And just like that, it’s December.
The season of short, cold days, wine by the fireplace, knit sweaters, and an excitement for what’s to come in the new year.
Between the countless holiday parties, stressful Christmas shopping, and overall busy schedules we tend to make for ourselves this time of year, the holiday season can often feel more like a chore than a time of joy and celebration. Consumed with these busy schedules, it’s easy to forget that the holidays are fast approaching until it’s too late. The saying “the days are long, but the years are short” is something that has been on my mind as of late, especially now that we find ourselves in December. It’s easy to spend the holidays on auto-pilot, but by doing so, we are missing out on what makes life in December so exciting. The holidays are the perfect time to reflect on this notion; to slow down, enjoy each moment, and spend time with our friends and family – the reason why we celebrate this time of year in the first place.
I have been lucky to have spent the holiday season in a variety of different countries and cultures, but nothing beats spending it at home in Toronto. There is something about window shopping through Yorkville during the first snowfall of the season, or waiting all year to see The Bay's Christmas windows - it's a nostalgia so synonymous with growing up in this beautiful city, and a feeling worth chasing every year. Between the endless Christmas markets and holiday festivals, events, and festive pop-up shops throughout the city, there is no shortage of holiday spirit in Toronto.
The Cavalcade of Lights is a Toronto tradition held annually in Nathan Phillips Square on the first weekend of December. This event marks the official kick-off to the holiday season with live music, ice skating, and a firework display above City Hall. There is something special about this shared experience that offers a great introduction to the holiday season – and some great photo opportunities for those so inclined. Be sure to arrive early as the fireworks draw in a huge crowd.
There is no doubt that December sees an emergence of pop-up shops and markets throughout Toronto. The One of a Kind Show, the Union Station Holiday Market, the Toronto Christmas Festival in Yonge-Dundas Square, and the Etsy Christmas Marketplace are great venues for finding unique and handmade gifts. These markets also provide a great alternative to typical mall shopping - which can feel a bit too chaotic this time of year.
The Toronto Christmas Market, a tried and true favourite, is one of the best holiday experiences in the city. Like many Torontonians, I have fond memories of meandering through the Distillery District, enjoying hot mulled wine, and exploring the many stalls offering local goods and treats – memories I look forward to reliving year after year. Head there during the evening to catch the historic district bathed in the glow of Christmas lights, or make a full day of this excursion on the weekend. My favourite thing to do is grab coffee from Balzac's, a croissant from Brick Bakery, and shop at the Dutch Products booth – a personal favourite where you can find delicious Dutch Christmas treats like stroopwafels and speculaas cookies. The Toronto Christmas Market is truly one of the most magical and romantic Christmas activities in the city.
Now that the holidays are upon us, it’s time make the most of what our city has to offer and slow down, relax, and enjoy. No matter where, how, or why we choose to celebrate this year, as long as it's spent well spent with our family and friends, it's bound to be a beautiful holiday.
Alana de Haan is a photographer and designer based in Toronto. She is a contributor to the Beringer Brunch Journal.