The festive season lightens spirits and brightens the city throughout December, giving us all the gift of illuminating outdoor entertainment and activities, world-class theatre, dance and classical music, fun family events, and creative ways to shop.
(outdoor merry making) For the fourth year in a row, the city lights up downtown with the art of Luminothérapie, December 11 to February 2 in the Quartier des Spectacles: this year’s designers build a metaphorical wheat field of light, called Entre Les Rangs, perfect for walking through at night, and illuminate building facades with a series of projections called Trouve Bob. Merry Montreal turns the heat up in Old Montreal throughout December: see performances in the streets, take walking tours, step inside giant wrapped presents and more. The Olympic Park Esplanade keeps us on our toes with winter activities, skating and interactive performances, and fills our bellies on First Saturdays, when the city’s gourmet food trucks set up shop. Meanwhile, over on Mont-Royal Avenue, listen to music, sample local chocolates and follow a candle-lit parade during Noël sur l’Avenue, December 7-31. Ice skate to musical accompaniment during the day or night at the Old Port, from classical Mondays to Urban Sounds Wednesdays to French Music Sundays – and every Saturday night watch the Telus Fire on Ice fireworks. And for more extreme winter sports, the slope of St-Denis Street between Sherbrooke and Ontario turns into a ski and snowboard competition zone during Shack Attack, December 6-7.
(music & dancing) The holiday season wouldn’t feel right without Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal beautiful adaptation of The Nutcracker, created for over 100 dancers by Quebec choreographer Fernand Nault in 1964 – see the ballet December 12-30 at Place des Arts, where the hallways and exhibition rooms sparkle with the ballet’s magic in celebration of Place des Arts’s 50th anniversary. Adding more spectacle to the bright and colourful season: Cirque du Soleil show Verekai, starting December 20 at the Bell Centre. Centaur Theatre’s Urban Tales shares hilarious and touching stories of Christmas in the city, December 5,7 and 12-14. Sublime voices unite as Montreal Symphony Orchestra conductor Ken Nagano leads soloists and the OSM chorus in Bach’s Mass in B Minor, part of the Montreal Bach Festival, December 6-7, while on December 10, Bruno Pelletier sings Christmas songs with the orchestra, and on December 11, Edward Gardner conducts Tchaikovsky’s Winter Dreams and Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Old Montreal’s picturesque Notre Dame Basilica hosts choirs and sing-alongs throughout December. And the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts not only gives tours of Venice in artistic form, but presents a series of free Christmas concerts on Saturday afternoons alongside the museum’s annual Christmas tree exhibition, featuring dozens of creatively decorated trees. And look no further than the circus to find hope in humanity: acclaimed circus troupe 7 Doigts de la Main performs the acrobatic, musical and breathtaking Traces, December 17-31 at La Tohu.
(festive family) The Montréal Space for Life invites everyone of all ages on an adventure through the tropical forests and arctic enclaves of the Biodôme (now with a new video feature by Moment Factory and a well-stocked gift shop), look into deep space at the new Planetarium’s two multimedia shows, and celebrate wintery plant life at the Botanical Garden’s greenhouses, also host to a Christmas craft fair December 6-8 and 13-15. Celebrate the holidays in the company of bears, wolves, eagles, otters and more wild creatures at the Montreal Ecomuseum, where friendly zookeepers transform into elves from December 20 to January 5. History museum Pointe-à-Callière asks the tough questions this season in exhibition Who Is the Real Santa Claus, featuring a tour of Christmas-themed archaeological tidbits and four different versions of Santa. Take a wintery walk through Parc Jean-Drapeau and visit the Biosphere’s environmental exhibitions on climate science and renewable energy and The Stewart Museum’s free holiday-themed The Santas Are Taking Over show, featuring handcrafted Santa figurines, games, short films from the National Film Board, hot chocolate and more. And Montreal children’s theatre company Geordie Productions presents holiday favourite, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, as its annual fundraiser – with Montreal lawyers, judges and business people playing all the parts – at the D.B. Clarke Theatre December 12-14.
(shop with joy) Go holiday shopping for one-of-a-kind gifts at Montreal’s famed artisanal and craft fairs, where designer clothing, jewelry, home decor, food and drink, and much more can be found. The massive Salon des Metiers d’Art, December 6-22 at Place Bonaventure, brings together all manner of professional Quebec artists and craftspeople, while the Marché Casse Noisette, also known as the Nutcracker Market, decks the halls of the Palais des Congrès convention centre hall with traditional and contemporary creations beginning November 28. Cutting-edge design fair Souk @ SAT celebrates its 10th year gathering local pro artists and designers in one downtown location, November 28 to December 1. Smart Design Mart impresses with urban creativity and style, December 6-8. And music festival Pop Montreal hosts its annual Holiday Puces Pop craft fair at a new home at Église St-Denis (5075 Rivard), featuring over 80 artists and their work, from jewelry to food items, December 13-15.
(luxury holiday) Unsurprisingly, the Ritz Carleton loads on the luxury during holiday season, but this year with a traditional twist, from roasted chestnuts in the lobby to mulled wine and treats on the terrace to special activities for kids. Enjoy the city’s best spas – like boat-turned-spa Bota Bota and Old Montreal’s Rainspa – for less through the Sweet Deal package. And get cozy while treating yourself to gourmet winter fare at the SAT Foodlab’s new Nordic Terrace, a softly-lit cushion-filled yurt high above the city streets.