That time of year

Toronto's annual Christmas market is nostalgia at its finest
Entrance to the Christmas Market. Brian Rankin/THE VARSITY
Entrance to the Christmas Market. Brian Rankin/THE VARSITY

Mommy, I want to see Santa now,” says a little boy from his first-class view upon his father’s shoulders. The family, among the crowd of hundreds, counts down in unison to the lighting of a majestic 45-foot spruce tree. Murmurs conjoin in eager anticipation, and I’m suddenly transported to the first time I watched the Nutcracker on my parents’ silver-box television. The Christmas spirit has returned.

The Distillery District’s old-world charm is the home to the annual Toronto Christmas Market; an event inspired by the German tradition of Weihnachtsmarkt.

Stepping through the small side gate is like stepping into Narnia: the world on the other side is vastly different from the place you came from. Once inside, vendors in dainty log cabins sell various treasures made by international artists. The crafts range from unique, wooden carvings to handmade toys. A large painted sign of the late and once-local Gooderham and Worts -— Canada’s historic and most prolific distiller of alcohol — illuminates the season’s early twilight alongside glowing slogans: peace, love, joy, family.

For those like me, the holidays are a time to indulge in the magical whimsy of the season — particularly the food. Poutine, baked treats from Petite Thuet, Soma’s hot chocolate, and of course, a ride on the gleaming ferris wheel for when it’s time to digest. As the night passes, Toronto’s late-November chill is warmed by fire-lit lanterns among a sea of amber string lights crafted in picturesque shapes, both shielded and cradled by the district’s Victorian architecture.

Regardless of religion or spiritual belief, Toronto’s Christmas Market is commendably inclusive. The collective ambience is one of enchanted joy, and acts as a therapeutic calm of slowing down from the city’s restlessness. Traditional Celtic hymns and modern melodies filled the air alongside the occasional selfie.

Regardless of religion or spiritual belief, Toronto’s Christmas Market is commendably inclusive.

Suddenly, a voice yells, “Jägermeister this way!” Like a slow-motion recap of an Olympic marathon, adults gracefully leap to it. Under their feet, the cobblestone is reminiscent of the nearby lake’s edge, where only colorful pebbles and stones coat the soil. Their drinks are slurped heartily.

The fully lit spruce tree is now clad in its glistening jewelry. A red stage adorns young singers — now performing Hallelujah — and violinists play songs while simultaneously engaging in an impressive tap-dance routine. In receding to the frontier’s gate by the night’s end, children cheer in delight as Santa reveals to them the ultimate insight: every one of them is on the nice list this year.

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