December can be grim in Toronto, but really, there’s lots to do that’s free – both indoors and/or outdoors, fun and/or serious. Enjoy the first snow with kids, the snow ball fights and snow people. These are especially fun and free.
I’ve just listed many free events on www.TorontoMulticulturalCalendar.com. There’s African music, French-English poetry, and Scottish dance. There’s the Japanese Film Festival and music from the Georgian Republic. And you can join sessions on Senegalese and Afro-Brazilian dance.
Historic museums in Mississauga have been decorated in traditional Christmas style. The Bradley gives free horse-drawn wagon rides as well, but if you want a picture taken with Santa, it costs $15.
In some places, you are asked to bring a non-perishable food donation for the Food Bank. For some events, a plate might be passed. If money is a problem for you, no one will know how much you donate.
The flower show continues at Allan Gardens. I was there for the opening and the hot cider, short bread cookies, and wagon rides were free then. There were 28 varieties of amazing poinsettias. The Centennial Park Conservatory flower show opens this weekend. It should have free cookies and rides too that day. The public library is hosting a session on making short bread, that seasonal treat. And throughout the month Christian churches will have carol sings, special music, and nativity pageants. Yorkminster Park Baptist Church will have an outdoor Christmas pageant with real animals, for example.
The performances at the Christmas Market in the Distillery are out-of-doors. I was there last Sunday in the rain – but the Welsh singers were especially great as they sang Sleigh Ride and the “lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you…”
The Winter Solstice in Kensington Market is another popular event, especially with children, in spite of the cold. The parade with its fire eaters, stilt walkers, and giant puppets is fun. Then there’s the fascinating bon fire in a park afterwards.
Many city neighbourhoods are already aglow with fancy lights and trees. You just have to walk around the city hall and Bloor and Bay in the evening. The Waterfront Winterfest will light up a tall ship, the Music Garden, the Firehall, and Westin Harbour Castle. And then there are the amazing residential neighbourhoods. Let us know if you find some spectacular displays.
Many of Toronto’s outdoor ice rinks are free and skating is a traditional thing to do. The catch is the weather. It’s got to be cold. Then there’s the cost of renting skates and lessons, but at least you can watch other people skate at City Hall and Mel Lastman Square.
For the first time, I’ve found a Hanukkah celebration I can attend. I’ve never been to one and am anxious to go to this one – even though it costs $10 for adults and $6 for kids.
If you have to pay for anything besides Hanukkah, I’d suggest Colborne Lodge, south end of High Park from now to January 8. It’s all decorated in Victorian Christmas style with a Christmas tree with real candles. Guides will light one for you and children can play with Victorian toys and eat short bread cookies. Tel. 416-392-6916. Adult fees are about $6.50 and children $3.75. It has a picture of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and England’s first Christmas tree, an interesting bit of history. Prince Albert brought the custom from his native Germany.
Another event I like is the one where you take an inexpensive or home-made gift and hand it to a stranger downtown. The look of bewilderment and then a thank-you smile can be especially precious.
A lot more things are happening and I will add them to this list when you send me the information.