A seasonal European tradition dating back 700 years has been recreated in Toronto and Kitchener, Ont.
Christmas markets have been a popular annual treat for centuries across Germany, Austria and other parts of Europe.
They are a feast for the senses as families gather to view and buy gifts and enjoy entertainment, festive activities and decorations.
Sights, sounds and smells
The “Old World” has come to Toronto’s Distillery Historic District (55 Mill St.) now through Dec. 16.
Known as the Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market, about 200,000 people will “experience the grandeur, sights and sounds” of this traditional European custom, said Mathew Rosenblatt, one of the event’s creators.
If features 18,000 twinkling lights, a 13.7-metre white spruce, 40 vendors, handcrafted items, free gift wrapping and live entertainment Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
There are also the Candy Cane Carollers, Santa’s elves’ sing-alongs, the Oriana Women’s Choir and the Salvation Army’s Christmas Brass Ensemble.
On Santa’s Lane, there’s a “fairy tale forest maze,” Santa’s House, a children’s size gingerbread house and elves’ workshop.
New is the South Pole with a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, train and pony rides.
Refreshments are available at beer and Gluhwein (mulled wine) gardens along with specialty baked treats.
On Dec. 8 at 5 p.m., there will be a bid to have 15,000 carollers set a new world record for the most people singing in one place.
Hours are Monday to Friday, noon to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. www.thedistillerydistrict.com; (416) 364-1177
Smells of the season, German style, are in the air at the Christkindl Market this weekend at Kitchener city hall.
Aromas of cinnamon, apple fritters, mulled wine and grilled sausages fill the air with the sounds of choirs and brass bands. Sights include a huge Christmas tree, twinkling lights, glittering ornaments and baked treats.
Visitors will see German folkloric characters such as Christkindl and her twin angels dressed in gold and white gowns with wings and crowns.
There's Knecht Ruprecht, a companion of Nikolaus, and Klaus with his hand-cranked street organ and stuffed monkey.
See a huge model train display, blacksmiths showing their skills and live nativity scene depicting Mary and Joseph with their two donkeys.
The free event with 70 vendors continues today until 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. www.christkindl.ca
How sweet it is
A giant and edible gingerbread house decorated with 317 kilograms of candy, including 5,000 mini candy canes, is at the Loblaws store at Maple Leaf Gardens (60 Carlton St.) in Toronto.
The house is “complete with Christmas trees, festive trimming and surrounded by mounds of snowy white and warmed up by the glow of a cozy fireplace,” said Marcello Piane, store director of Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Called the President's Choice Giant Holiday Gingerbread House, it is “quite a sight to see –soaring almost to the height of the store's well-known cheese wall and about as long as our popular deli counter,” he added.
Every weekend until Christmas, Santa is there along with the elves to take pictures and help decorate “gingerbread men” cookies to eat or take home, along with musical entertainment. loblaws.ca/60carlton
Ho, ho, ho
Children can visit old St. Nicholas as Fanshawe Pioneer Village (2609 Fanshawe Park Rd. E.) in London, Ont. holds a Victorian Christmas.
Visits take place this weekend and next and include a pancake breakfast/lunch with baked gingerbread men to decorate for dessert.
Horse-drawn wagons provide a tour of the village, while visitors can see the buildings being prepared for the holiday.
Saturday sittings are at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. while Sundays are 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Reserved tickets costing $12 plus tax are required.
The village’s Victorian Christmas event is on Dec. 15 and 16 from noon to 4 p.m. www.fanshawepioneervillage.ca; (519) 457-1296