Escape to the North: What's Going on this Holiday Season in Canada


By Caitlin Leonard, ZEALnyc Contributing Writer, December 15, 2016

Winter conjures images of hot mugs of cocoa, sleigh rides and crisp white snowflakes floating in the air. What better way to fully enjoy the best of this holiday season than in the Great White North? Canada is home to a flurry of exciting events this season and is extending a friendly invite to their neighbours to the South to come visit and enjoy a magical getaway.

The Toronto Christmas Market (Until December 22nd)

This holiday tradition is a unique and fully Canadian experience. Located in the city's Distillery Historic District, the market has been dubbed one of the world's best Christmas markets by several major travel guides. There will be carolling, dance performances, twinkling Christmas lights, and of course vendors with locally made food and gifts for the season.

Not to be missed are a life-size gingerbread house and hot Glühwein (mulled wine) in the beer gardens. Admission is $6, but will be free from Tuesday to Friday. Open hours vary throughout the week. For more information click here.

A long-running Christmas tradition, the National Ballet of Canada is presenting performances of The Nutcracker for the holidays. With a total running time of only two hours, this ballet would the perfect opportunity to see some of Canada's best performers and enjoy a night out in Toronto.

This version of the story, placed in 19th Century Russia, has been choreographed by James Kudelka, one of the most innovative choreographers in North America today. His unique interpretation of this beloved holiday story is highly influenced by his knowledge of modern dance, and well informed by his expertise as a former student of Canada's National Ballet School, and nine years as The National Ballet's Artistic Director.

Tchaikovsky's captivating score will be played by the National Ballet Orchestra of Canada, accompanied by the VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto. For more information click here.


A private history museum on Saint Helen's Island (Île Sainte-Hélène) in Montreal is presenting a very unique holiday attraction. The Stewart Museum focuses on Quebec heritage and the discovery of the New World in Canada, and is usually known for its collection of authentic maps, weapons, rare books and scientific instruments.

However, for the holidays there will be a rare feature added -- an exhibition on the artistic evolution of the Santa Claus. 30 different figurines will be on display, crafted by American and Quebecois artists, to offer a look at the history behind this important figure in the Christmas tradition.

Another exciting aspect of the collection to marvel at is a lavish 18th Century style doll castle, equipped with a ballroom and delicate dancers that come to life at the sound of music. This 1975 creation by a soldier turned toy furniture maker, Rudolph Szálasi, comes all the way from German Bavaria.

For a special treat there will be free access granted to the whole museum for the duration of the Santa exhibition. Another added bonus is that the real Santa Claus will be visiting the Museum on December 18th!

There are also free family friendly activities to choose from - including a Christmas workshop, scavenger hunt, and the screenings of three animated short films. For more information click here.


Originally from Senegal, Boucar Diouf promises to get audiences into the Christmas spirit in a combined performance with The Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Presenting a bill of storytelling, poetry, symphonic works and traditional Quebecois music, this notable event will combine different cultural traditions to create a captivating and unforgettable night. For more information click here.

Give or receive the gift of live theatre with the National Arts Centre's interpretation of a beloved Christmas Story - Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol.

The classic tale of redemption, set in Victorian London, has been adapted by award-winning director Jillian Keiley. To make this version especially iconic, she has built the play to showcase the talents of many of Canada's best performers in theatre, music and dance. For more information click here.

Known as "Hollywood North," Vancouver is the hometown of many well-known artists and performers such as Ryan Reynolds, Seth Rogan, and Matthew Good.

With the inspiring surroundings of gorgeous snow-covered mountain ranges, what could be a better time than now to catch a special performance by Vancouver's own Symphony Orchestra? Featuring Christmas classics like "O Holy Night," and "Ave Maria," the orchestra will be joined by the University of British Columbia's Opera Ensemble in a performance that is sure to thrill and warm hearts throughout the season. For more information here.

Caitlin Leonard, a Contributing Writer for ZEALnyc is based in Canada and writes frequently on arts, culture and lifestyle related topics.

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