As I mentioned in my White Christmas blog entry last week, I have spent all but 3 Christmases in Montreal. What's it like to spend the festive season in one of Canada's city with the most European flair?
As I predicted last week, we had a glorious White Christmas in Montreal. When I left Toronto, there wasn't a snow flake in sight. From the VIA Rail train window, just before we hit the Quebec border, the countryside was blanketed in White all the way through to Montreal. A lot more snow fell on Christmas Day. Of course, the Christmas season starts a lot earlier.
Christmas Decorations Galore
Christmas decorations go up right after Hallow e'en. You'll definitely want to see the decorations at Place Ville Marie, Complex Desjardin and the Montreal Trust Complex.
Montreal Botanical Gardens
For a month beginning in early December, Botanical Gardens has an annual Christmas display in its large greenhouse.
Eaton's and Simpson's used to have magical window displays. Eaton's and Simpson's are no more but, since 1947, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Ogilvy's Department Store on Rue St. Catherine delights children of all ages with wonderful window displays.
Head East and take in the magic at The Bay.
Santa Claus Parade
Eaton's sponsored the annual Santa Claus Parade for years. When it went bankrupt in February, 1997, there was a gap for a number of years. Now the parade, which takes place in November, is back in full force.
On the first Sunday of December, the CBC has its annual Christmas Sing-in at St. Andrew and St. Paul's Church. It's an afternoon of fun that's recorded for broadcast on CBC Radio.
Starting at the beginning of December until New Year's Eve, Festival les Feeries du Vieux-Montreal lights up the city's most historical area. Up until Christmas Eve, there is a Christmas Village with a multi-cultural flair. This year near Pointe-a-Calliere (the marker for where the city was born), the Montreal Museum of Archeology had an exhibit entitled History Proposes : Who is the Real Santa Claus? Chateau Ramezay is decorated in Christmas splendor. Finish your shopping at the boutiques of Marche Bonsecours (which was a huge farmers' market from 1847 - 1963 and attend services at historical Notre-Dame Basilica.
This year in Old Montreal, there were fireworks every Saturday at 9:30 PM in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The last display was on Christmas Eve.
At midnight on Christmas Eve, the bells ring out every year for midnight mass at Catholic churches all over Montreal. French Canadian families return home for Le Reveillon, a delectable supper with Christmas goodies during which the Christmas gifts are exchanged. This tradition also continues in France and New Orleans. Protestant churches have services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In English families, the tradition is to exchange gifts on Christmas Day. Families following the Orthodox tradition, celebrate Christmas on January 6th.
Between Christmas and New Year, go ice skating indoors at Atrium Le 1000 on Rue De La Gauchetiere or outdoors at Beaver Lake on top of Mont-Royal. Tobogganing, skiing, snow shoeing and cross country skiing are other ways to enjoy Montreal's winter wonderland during the Christmas season.
Where to Stay
Next year, if you're planning to spend Christmas in Montreal, to be close to all the activities and get around easily on the Metro (subway), opt for a boutique hotel in Old Montreal or one of the many 5 Star hotels in downtown Montreal. It will be a Christmas to remember.