Get into the holiday spirit with these yuletide events around Calgary
By Laura Pellerine
If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Christmas, Calgary is brimming with events to take in—from old Ebenezer’s spiritual transition on stage, to metal guitar players rocking out to “Carol of the Bells.”
Day 1: Nov 18
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Get into the spirit early with this band’s fresh take on traditional Christmas songs. Combining rock, metal, R&B and classical music to create a unique sound, the orchestra is known for its original compositions, as well as reinventions of holiday classics like “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”: a medley of “Carol of the Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” During the show, you can expect to see pyrotechnics, exceptional vocal performances and long-haired guitar players headbanging to Christmas tunes. At the Saddledome, tickets $25 – $57.50, call Ticketmaster, 403-777-0000.
Day 2: Nov 22
Christmas All Through the House at Lougheed House
This National Historic Site was built in 1891 as the former home of Senator James and Isabella Lougheed. For the holidays, individual rooms get transformed into historical recreations of Christmas throughout the decades. After wandering through the rooms to the sound of carollers, visitors can have an antique photo taken with a Victorian St. Nicholas, or head outdoors for a sleigh ride around the grounds. Nov 18 – 22, tickets $10 – $15 at door, 707 – 13 Ave SW.
Day 3: Nov 28
Alberta Theatre Projects’ Toad of Toad Hall
Alberta Theatre Projects celebrates the holidays by offering a family themed show—in past years they’ve put on Robin Hood and Peter Pan. This year they’ve chosen Toad of Toad Hall, an adaptation by Philip Goulding from Kenneth Grahame’s popular children’s book The Wind in the Willows. The story follows the rich, but reckless, Mr. Toad as he runs from the law, while his friends Ratty, Badger and Mole are left behind to fight off the nasty Weasels. At the Epcor Centre, Nov 25 – Dec 27, tickets $25 – $51, call 403-294-7402.
Day 4: Dec 2
Christmas by Lamplight at Heritage Park
For a true old-fashioned Christmas experience head to Heritage Park. Their Christmas by Lamplight evening includes a three-course traditional turkey dinner in the Wainwright Hotel where you are greeted by costumed carollers as you enter the lobby. Afterwards, you can join in the carol singing at St. Martin’s Church and then hop onto a horse-drawn wagon for a cozy ride around the park. During the day, their Once Upon a Christmas event runs on weekends in November and December, and offers a similar experience with carollers and wagon rides, but also includes roaming theatre performances, a visit from Santa and a chance to wander through traditionally decorated historical homes. Christmas by Lamplight: Dec 2, 9, $39.95 (adults), for tickets call 403-268-8500; Once Upon a Christmas: Sat and Sun, Nov 21 – Dec 20, tickets $5 – $7.50.
Day 5: Dec 3
A Vinyl Café Christmas with Stuart McLean
It’s becoming a uniquely Canadian Christmas tradition to hear CBC’s master storyteller and best-selling author Stuart McLean tell stories of his beloved character Dave’s comedic attempts at cooking a turkey. After premiering in 1994, McLean’s often quirky and moving radio show, “The Vinyl Café,” draws 800,000 listeners each week. On this year’s A Vinyl Café Christmas Tour, expect to hear two new Dave & Morley stories, a few old favourites, and songs from Canadian musicians. At the Jubilee Auditorium Dec 3, 4, tickets $44.50 – $50, call Ticketmaster, 403-777-0000.
Day 6: Dec 5
Christmas with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
At the CPO’s Handel’s Messiah, a classic piece of music (which you may recognize from its “Hallelujah!” refrain), is performed with soloists as well as the CPO chorus. At key points in the oratorio the audience is invited to sing along and rise to their feet, a custom started by King George II. Things get a little sillier at the Sing-Along Messiah, where a costumed “George Frederic Handel” conducts a complete orchestral accompaniment. With beautiful music, comical stage antics and audience participation, this will be a fun afternoon for the whole family. At the Epcor Centre, Handel’s Messiah: Dec 4, 5, $19 – $85; Sing-Along Messiah: Dec 6, $19, call 403-571-0849.
Day 7: Dec 9
Deane House Murder Mystery Theatre
Exercise your holiday sense of humour with these two murder mystery shows. Fit for Death is a story of how overweight elves get put on a fitness routine and are worked out—“to death.” Meanwhile, in It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like … Murder, when Santa gets run over by a reindeer, camaraderie between the elves becomes ugly as they jockey over who gets to take Santa’s place. Fit: Nov 13, 14, 25 – 28, Dec 9 – 13; Beginning: Nov 19 – 22, Dec 2 – 6, 16 – 20. Tickets are $75 and include a four-course meal at the historic Deane House Restaurant, call 403-269-7747.
Day 8: Dec 12
Once the sun goes down, the Calgary Zoo gets transformed into one of Western Canada’s largest light displays with over 1.5 million lights in the shapes of zoo animals, holiday icons and even the Calgary Flames symbol. Kids can chat live with Santa Claus in the North Pole with “SantaVision,” or head over to specially designed plays areas like Snowball Alley and Snigloo, where they can make their own igloo. Be prepared to bundle up—it usually is cold, though you can warm up next to their on-site fire pits and sip hot chocolate. Nov 27 – Jan 3, 2010, $8 adults, $5 kids.
Day 9: Dec 18
Christmas in Wales at Rosebud Dinner Theatre
If you don’t mind the hour-and-a-half drive, head to Rosebud Theatre, situated in the hamlet of Rosebud in the middle of the prairies, and it will feel like you’ve stepped back to a simpler time. Their holiday show is Christmas in Wales—a tale of one adult’s reveries of an old-fashioned holiday celebration, complete with Welsh carols, snowball fights and family. Dinner is served buffet-style in the Mercantile Room, located a short walk along a dirt road from the theatre. For a more traditional feel, try to get a dinner spot at the Rosebud Country Inn, adorned with old-fashioned decorations. Here, they serve a turkey dinner with all the fixings: mashed potatoes, cranberries, plum pudding and carols from wandering musicians. Nov 6 – Dec 23, tickets $27 – $62.50, call 1-800-267-7553.
Day 10: Dec 22
Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Going to see Clara fight off the evil rat king in The Nutcracker has been a North American Christmas tradition since it was first performed by San Francisco Ballet in 1944. Alberta Ballet’s current production will mark the second year of the Edmund Stripe’s newly choreographed version. It toured last year around the world to sold-out audiences, and this year promises to be just as enchanting with beautiful hand-worked costumes and sets designed by the Emmy Award-winning Zack Brown. At the Jubilee Auditorium, Dec 18 – 26, tickets $27 – $106, call 403-245-4549.
Day 11: Dec 24
Theatre Calgary’s A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens’ classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transition from a selfish miser to a humble do-gooder is brought to life by Theatre Calgary. The Broadway-sized set, period costumes and huge musical score help add a feeling of magic to the show. And perhaps best of all, Scrooge is played by Stephen Hair, a local award-winning actor, who has donned Scrooge’s top hat for 16 years. At the Epcor Centre, Nov 20 – Dec 27, tickets $32 – $75, call 403-294-7440.
Day 12: Dec 25
Skating at Bowness Lagoon
This quiet lagoon is set inside a 30-hectare river valley park in the heart of the northwest. Surrounded by snow-trimmed evergreens, this pond is a loop with bridges you can skate under. If you get cold, there’s usually a crackling fire pit on the ice. 8900 – 48 Ave NW, 403-268-2300, (or 311 in Calgary area).