Blog by Chloe Cartwright, BSW, RSW, ABR

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With the Christmas festivities fast approaching you might be interested to know that the Canadians celebrate with style.  From street parties to lights that can be seen from space.  Calgary has plenty to offer those that enjoy Christmas for all it’s worth.

It starts to get cold from October onwards so Christmas lights begin to appear just after Halloween (nobody wants be up a ladder when the arctic conditions set in!).  Some people will even go so far as to switch them on as well.  Christmas trees often go up in mid-November and don’t come down until the end of January in some instances!

And you only have to read the local newspapers to see what is happening all around in the lead up to Christmas.  There is plenty going on but way too much to list here. So these are just a few that help our family get into the Christmas spirit and hopefully whet your appetite.

The highlight for us, every year, is the Cochrane Light Up.  Around mid-November, as the name suggests, the Town’s Christmas lights are switched on.  Fire-pits adorn the street; along with Edwardian Christmas Carollers singing festive songs; and free hot-dogs and hot chocolate are given out to the thousands of revellers that show each and every year.  Santa makes an appearance for the children and there are crafts available to keep them occupied.  Most years it is way, way below zero but that doesn’t seem to stop the families that turn up and enjoy, in our opinion, one of the best events on the Town’s calendar.

Calgary Zoo also offers a spectacular light display.  With over 1,000,000 bulbs, it really is a sight to see.  Fire-pits are dotted around to warm up cold toes and fingers.  There are games for the children, with giant fake ice-blocks to make igloos; giant footballs and much more.  I can’t promise you will see many animals because the Zoo Lights only open in the evening but that really doesn’t matter when you see what else there is available.  With a live connection to Santa, the kiddies can also enjoy a quick chat with the big guy, all of which is recorded and accessible online so that grandma and grandpa can watch over and over.

There is a Santa Claus Parade in Banff and what better place to watch the jolly fellow waving and enchanting the kiddies (and adults if I’m honest here!), with the Christmas lights glistening in the winter snow.  Another display that the youngsters are sure to enjoy is the Airdrie Festival of Lights which runs for the whole month of December.  With camel rides, a little train to take you round the park, heated tents with various activities and of course, the obligatory Saint Nick.

A newer tradition in Calgary, is the Theatre Calgary production of the Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol”.  For the past twenty five years families have enjoyed this continually updated show at the Epcor Centre.  Locally, there are shows too, with theatre groups treating everyone to a very English tradition indeed, the pantomime!  Oh no they don’t!  Oh yes they do!

Heritage Park offers a look at Christmas past with it’s annual “Once Upon a Christmas” theme.  Santa makes an appearance, the old style shops open for some Christmas shopping and there are Christmas party games to keep the crowds warm and happy.

Another personal favourite of mine is the Christmas Train.  Operated by Canadian Pacific Railway, it chugs right the way across Canada stopping at small towns as well as major cities. The goal of the Holiday Train is to collect food and money for local food banks and to raise awareness in the fight against hunger.  At each event, the Holiday Train, decorated like a mobile Christmas tree, provides a box car stage and a merry band of elves normally rock the town with a few musical numbers whilst Santa visits the children dishing out candy canes . The community, in turn, is encouraged to donate food and funds, all of which stays in the area.  Everyone is a winner in my eyes at this event!

Now of course, there is lots more going on.  These are just a few of our picks.  But nobody can deny that it all contributes to a wonderful Christmas and really gets you in the mood!

Written by: Fran, November 2011 

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