When I was a kid in France, Christmas cheer spread through outdoor Christmas markets, seasonal decorations and lights throughout the city and department stores’ animated window displays (the most famous one being the Galeries Lafayette display in Paris and other French cities). Strings of holiday lights were typically hung across major pedestrian streets in shopping areas or historical centers, casting a warm glow over the wet pavement.
In Canada, streets are wider and weather conditions aren’t as mild as in Europe. As a result, Christmas lights tend to adorn lampposts and trees and since there is less foot traffic and people strolling outside, stores don’t put up elaborated displays. Most of the Christmas “magic” happens indoors, in malls, or in the many front yards of suburbia, where the same people who go overboard for Halloween go completely crazy for Christmas. For example, people outline their house with weatherproof Christmas lights and display “light sculptures”, Christmas-themed wireframe metalwork pieces.
On a mild Friday night, after picking Mark up from daycare and promising him that yes, he will get his daily Advent Calendar chocolate later stop-freaking-out-about-it, we drove to downtown to see how the national capital was doing around Christmas.
There were more lights in the trees than I remembered from the previous years, especially around the Parliament, Sparks Street and the Rideau Canal. The Byward Market was quiet and pretty dark, and the Rideau Center didn’t have any major “oh wow!” display. Santa was gone for the day, and his elves, three twenty-something girls dressed in mini-skirts, were just taking selfies around the display. Château Laurier was a worthwhile stop, though, with the Trees of Hope for CHEO—a tree decoration competition in support of a charity.
You can see the pictures of Winter in Ottawa on Flickr.