It’s uncharacteristically mild for December.
This is a good thing, because the crowds are growing and the queue to enter is lengthening. Judging by the masses of friends, families, photographers, and couples, we’re in for a holiday treat.
We’re waiting to experience one of Toronto’s top attractions for the holiday: the Toronto Christmas Market.
Christmas markets aren’t new. They’ve remained in our history for centuries, originating in Germany/Austria around the early 1400s. For a tradition so rooted in our human history, this is only our first time visiting one. It’s a holidate for me and my newlywed husband, Eric.
The historic Distillery District is the perfect backdrop for the Toronto Christmas Market. It’s an industrial mill repurposed as a pedestrian-only block, now home to art galleries, boutiques, and unique restaurants. Founded in the 1800s, the buildings in the Distillery District add to the nostalgia of the atmosphere.
The Toronto Christmas Market is the envy of any holiday decorator. Canopies of lights twinkle above. A towering Christmas tree adorned in thousands of lights and massive baubles stands tall as the centerpiece of the market. Street lanterns wear red bows and wreaths dress up every door. Carolers in Victorian-era attire sing a medley of songs from upbeat Jingle Bell Rock to classic Carol of the Bells. Maybe it’s the mulled wine, but I can’t resist joining in song as we mosey away. The cobblestone roads are lined with open-air peddlers’ stalls with artisans and businesses (big and small) selling their wares. I see painted nesting dolls and holiday decor, maple syrup and candies, hand-knit scarves and children’s toys. Even Glad (yes, the tupperware) has a stall — it reminds me that we’re back in 2015.
When I think of holiday shopping, visions of sugar plums are not in my head. I imagine crowds, weighted by shopping bags, stumbling through a fluorescent-lit mall. The Toronto Christmas Market actually makes holiday shopping attractive. It’s a step away from the commercialism that surrounds the season. It feels timeless.
Eat, Drink, & Be Merry
Several beer gardens give visitors the opportunity sit down or gather by fire pits. Beyond great spaces to people-watch and relax, they’re excellent watering holes. We opt for a pretzel the size of my face and wash it down with traditional mulled wine and hot toddies. If only we had an endless supply of funds and endless space in our stomachs, we’d eat and drink everything in sight.
I try not to make it too obvious that I’m eyeing all the food vendors.
The turkey legs are steaming. There’s a line at the grilled cheese stall. People stroll around eating poutine and Oktoberfest sausage. I laugh at the ‘potato tornado’ stall and laugh a little more when I see a sign for weinerschnitzel.
I go weak at the knees every time we pass a vendor that sells drinking chocolate. I almost cave in to warming up with Japanese sake. There are free samples of Mill Street Brewery beer if you tweet #millstreetmoment (hello, modern day time & social media), and every tweet equates to charity donations. I tweet multiple times.
It’s festive and romantic.
Capturing the Moment
A gentleman asks if I’d like him to take a photo of us. I pass over my camera, not realizing that it’s still set to manual focus.
I could ask another to take the photo. I don’t. It’s perfection. It’s a reflection of my Christmas memories past. My memories aren’t a clear photograph. They’re a little fuzzy. Hazed, like the details of this photo. The essence is there; the details are lost.
My Christmas memories… I can’t recall the pattern of wrapping paper nor the pajamas I wore. I don’t remember which words my sister used to wake me on Christmas morning. I can’t even tell you everything Santa brought me each year. The little moments collapse in an overall spirit, or feeling.
In the future, when I think back on our stroll of the Toronto Christmas market, I may not remember the faces we passed or the steam of the turkey leg or the taste of Mill Street’s Vanilla Porter.
It’ll be a bit blurry, those details, but I won’t forget the twinkle of the lights, the spirit of the crowds, and most importantly, I’ll never forget the happiness of my heart as I created my first Christmas memory with my newlywed husband.
Know Before You Go
- The Toronto Christmas Market is closed on Mondays, but free Tuesday-Friday. It is $5.00 entry on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s busiest on the weekends.
- Bring cash for vendors who do not have card technology.
- Dress warmly — that should be obvious!
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Bring a larger purse/backpack if you plan to shop.
- Prepare for crowds.
- Bonus: Bring someone you love.
Everything else you need to know can be found on the Toronto Christmas Market website.
Don’t forget to pin it!
Three Christmas cheers to Tourism Toronto for inviting me and Eric to explore the city for their holiday festivities! Even with the sparkling lights and mulled wine, all opinions are genuinely and authentically mine. xo.