I usually do my best to keep my head down as the holiday season approaches each year. I know some folks embrace the sudden wash of holiday decorations and music that flood the senses shortly after Halloween vanishes in the rear view mirror, but with a very small handful of exceptions, I’ve lately attempted to avert my gaze and ignore it all until mid-December.
For the second year in a row we made our way downtown to Sir Winston Churchill Square for the downtown business association‘s annual lighting of the holiday tree replete with an appearance by the red-suited jolly one himself. And where last year we froze our toes standing around waiting for Santa to arrive in the minus thirty chill, this year the mere slight chill, a gentle two degrees below zero, brought out the big crowds, livened up the evening and made the event much more tolerable.
Ok, more than tolerable. Pretty awesome, actually.
We parked under Canada Place and wandered over to the square shortly after four.
Claire quickly spied the gush of activity — the roving carollers, the balloon animal artists, the popcorn cart, and the furry mascots patrolling the crowds — and her eyes grew to the size of dinner plates as we ventured deeper into the flurry of people. She’d been anticipating this for a week, since I’d suggested we attend after I spied an advertisement a work one day.
The deal is this: Churchill Square, filled with family-friendly entertainment, food, fun, and pre-holiday cheer, all leading into the six o’clock debut of Santa (joined by some local teevee celebrities and the Mayor) on stage, counting down to the lighting of the massive tree that will adorn the space in front of City Hall for the rest of the holiday season. It’s all capped off by an impressive fireworks display.
Last year, Claire and I took the train downtown and joined a crowd about one-tenth as large to shiver our way through a cold-snap version of the tree-lighting.
This year, we meandered our way into the square, stopping to buy a family-sized back of kettle corn popcorn, slip-and-slide across the not-yet-iced but still slippery fountain bed in front of City Hall, then sitting for a short spell to people watch on the steps in front of the Council chambers while we nibbled at some of that aforementioned popcorn under the snowflake decorations hanging inside the iconic glass pyramid.
But Claire was eager to check out some of the entertainment, so it was only a few minutes later that we walked back towards the outdoor stage to watch a smattering of acts, including a choir and a cheer group before continuing our trek throughout the milling crowds.
My daughter being my daughter naturally got it into her head that she wanted hot chocolate.
This sounds like a simple enough proposition. But the same thought had occurred to a goodly portion of the present crowd, so not only were the vendors sold out of hot bevies, but the nearby Second Cup was lined up (literally) into the streets, a queue sixty people long, with little hope of drinks before the big show was to start.
Instead, we wandered over towards the mall and hit up the local Starbucks where the line was merely a half-dozen thirsty souls. I enjoyed my salted caramel hot chocolate as we wandered back to the square.
The evening ended with a heavier-than-I-remember daughter on my shoulders: the mayor was singing and dancing on stage as Santa arrived to count-down the lighting of the tree. The fireworks sprung in an impressive five minute show, and for the first time in my memory Claire did not recoil at the explosions of light and colour (she’s always kinda hated fireworks) instead squirmily announcing from my shoulders how cools they were and twisting my skull around like a screw-cap as she gloried in the fun.
She was positively giddy as we walked back to the car. A Saturday evening well spent…