December can be a pricey month, what with all the gift-buying, celebratory dinners and holiday parties. Yet in Montreal there are still plenty of ways to avoid the cash drain – and not all of them involve being outside, though cross-country skiers and skaters take note: we’ve got what you need too. Art abounds at craft and artisanal fairs, outdoors and indoors, and in the sky during weekly fireworks events, and public spaces around town filled with people, music and dance performances, and even a parade or two…
(bright lights) Fireworks aren’t just the purvey of summertime here in Montreal – this month’s Telus Fire on Ice fireworks events are like an intense pyrotechnical substitute for daylight, brightening the sky and reflecting off the St-Lawrence River at the Quays of the Old Port every weekend in December (and one in January). Ooh, aah. Not only that, but on Bonsecours Island see fire dancing shows before the fireworks start and an ice sculptor at work on December 24 and 31. For even more entertainment at the Quays, stick around for music, art and more at the Old Montreal Extravaganza, December 9–31.
(the plateau lights up) Go beyond the usual tourist fare and and check out the 7th edition of Noël sur l’Avenue happening all month long, all along Mont-Royal Avenue in the Plateau neighborhood – a great location for restaurant-going and people watching. Activities include a Christmas Torchlight Parade, fireworks, music and creative activities for the whole family, including activities at Park Lafontaine and the Maison de la culture Plateau-Mont-Royal (465 Mont-Royal East).
(crafty idea gathering) Even if you’re not in the mood to buy, arts and craft fairs can be a boon for the imagination and a creative, social way to pass some time and see what local artists, artisans, designers and food-makers have in store this year. In Old Montreal, the massive Salon des Métiers d’Art is entertaining just to walk around, December 2–22 at Place Bonaventure. Minimal and modern, hip and sleek are on hand at Souk at SAT, Dec 9–10, at the SAT (1201 St-Laurent) and the Holiday Puces Pop Craft and DIY Fair brings together 85 vendors of handmade art, craft and design, from jewellery to socks, toys to posters and preserves, December 10–11, at St-Enfant Jesus Church (5035 St-Dominique).
(dance together) Sundays are active at the Bal du Dimanche at Place des Arts, a free learn-to-dance event that happens every month – this month, learn traditional Quebecois dances taught by dancer-choreographer Chantal Dauphinais. Whether you’ve danced before or not, it doesn’t matter – Bal du Dimanche is all about having fun, plus enthusiastic live band, RéVeillons, keeps the mood upbeat too, December 4, 2–4:30pm. In the same space on December 22, live music event Rendez-vous des rythmes du monde, brings sounds from far and wide, at 5 and 6:30pm.
(sing a song) Brush up on your Christmas carols and sing along with strangers (it’s a good feeling, really and truly) for the CBC Christmas Sing-In, December 4 at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, doors open at 2pm. For those who would rather listen than sing, Les Choralies de la Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours present seven choirs that sing a diversity of Christmas music, traditional and contemporary, sacred and secular, old and new, at Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel (400 St-Paul E.), at 1:30 and 3 p.m. on weekends in December.
(child’s play) The McCord Museums’ Toys 2 exhibition is a mini-playground in a museum setting – and entry is free. The toys on display are both old and new, with the old serving as inspiration for the completely hands-on new: an igloo made of pillows lights up from the inside, at the McCord Museum. Kids can run free in the enclosed Christmas-themed park at the corner of St-Laurent and St-Joseph, where sing-alongs and other entertainment go on until Christmas – and, if you’re missing the Christmas-tree scent of pine or fir, it’s a good place to pick up a bough (or a whole tree, if so inclined).
(art happenings) During these days when the sun sets before 5, outdoor art that lights up the town makes a lot of sense. The University of Quebec a Montreal has become adept at lighting up building walls in its section of the Quartiers des Spectacles. See the light indoors at the MMFA’s Big Bang exhibition, a free, multidisciplinary, multi-artist show that runs throughout December and January. Big Bang sees 20 artists and other creative minds (such as filmmaker Denys Arcand, fashion designer Renata Morales, graffiti collective En Masse, and dancer-choreographer Marie Choinard) take inspiration from different works in the museum’s collection. And the MACM’s Quebec Triennial is a wide-ranging overview of recent and celebrated contemporary art – and every Wednesday evening, entry is free!
(self-made sound) If you’re looking for something a little different on Boxing Day this year, Le Placard Headphones Festival is definitely not your same-old same-old. Starting at 4 p.m. on December 26 and happening during the evenings on December 27 and 28, the free, international, DIY entertainment event invites everyone to play a song, whether it’s punk or a lullaby, show a video or film, or just hang out and see what transpires…
(skate on, skaters) Winter weather can seem downright balmy when you’re skating or cross-country skiing – bring your skates or skis to Montreal and keep that heat alive on the cross-country ski trails of Mount Royal Park or along the Lachine Canal. The Parc LaFontaine outdoor skate rink in the heart of the Plateau neighborhood is close to cafes and bars for after-exercise warming up. And, while it’s only technically free to kids under 6, ice skating at the Quays of the Old Port in Old Montreal on the St-Lawrence River is worth the $6 ($15 for a family) – bring your own skates or rent them on site, with special events like mid-day skate-alongs with Disney mascots, evening and ballroom matinee skates to music of the world.