An internationally renowned festival city to begin with, Montreal is essentially built for the festive season. With a lengthy Christmas list of options for family fun, eating entertainment, gift grabbing and night-time excitement, ours is – naughty or nice – the city to get your jolly on. To wit…
Get started by treating the family to spirit-inspiring seasonal sounds at the annual Christmas Benefit Concert presented at the historic St. James United Church located in the heart of downtown Montreal on Dec. 5. And music will also figure prominently in Les Grands Ballets‘ spectacular annual presentation of The Nutcracker, from Dec. 11-30, at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts, in the Quartier des Spectacles. And throughout December, treat the kids (or the kid in you) to an alluring array of seasonally themed events and attractions at Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum, in Saint-Constant on Montreal’s South Shore.
Apart from family, food is the only other “f” word permitted this time of year, and Montreal steps up its already considerable food game for the holiday season. For example, the Société des arts technologiques (SAT), a cutting-edge multidisciplinary space in the Quartier des Spectacles, will offer a five-course Christmas menu as part of its popular Foodlab’s Nordic Terrasse, Dec. 2-17. Or step around the corner to Le Café du Nouveau Monde, which will be presenting special holiday menus of artfully reimagined gastronomic classics. And if it’s a seasonal sweet tooth that’s calling the shots, gird yourself for a dizzying selection of mouth-watering treat boutiques – from desert emporium Juliette Chocolat to cupcake craziness at Les Glaceurs to palate-popping yule logs at Le Glacier Bilboquet – that’ll get the sugar plums dancing in your head.
As holiday traditions go in Montreal, there are few that are as much anticipated as the unveiling of Montreal retail institution Ogilvy’s Ste-Catherine Street Christmas window display, an animated marvel that crosses generations and lends a sense of wonderment to the season. It’s feel-good shopping that’s only accentuated by Ogilvy collections by the likes of in-house specialty boutique Harricana par Mariouche, which recycles old furs into ecologically sustainable high-fashion apparel. For the year-round Christmas enthusiast (and we are legion), look no further than Noël Éternal, which offers a vast selection of Christmas collectibles no matter the weather. For those looking for unique gift ideas, there’s no shortage of tasteful, thoughtful “marchés,” or markets. But don’t let the term fool you: these gatherings of artisans – at places such as Espace pour la vie’s eco-friendly Christmas fair (jewellery, wooden toys, essential oils, soap and gourmet food) on December 5- 7 and 12- 14, and L’Empreinte Cooperative’s 40-year anniversary of high-quality Quebec arts and crafts at the always-impressive Salon des métiers, which features more than 400 prominent regional artisans from Dec. 5-21 – are the remedy for any Christmas stocking emptiness you may be feeling.
Evening is the time for you and yours to take your minds off of holiday shopping, and Montreal nights are positively on fire with family friendly happenings. The yearly Torch-lit Christmas March, which typically attracts upwards of 10,000 people carrying candles, will start off on Mont-Royal Avenue early in the evening on Dec. 6 and make its way to Park Lafontaine – amidst live music and dressed-up characters – where fireworks and other festivities will spark the holiday spirit. Montreal’s vibrant Old Port also gets in on the loudly colourful action with Telus Fire on Ice, four sparkling nights of aerial pyrotechnics (on Saturdays from Dec. 13 until Jan. 3) complete with a seasonal soundtrack. Lights of a different type will dazzle imaginations in the downtown Quartier des Spectacles with Luminotherapy, an immersive, interactive installation comprised of 50 colourful, kaleidoscopic prisms set to an ambient music soundtrack projecting glimmering images onto the facades of eight prominent buildings. The result? Multimedia magic in your hands. From Dec. 10 until Feb. 2.
And, with Santa as our witness, this is only the tip of the Montreal holiday Christmas tree! Stay tuned…
Photo credits: Eva Blue, Les Grands Ballets, Les Glaceurs, Harricana par Mariouche, Eva Blue
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