For many families, the true spirit of Christmas is deeply embedded in traditions. Baking cookies, trimming the tree and visiting Santa all create cherished memories. Ottawa At Home looks at a few local opportunities to create unforgettable family experiences that just may turn into traditions.
Christmas magic at the Château Laurier
There's nothing like visiting one of Ottawa's most iconic buildings when it's been transformed into a holiday wonderland. From late November to just after New Year's, the Fairmont Château Laurier is hosting the 17th annual Trees of Hope for CHEO, a festive paradise featuring over 30 trees decorated on this year's fun themes of silver bells and superheroes. "People are welcome to come into our public spaces just to walk around and enjoy all our Christmas decorations including these gorgeous trees," says Deneen Perrin, the hotel's director of public relations. "When visiting, be sure to cast a vote for your favourite tree to win the People's Choice award and consider making a donation to CHEO as well."
For those wishing to extend their time savouring the Château's magical, opulent environment, taking tea in Zoé's Lounge is the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season. "Many families come for our Holiday Tea after attending a performance of The Nutcracker; it's a fun way to extend the day and make it even more festive," says Deneen. A special Little Prince and Princess Tea menu is available for kids. Santa will also be on hand for tea on Dec. 22 and 23 in addition to the Château's famous brunch with Santa at Wilfrid's on Dec. 20. These special events sell out very quickly; call the hotel at 613-562-7041 or email at email@example.com to reserve.
"People love having tea at the Château all year round, but at Christmastime, it becomes something particularly memorable and special," says Deneen. "It can be both a wonderful, affordable tradition to start with your family as well as a great intergenerational, interactive activity that everyone from young children to grandparents and even great-grandparents can enjoy together."
ByWard Market festivities
A popular shopping and dining destination for locals and tourists alike, the ByWard Market celebrates Christmas in a fun and festive manner. For the first three weekends in December, choirs from all over the city bring a joyful sound to the Market; you can typically find them on the corner of George and ByWard, in matching green fleece robes, with two appearances each day and at 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. On the same weekends, complimentary wagon rides are offered, weather permitting, with pick-up and drop-off on York Street near William, also from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Shopping possibilities are highlighted through the ByWard Market's Thirty Days of Christmas program, which presents a new holiday idea each day via social media. For the second year, the Market will be featuring a display of Christmas trees in various locations, bringing warmth and light to chilly winter evenings. When you visit the ByWard Market with your family or friends, be sure to look for Luciano Pradal's stand on George Street, where this seasonal fixture dishes up freshly roasted chestnuts and wonderful stories, to warm hands and hearts.
Christmas at the Billings Estate
For a nostalgic Christmas experience, consider visiting the Billings Estate, a national historic site and home to Ottawa's oldest wood-framed house. Dating from the late 1820s, the Billings homestead pays tribute to the remarkable contributions of one of Ottawa's founding families. "This year, the Christmas Tea at the Estate will celebrate the imported delicacies of the Victorian era," says Brahm Lewandowski, museum administrator. "Reflective of the traditions of the Billings family, the tea will highlight special holiday indulgencies that were particularly valued at a time when treats and toys were difficult - and costly - to obtain. In times past, Christmas was very special because people got to taste things, typically received as gifts, that they would not possibly be able to enjoy at other times of the year."
In addition to enjoying a delicious tea inspired by historical dishes and recipes, modernized for modern preparation methods, guests are welcome to tour the museum's extensive collection of historical artifacts. "The home will also be very festively decorated in both traditional and modern ways, with lavishly bedecked mantels," says Brahm, "because we know the Billings, as a Christian family, enjoyed celebrating the season."
For this family-friendly event, roving Dickens Carollers will be on hand to entertain guests and a garland-making activity will help to keep kids happily occupied during your visit. "The tea will be held on two Sundays - Dec. 7 and 14 - and it will be a wonderful way to treat yourself and your family to something happy and peaceful during this hectic time of year," confirms Brahm.