Once the first snowflakes start falling, we know that winter is officially here. And with winter comes hot chocolate, and cozy blankets. When we bring out the word ‘holiday,’ it also means decorating, baking, and lots of eggnog. That’s right, it’s time to get excited! Even though you’re going to be stressing for finals—it’s inevitable—make sure that you take some time to relax, to give yourself a break, and get into the holiday spirit. There are tons of must-see attractions around the city that are guaranteed to take your mind off of school. So grab your tacky sweaters, your mittens, and enjoy the best of Montreal’s Christmas attractions.
A timeless classic that most of us learned when we were little is now an exhilarating study break. Montreal has a few outdoor skating rinks, but Beaver Lake and Bonsecours Basin come highly recommended. Beaver Lake is located on the west side of Mount Royal, and is a favourite among many. Admission is free, and if you don’t have your own skates, you can rent a pair for seven dollars. Bonsecours Basin sits in the heart of Old Port and boasts amazing views of the city. Admission and skate rental cost about $12 in all. Both rinks are open seven days a week, but hours of admission vary. Check online for more details, as well as information on directions and special theme nights.
Telus presents Fire on Ice: a breathtaking annual fireworks display in the Old Port. Each Saturday night in December fireworks are shot over the St. Lawrence River at 8:00 p.m., creating an amazing spectacle of pyrotechnics. On New Year’s Eve, the display coincides with the midnight countdown. The event is free; all you have to do is get there early for a good spot. The closest metro stop is Place-d’Armes, but check online for other viewing locations.
The classic story of Clara, her nutcracker, and their fantastic journey is being performed by Les Grands Ballet throughout the month of December. Performances will be taking place at Place des Arts starting December 13 through 30 on various days, alternating between 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. showings. Tickets start at $41, and are available through grandsballets.com. Check online to score your pass into the wonderful world of dancing snowflakes, fearsome swordplay, and sugar plum fairies.
If you are not particular about the activity, just taking a walk around the downtown core—hot chocolate in hand—can boost your holiday cheer. Take a walk down McGill College at night for the festive displays; the trees are wrapped with lights, and there are lit up wreaths and angels hung on the surrounding buildings. Once you hit Ste. Catherine, look across to Place Ville Marie to see the giant Christmas tree, and try not to feel warm and fuzzy.
The holidays inevitably mean shopping: window or otherwise. While trying to find that perfect gift, make sure you head to The Bay on Ste. Catherine, or the Ogilvy store on the corner of la Montagne to look at some of the gorgeous Christmas displays. You can even stop and take a picture in front of one of them. Keep your eyes open for Santa Claus, too!
Stay at Home:
If you’re not up for leaving the house, there is still plenty that can be done in your own home to bring in some Christmas cheer! Burn a yuletide-scented candle; bake a batch of your favourite holiday treats and deck the halls while listening to your favourite holiday album. My recommendation: Michael Buble’s album Christmas. End your day off with a classic seasonal movie—or two. Love Actually, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, and A Christmas Carol are all must-watch.
Try something new:
If you’re in the mood for a change, why not try creating a new tradition? Take the opportunity to celebrate Chanukah or Kwanza, and learn about other holidays. This year, Chanukah begins at sundown on Dec. 8 and ends on Dec. 16. Kwanza begins on December 26 and ends on January 1. You could also partake in a classic Quebecois tradition and eat some tourtière this holiday season. This meat pie offers tons of flavour, and a delicious way to celebrate French-Canadian culture.
So whether you’re braving the cold, or snuggled up at home, remember to take a break this exam season and enjoy what Montreal has to offer. Happy Holidays!