Christmas events in Metro Vancouver up the holiday-cheer ante

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      From plays to craft fairs to visits with Santa, there’s a little seasonal spirit everywhere.

      Traditional attractions Heritage Christmas, Vancouver Trolley Karaoke Christmas Lights Tour, and Christmas at Canada Place present activities for young and old alike. Canyon Lights, Festival of Lights, and Bright Nights in Stanley Park all offer original lighting displays with a dose of chilly winter air. You can learn how to make treats at the Italian Panettone & Holiday Sweets Workshop, sip hot cocoa and watch a magic show at the Vancouver North Pole Express, sing songs at A French Christmas, and decorate the tree at Christmas at the Castle. Robson Square Ice Rink promises free ice skating until February 28, so lace up those skates!

      Haven’t finished your shopping yet? If your present pile is looking decidedly sparse, check out the artisanal crafts and gifts for sale at Christmas Boutique Fine Craft Market, Woodward’s Winter Aboriginal Market, the Great Canadian Craft Fair, the East Van Bazaar-Holiday Edition, Gifts-a-Go-Go, Women’s Winter Faire, Vancouver Farmers Market’s Holiday Market, Blim Annual Holiday Market, and 420 Flea Market & Christmas Craft Show.

      Local theatre lovers have a bumper crop of holiday plays to choose from this year. Yuletide entertainment can be found in classics like the Arts Club’s White Christmas: The Musical and It’s a Wonderful Life, as well as Bah! Humbug! and The Christmas Carol Project, versions of Dickens’s holiday tale. There’s also Hotel Bethlehem (a new take on what really happened in the stable), Santaland Diaries (one department-store Christmas elf’s story of mayhem and drudgery), and Dear Santa (a tale of the preparation for Santa’s big delivery).

      Both the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Goh Ballet are doing renditions of beloved holiday ballet The Nutcracker, which tells the story of a young girl who gets whisked into a magical dream world by her Christmas present, a nutcracker that has magically come alive.

      Dylan Thomas’s tale of a Welsh Christmas gets a refresh in A Child’s Christmas in Wales in Concert and A Dylan Thomas Christmas: A Child’s Christmas in Wales. You can find a mix of traditional and modern holiday music at A Traditional Christmas, Sing Noel: Gospel Tidings of Comfort and Joy, Stars and Promises, Hark the Herald Angels…the Voyces of Christmas, Love Came Down at Christmas, Resounding Joy: A Phoenix Christmas, VWMC ChristmasHome for Christmas, Sinfonia's Suite Christmas, Christmas Carol Sing-along, The Mystery of Christmas, The North Shore Chamber Orchestra, and A Christmas Reprise 2012. Winter Harp 2012 relays festive medieval music, Festive Bach Cantatas for Christmas revisits material by Bach, El Nino: A Nativity Oratorio presents the Canadian premiere of John Adams’s work, Handel's Messiah features the composer's classic holiday work, and Luminous Night features favourites by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

      While many activities are designed to be family-friendly, there’s also a small selection of events designed specifically for children. Kids can get theatrical with holiday-themed plays like The Magic of Santa and Monster Theatre’s A Christmas Carol. If your young ones like arts and crafts, there’s ample opportunity for creativity at Tot Tour: Jingle Jolly Santa, Crazy Christmas, Cool Yule, and Breakfast With Santa, as well as chances to visit with Santa himself.

      If you still need a tree, check out Aunt Leah’s Tree Lots at one of three locations in Vancouver, Burnaby, and Coquitlam. Proceeds from the sale of trees go to programs that help prevent youth homelessness.