in the City opportunities that you’re taking advantage of.

    I’ve let a lot of our traditions slide away with various transitions in family structures. But we’re working on a new one. We took my brother and his new pre-built family to the train show at the Missouri Botanical Garden last year and out for Thai food after as our Christmas celebration. I’ve talked them into doing it again this year. One more year and I think we can call it a tradition!

    Reply
  2. Julia Phillips Smith

    Man oh man, you’re making me homesick for Toronto! Everything on your list has been part of my holiday traditions when I lived there (especially the National Ballet’s Nutcracker, as I’m a complete ballet freak and worked at their previous home venue, the O’Keefe Centre/Hummingbird Centre as an usher.)

    I’m back in my home city of Halifax, and we’ll be going to the local version of The Nutcracker next week. It’s just not Christmas without it!

    Reply
  3. Susan

    what a lovely post, Belle. I love the windows in the Bay department window! you are so lucky, our Bay downtown here at the Rideau Center only shows fashion, nothing marvelous like your windows. I’d go look at them every day as my bus stop from work is there :-)

    Love your post, it is filled with some of what you love about Christmas. I hope you enjoy the ballet from your son’s school, this year. Have a lovely Christmas!

    Reply
  4. Rebecca

    How exciting you get to attend all kinds of holiday events now! I just watched The Nutcracker Ballet from the Royal Ballet on YouTube last night. First time i ever saw it. I hope next year I can watch it for real (although it will have to be community theater, not the Royal Ballet. :)

    Reply

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