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The Nutcracker

‘Tis the season

By Trevor J. Adams

Parades, live theatre, concerts galore and more—Halifax is abuzz with Christmas magic.

November and December are lively months in Halifax, with dozens of special events to celebrate the holiday season. Read on for our favourites. With an exciting mix of traditional classics and new events, there’s plenty here for the whole family.


Holiday Parade of Lights. Photo: Will Roberts

Holiday Parade of Lights. Photo: Will Roberts

The Holiday Parade of Lights on November 21 marks the unofficial start of the holiday season in Halifax, as some 100,000 spectators line downtown streets to see dozens of floats and musical acts. Also on November 21,

Halifax Citadel National Historic Site hosts its annual Victorian Christmas, sharing Christmas traditions dating back to colonial days. The event continues on November 22.

Victorian Christmas at Halifax Citadel. Photo: Parks Canada

Victorian Christmas at Halifax Citadel. Photo: Parks Canada

Back downtown on November 28, Grand Parade square in front of Halifax City Hall hosts the city’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting, a family-friendly celebration with live entertainment and a visit from Santa. The party moves across the harbour the next weekend, as the park at Sullivan’s Pond hosts the Dartmouth Christmas Tree Lighting on December 5, where the highlights include the Santa Claus Express Train and fireworks.


Back for its 38th year, Christmas at the Forum is one of Canada’s largest annual indoor markets of its type, with some 450 vendors offering art, gifts, antiques, and food. The Halifax Forum on Windsor Street hosts on November 6 to 8.


Alexander Weimann

Alexander Weimann joins Symphony Nova Scotia for Handel’s Messiah

Symphony Nova Scotia offers holiday concerts galore, with Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on November 28 and 29, The Nutcracker (presented with Mermaid Theatre and Halifax Dance) on December 4 to 13, and Handel’s Messiah on December 18 and 19.

A King’s Christmas is back on December 13. A special guest narrator joins the King’s College Chapel Choir at All Saint’s Cathedral on Martello Street for seasonal songs and stories. Paul Halley directs.

The holidays get a Celtic twist on December 20, as the Barra MacNeils perform A Cape Breton Christmas at the Dalhousie Arts Centre.

Barra MacNeils

Barra MacNeils


Beloved humourist and storyteller Stuart McLean brings his Vinyl Café Christmas Show to the Scotiabank Centre on Duke Street on November 20. December sees the return of a popular holiday-themed comedy event on December 11 and 12. The annual Ha Ha Halidays event comes to the World Trade and Convention Centre on December 11 and 12, with a lineup that includes Australian funny guy Jim Dailakis and Newfoundlander John Sheehan.


Neptune Theatre’s long-awaited holiday production begins on November 28. A Year With Frog and Toad brings Arnold Lobel’s character to the stage in a Tony-nominated musical. The holiday pantomime at Theatre Arts Guild is another seasonal mainstay. It’s always a lively, rollicking show with lots of audience participation. This year, The Emperor’s New Clothes runs from November 26 to December 12.


Calgary Christmas Entertainment for the Whole Family


Theatre Calgary’s staging of A Christmas Carol. Photo: Trudie Lee, courtesy Theatre Calgary.

Once Upon a Christmas
Weekends, Nov 23 – Dec 22
Christmas past is alive and well and perfectly enchanting at Heritage Park Historical Village. Go for a wagon ride, take in live historical theatre, sing holiday carols and pay a visit to jolly old Saint Nick. Three of the park’s historic homes open their doors to share the Yuletide traditions of Alberta’s pioneers. Admission, $8 adult, $6 child (does not include access to Gasoline Alley. Combined admission price for Once Upon a Christmas and Gasoline alley, $11 adult, $9 child, $5.75 senior).

•Heritage Park Historical Village, 1900 Heritage Dr SW, 403-268-8500.
•Maps and Reviews

[RELATED: Winter Activities For The Whole Family at Heritage Park]

A Christmas Carol
Until Dec 24

Charles Dickens’s beloved story of greed, redemption and the spirit of generosity is told in Theatre Calgary’s annual production of A Christmas Carol. The second year for director Dennis Garnhum’s revamped production marks the 20th year Stephen Hair, Calgary’s favourite Ebenezer Scrooge, has played the role of the miserly Christmas curmudgeon. Tickets $35 – $155.50. (more…)

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for December 7 to 9

Friday, December 7

Leonard Cohen returns to Ottawa, performing at Scotiabank Place in support of this latest album Old Ideas.

Renowned singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen returns to Ottawa this weekend, performing at Scotiabank Place. Presented by CBCMusic.ca, the show will honour Cohen’s 12th studio album, Old Ideas, which recently debuted at No. 1. Known for his poetic lyricism and baritone vocals, Cohen is an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the recipient of a 2010 Grammy for lifetime achievement. Don’t miss your chance to experience one of Canada’s musical greats.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas here in the nation’s capital: holiday tunes on the radio, festive décor in the shops. We even had some snow, albeit briefly. But the city will be stepping things up a notch this week as Confederation Boulevard is lit by roughly 300,000 lights. National museums, monuments, embassies and more will remain illuminated until Jan. 7. Come celebrate the Christmas season in style!

The 25th Annual Contemporary Canadian Jewellery Exhibition kicks off at L.A. Pai Gallery this week. The longest-running show of its kind in the area, this year’s event will feature work from both new and established artists. Also debuting at the gallery will be work recently exhibited at the International Art Fair SOFA Chicago 2012.

Saturday, December 8

The Alberta Ballet presents The Nutcracker this weekend at the National Arts Centre.

It’s a tradition unlike any other. Holiday favourite The Nutcracker returns to the National Arts Centre for a spectacular five-night engagement, Dec. 5 to 9. Danced by the Alberta Ballet and set to Tchaikovsky’s classic score, this is a show you won’t want to miss.


Country music superstar Carrie Underwood graces the stage of Scotiabank Place. The American Idol winner (and wife of former Ottawa Senator Mike Fisher) is currently on tour promoting her latest album Blown Away. Underwood will be donating a portion of each ticket sold to support Red Cross disaster relief.

This weekend is your last chance to view November, a quirky political comedy now on stage at The Gladstone. Directed by John P. Kelly, the play is a no-holds barred take on the state of America and the lengths to which people will go to win. Please be warned: this performance is for adults only.

Sunday, December 9

The Story of Holly and Ivy – a great holiday production for the whole family.

Rag & Bone Puppet Theatre presents a holiday performance for the whole family. Based on the book by Rumer Godden, The Story of Holly and Ivy tells the tale of a doll who wishes for a child; a couple who wish for a daughter; and an orphan who wishes for a doll, a grandmother and a place to go for Christmas. On stage this Friday through Sunday at the Shenkman Arts Centre.

Today was set to be the final showing of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice at the National Arts Centre. However, with tickets in high demand, the NAC has arranged a handful of extra performances (a matinee and two evening showings) for early next week. Experience the courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in this classic tale of life, love, and the politics of marriage.

Love the holidays but hate the stress that comes along with big box-store shopping? The Museum of Civilization has the cure: Its annual Christmas Market returns this weekend with nearly 40 vendors! Mingle with local artisans, be wowed by the incredible assortment of homemade goodies, and, most importantly, cross a few names off your holiday shopping list.

Hot Entertainment: Vancouver Christmas Events

Dress Like Santa Day at Whistler Blackcomb. Photo by Emmanual Mendes Dos Santos courtesy www.coastphoto.com

Christmas Spirit

Don your best gear—your best Old Saint Nick gear, that is—and head to Whistler Blackcomb for the annual Dress Like Santa Day, when the first 50 folks outfitted like Mr. or Mrs. Claus can ski for free (Dec. 17). The jolly old elf always makes a grand West Coast entrance for Christmas in Steveston, arriving in a whale watching boat (Dec. 3 to 23). Winter Harp celebrates the season with a concert of harps and rare medieval instruments in St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church (Dec. 17). Goh Ballet brings to life Clara, the Mouse King and the rest of the beloved characters in Tchaikovsky’s Christmas classic The Nutcracker at The Centre (Dec. 15 to 18).—Sheri Radford

More information:

DRESS LIKE SANTA DAY Whistler Blackcomb. Toll-free 1-800-766-0449. www.whistler blackcomb.com

CHRISTMAS IN STEVESTON Toll-free 1-877-247-0777. www.tourismrichmond.com

WINTER HARP 7:30 pm. $37.25. St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, 1022 Nelson St. at Burrard. Tickets 604-684-2787. www.winterharp.com

THE NUTCRACKER BY GOH BALLET 7:30 pm. Matinees Sa-Su 2 pm. $28+. The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, 777 Homer St. Tickets 1-855-985-2787. www.goh ballet.com

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for December 2 to 4

Minor Empire plays the National Arts Centre on Dec. 3.

Friday, Dec. 2
If you’re looking for something different and interesting, come check out Minor Empire, a Toronto-based band composed of Turkish and Canadian musicians. The band will be performing music from their debut album Second Nature, which brings together traditional Turkish music and electro-jazz. Minor Empire has received rave reviews and performed at the Sunfest World Music Festival and the Markham Jazz Festival. Catch them this Friday night, along with special guest Jane Bunnett.

The magic of The Nutcracker is coming to life this weekend at the National Arts Centre. The Pennsylvania Ballet will be performing the iconic show in the George Balanchine style, where children play the lead roles (with no allusion to romance between them) and the costumes and set design are gloriously rich. This holiday classic is sure to melt your heart and get you in the Christmas spirit. Show runs Thursday through Sunday with matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

Canadian choral music will be at its finest this weekend at Coro Vivo Ottawa’s concert,”Northern Lights.” This large, vibrant choir will celebrate the uniqueness of Canadian choral compositions by showcasing some of the finest. Among them are Eleanor Daly’s arrangement of the “Huron Carol” and Mark Sirett’s “Dormi Jesu.” If you’re a choir music aficionado, or just looking to enjoy some fine music for an evening, this concert is sure to please. Concerts on both Friday and Saturday.

Saturday, Dec. 3
It’s back! Head out to 101 Frames, the annual fundraising auction where people can bid on fascinating, one-of-a-kind artwork at Gallery 101. This is the fourth year with the theme “the seven deadly sins.” In past years, eager art-goers were able to see artists’ interpretations of wrath, pride, and lust — and now’s it’s gluttony’s turn. After the auction, people get to indulge in a groovy dance party and live entertainment. Gluttony never looked so good! (more…)

Hot Date: Classics of the Ballet

The National Ballet's beloved production of The Nutcracker (photo by Bruce Zinger)

The National Ballet of Canada celebrates its 60th anniversary season with a fresh version of Romeo and Juliet (November 16 to 27). Internationally celebrated choreographer Alexi Ratmansky blends the story’s timeless elegance with a modern emotional edge to create an unforgettable dance drama. Then, seasonal favourite The Nutcracker (December 10 to 31) takes centre stage with dazzling stagecraft, expert choreography and enchanting design. Tchaikovsky’s glorious music underscores the entire production. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, $25 to $234; call 416-345-9595 or visit here for showtimes and to purchase.

Hot Shows for the Holidays

The holiday hoopla is beginning to reach fever pitch in Toronto. In the lead-up to December 25, the city offers numerous seasonal shows that are sure to enthrall the whole family.

The National Ballet's Nutcracker

DECEMBER 6 TO DECEMBER 30 A classic tale is told in Soulpepper Theatre’s lauded staging of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. The troupe’s adaptation is noted for its reverence to Dickens’ original prose, as well as strong performances by a stellar cast, including Joseph Ziegler as the tormented Ebenezer Scrooge. Performed in the round, this is a holiday treat for the traditional theatre lover.

DECEMBER 11 TO JANUARY 2 The Four Seasons Centre is transformed into a magical kingdom in the National Ballet of Canada’s annual production of The Nutcracker. Choreographer James Kudelka’s reworking of this classic story is an elegant take on Misha and Marie’s journey through a fairy tale land of sugar plum fairies and toy soldiers. Watching the ballerinas float across the stage in perfect coordination with Tchaikovsky’s memorable score is a delight that is sure to transport you into the blissful land of sweets and snow.

Classical music doesn’t get much more joyous than this! The renowned Toronto Symphony Orchestra offers a stirring rendition of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah at Roy Thomson Hall. Featuring more than 60 instruments and accompanied by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, this is a performance on the grandest possible scale. If you can’t help but join in the music-making, the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir invites you to Massey Hall for its Sing-Along Messiah, a holiday tradition spanning a quarter-century. It’s a truly moving experience to be part of the hundreds of voices singing this immortal oratorio. (Tafelmusik also offers four traditional Messiah concerts at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre.)

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

DECEMBER 17 TO JANUARY 2 Dr. Seuss’s world of whimsy comes to life at the Sony Centre in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. This acclaimed Broadway production is true to the author’s original story and illustrations, remaking the stage as an animated Whoville. Though the Grinch may start the show with a heart “three sizes too small,” he soon comes to learn the true meaning of Christmas.

NOVEMBER 25 TO JANUARY 2 Popular producer Ross Petty brings his brand of zany enchantment to the Elgin Theatre in the form of Beauty and the Beast: The Savagely Silly Family Musical. Featuring stars of stage and screen, this is a unique, contemporary theatre experience for kids and families, with many laughs to be had as the characters guide you through a classic tale with a comedic twist.

DECEMBER 25 TO JANUARY 2 Disney on Ice dazzles Rogers Centre spectators with Mickey and Minnie’s Magical Journey. See the beloved cartoon mice as they dive under the sea with The Little Mermaid, venture into Africa with The Lion King, fly through the skies with Peter Pan and hula dance with Lilo & Stitch. This round-the-world journey makes a great gift for both kids and parents.

The 12 Gifts of Christmas

By Jennifer Patterson

On the first day of Christmas my uncle gave to me a bevvy to toast the season: one bottle of Blasted Church’s Hatfield’s Fuse (at liquor stores).


On the second day of Christmas my father gave to me two made-to-order gifts: including the whisky cave from the newly renovated two-level Louis Vuitton.


On the third day of Christmas my sister gave to me a festive holiday outfit: a red three-piece ensemble from La Vie En Rose.


On the fourth day of Christmas my brother gave to me four event tickets: a pair to The Nutcracker and a pair to a Vancouver Canucks game.

FOUR (Photo by Chictype copyright IStock)

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five golden rings from Tiffany & Co.


On the sixth day of Christmas my mother gave to me art from all six of these First Nations galleries: Douglas Reynolds, Inuit Gallery, Hill’s Native Art, Bill Reid, Spirit Wrestler and Coastal Peoples.

SIX (Photo courtesy Bill Reid Gallery)

On the seventh day of Christmas my cousin gave to me seven treats from Chanel: the seven-piece holiday collection with four eye shadows, a nail polish, lip gloss and blush (available at Murale).


On the eighth day of Christmas my grandmother gave to me a little help in the kitchen with eight local cookbooks: Vij’s at Home, Vancouver Cooks 2, Blue Water Cafe, West, Araxi, Simply Bishop’s, C Food and Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill (at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks).


On the ninth day of Christmas my kids gave to me a reminder of yesteryear: a nine-piece wooden lotus flower puzzle from Dilly Dally Kids.


On the tenth day of Christmas my boss gave to me no excuse to be late for a meeting ever again: 10 timepieces by Ice-Watch (at Zoë Boutiques).


On the eleventh day of Christmas my aunt gave to me a little make-up guidance: the 11-piece Lash Stash kit from Sephora.


And on the twelfth day of Christmas my best friend gave to me 12 misfits: too-cute-for-words felt dolls by Usus, at the One of a Kind Show and Sale (Dec. 9 to 12).


December Hot Date: The Nutcracker

Tchaikovsky's classic The Nutcracker

Tchaikovsky's classic The Nutcracker. Photo by David Cooper

See Clara, the Sugar Plum Fairy and all the other memorable characters in this beloved Christmas story, danced by The Goh Ballet at The Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts (Dec. 17 to 20).—Sheri Radford