I was about nine years old when I saw my first ballet – The Nutcracker. What little girl doesn’t dance around in her PJs and dream of being Clara? (Although, personally, at that age I was more interested in leaping around in a tutu than hanging out with any Toy Soldier.) Thus began a love affair for classical dance that never really faded, even after a very discouraging Ballet For Adults class. Some things, I’ve discovered, you just have to start at a young – and pliable – age.
As is the case in many cities, every December Montreal’s Les Grands Ballets Canadiens performs Tchaikovsky’s beloved classic at Salle Wilfred Laurier. What’s new this year is that the company will hold their first ever Christmas fundraiser. The 11-day event will feature 71 merchants, all of whom will donate 10 percent of sales toward the production of the Nutcracker and the Nutcracker Fund for Children – an organization that treats around 1,800 kids from less affluent homes to enjoy an afternoon of traditional dance.
Dubbed The Nutcracker Market, the event will follow the tradition of other European Christmas markets with the sale of holiday decorations, chocolates and toys, as well as lots of other yummy foods, chic designer clothes, beauty products in pretty packaging, and home décor goodies.
There are two little gifts to note. The first is the special edition Clara fragrance, $45, by local perfumer Claude André Hébert. Hébert, whom has worked with big time perfume houses including Thierry Mugler, was inspired by Clara, the Nutcracker star herself, to create this scent especially for little girls. (Twenty percent of profits from “Clara” will go to Nutcracker Fund for Children.)
The second gift of choice is that by Montreal fashion icon Marie Saint Pierre who designed the very chic “Dream” handbags, $190. There’s a matching clutch and wrist cuff, $89, as well as extra charms (in chain or pearl), $34.
Finally, because there’s nothing more thrilling than a shopper with a mission, I’ve highlighted a few choice vendors below to help you navigate through the stalls.
There will be lots of chocolates, jams, shortbread cookies, teas and macarons; you might not be able to resist opening a box for yourself. Don’t miss the haute chocolates from Le Maître Chocolatier, a darling boutique on Sherbrooke Street West.
HOME AND DECOR
There will be lots of great ideas here for stocking-suffers, hostess gifts, etc. Pick up holiday decorations by Gian Rocco, therapeutic pillows disguised in pretty textiles by Les Créations Mayukori, eco-chic laundry soaps by The Laundress, linens and such from South of France specialist Un Détour en Provence, as well as furniture and home accessories from Un Point C’est Tout.
Besides his new Clara scent, Claude André Hébert will be selling his signature dozen: six for him, six for her. Other luxe body brands include Kiehl’s Since 1851, Izzi, and Olive Authentique.
Make your own bear at Univers Toutou, and then head to La Boutique de Mikaï for Quebec-made toys designed especially for babies and toddlers.
P.S. While you’re in the Nutcracker spirit, don’t forget to pick up the best gift of all – tickets to the Nutcracker itself. If this yearly event is not yet one of your holiday traditions, well, this is one thing that’s never too late to start.
Montreal Convention Centre
Palais des congrès de Montréal
1001 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle
Métro Station: Place-d’Armes
Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010 to Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010.
Monday to Wednesday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thursday and Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
$3 Students and Seniors (free, Mon. to Thurs., 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.)
Free Children under 12 years old