We love being home for the holiday season. All the twinkly lights and the feeling togetherness with friends and family fills our calendars this month.  In between the holiday cheer I’m always on the look-out for inspiring happenings and moments of peace and reflection. Here are some great events and happenings around Toronto this December…

The Distillery Winter Village: Distillery District. Wander through the city’s most picturesque area teeming with shops and eateries. The outdoor Winter Village returns in person with local artisans, Canadian small biz vendors as well as the most scrumptious seasonal eats. You won’t want to miss the stunning 50-ft White Spruce Tree in Trinity Square. Designed by Parfum Christian Dior, tree is adorned with  with 400 custom midnight blue ornaments, 1,700 shiny and matte gold balls, 70,000 twinkling lights and features 1,000 custom Dior star charms. Tickets are required on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays after 4:00 pm, and December 27-31 after 4:00 pm. Tickets are $11 plus HST each. Kids nine and under are free of charge. The Distillery Historic District shops, restaurants and cafés, are open starting at 10:00 am daily, every day, except Christmas Day.

One of a Kind Winter Show: Enercare Centre until December 4. For more than 40 years, One Of A Kind has created a space to gather and celebrate craft in all its expressions. North America’s largest and most highly attended craft show returns (November 24th to December 4th)featuring over 600 dedicated, Canadian artisans, with products ranging from home décor, fashion, toys, artisanal food items, and much more. his year’s show features new sustainable initiatives, various programming (including Late Night Shopping and Family Day activities on the Friday, December 2nd PD Day). Also don’t miss the Circuit maker station (weekends only) to make and take a few pieces home (free)! We were very inspired to keep on creating after this session!

OOAK - Christmas - One of a Kind - Toronto

Canadian Modern at the ROM: Opens December 3. Royal Ontario Museum. This new exhibition offers a new perspective and celebrates our unique place in the modern design and craft movement, Canadian Modern presents 100 culturally significant, limited-edition and mass-produced objets designed and crafted in Canada.

Christmas at the Castle and Holiday Lights at Casa Loma: December 1 to January 8 (closed Christmas Day, December 25). Ticketed entry. This year’s events include both an indoor daytime offering of family activities, performances as well as an evening offering featuring a dazzling lighting display and outdoor adventure through the historic gardens, walkways, and tunnels of the castle. Guests will be in awe with stunning holiday décor, including a 40ft tree in the Great Hall and eight signature trees created by talented Canadian designers.  Tickets here. 

Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical: until January 15. Royal Alexandra Theatre. This  heartwarming, and feel good, musical is an adaptation of the British film that was based on a true story about a group of Cornish fishermen who became a singing sensation after a musical label discovered them. The fishermen came together to sing the traditional working songs they’d sung for generations, they hoped to raise a few quid for charity. Nobody, least of all the fishermen, expected their story to end on the Pyramid stage of Glastonbury. Featuring 24 multi-talented musicians and performers, Fisherman’s Friends is about about community, friendship and music. Our review is here. Ticketed performances.

Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows at the AGO: Opens December  7. Art Gallery of Ontario. This new original exhibition explores the dynamic artistry of Leonard Cohen — Canadian novelist, poet and singer-songwriter. The exhibition will feature more than 200 artworks, objects, many from his personal archive, including performance clips, musical instruments, notebooks, lyrics, letters, photos, drawings and digital art all created by Cohen throughout his lifetime. This is the firs museum exhibition to present the holds of the Leonard Cohen Family Trust. Ticketed exhibition.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: Princess of Wales Theatre. December 11 to February 18. The sensational brand-new production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat comes to Toronto  for a limited North American premiere engagement! Joseph is the musical that launched the Rice-Lloyd Webber collaboration, becoming a multi-award-winning show performed in over 80 countries and recognized as one of the world’s most beloved family musicals. Ticketed performances.

The Citadel Dance Mix: Citadel + Compagnie. November 30 to December 3. Ross Centre for Dance. A triple bill featuring acclaimed choreographer Jera Wolfe, who will be presenting a brand-new work, along with River Waterhen and Winter Hawk, NIGHT/SHIFT alumni who will each present a new solo work. A new duet by Jera Wolfe explores the theme of perception; examining the ways in which we build and promote a version of ourselves, and how this compares to the ways in which we are seen by others. When are these versions of ourselves in alignment and when do tensions exist between them? A solo choreographed and performed by River Waterhen reads as an internal mediation; a personal experience that we as an audience experience as outside observers. The work exists in three parts, each section set to a different piece of music, exploring a different method of movement. At times, the work is lyrical, energized, and somber. A solo choreographed and performed by Winter Hawk contrast to River’s work, which is separated into three distinct sections, this solo flows from one state to the next. While the work is similarly set to an array of music, the pieces take us through a clear energetic arc. This work is emotionally driven and plays with both performative and internal states. Ticketed performances.

Elmwood Spa’s 40th Birthday: Celebrate at this iconic day spa in the heart of the city! Located in an historical landmark building, the Elmwood has been a go-to for locals and visitors alike. Great for an escape from all the hustle of the day. Take in their water therapies and even stay for lunch onsite…in your robe! We love their specialty treatments including the LI’TYA Dreaming Whole Body Ritual — a unique experience that embraces traditional Australian Aboriginal healing techniques with the power of native essential oils, desert salts and other herbs.

That Choir Carols: December 17 and 18. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian  Church. Take a breather from the busy holiday season to enjoy this enchanting festive choral concert. This professional 16-member ensemble is conducted by Craig Pike (see our recent posts) will perform in this beautiful setting sure to warm your heart. Tickets on a pay what you can sliding scale. Ticketed performances (sliding pay scale).

That Choir-Craig Pike-Toronto

Festival of Carols with the Toronto Mendlessohn Choir: December 6 & 7 at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church. The beloved annual celebration of music returns with the highly-anticipated sing-along portion of the concert with holiday favourites. This year’s program also features a brand-new commission, Heartbeat, from composer-in-residence Dr. Shreen Abu-Khader. Ticketed performances.

Festival of Cool: Harbourfront Centre December 8 to 18. Wrapping up a year long cultural initiative, Nordic Bridges, this will feature 10 days of exciting programming that focuses on theatre, visual art, music and community. This year includes the one-night-only North American premiere of Jingyi Wang’s ground-breaking and interactive Post Capitalistic Auction, a reimagined spin on the traditional auction as well as the Ontario premiere of Moby Dick, from award-winning French-Norwegian puppetry company Plexus Polaire, co-presented with Why Not Theatre. Music lovers won’t want to miss the double bill of award-winning Nordic bands Tuuletar and VÍÍK. Ticketed performances.

TIFF Cinematheque to present Sarah Polley and Other Stories director spotlight: TIFF Bell Lightbox. December 3–17.  Showcasing all three of Polley’s earlier features, in addition to three films of her own selection. The filmmaker will also be in attendance for the screening of her documentary feature Stories We Tell. On December 9 at 11am, TIFF’s Chief Programming Officer Anita Lee, a producer of the film, will introduce a screening of Stories We Tell as part of TIFF’s Silver screenings series, free to those 65 and up. Then, on December 10 at 6:30pm as part of TIFF Cinematheque’s Sarah Polley and Other Stories series, Polley will participate in a Q&A discussion following the screening of her documentary. Visit tiff.net for full list of films and tickets.

Sarah Polley photo courtesy of TIFF

Women Talking: TIFF Bell Lightbox December 23 (exclusive screening — the film will roll out in Canadian markets in January). Adapted from Miriam Toews’ acclaimed novel of the same name, Women Talking follows a tight-knit, cloistered religious colony in which women struggle to recover from a wave of abuse. Polley’s first film in a decade features riveting, emotionally nuanced performances from a stunning ensemble that includes Oscar nominees Rooney Mara and Jessie Buckley, as well as Oscar winner Frances McDormand. Women Talking is a drama of harrowing revelations, fraught alliances, and the search for grace. The film also stars Claire Foy, Judith Ivey, and Ben Whishaw. Ticketed event.Netflix Holiday House: Campbell House. December 1 to 4. Free admission. Whether coming with family, friends, Single All the Way, or bringing A Christmas Prince, you won’t want to Slumberland on this special event as Netflix has a Holidate for you! Escape the chill! Guests of all ages can enter a world of warmth and wonder and join the festive fun with interactive and Instagrammable moments, TikTok-ready spaces, sweet treats and crafts for kids (and grown-ups!) that will spark the holiday spirit.

Miriam’s World: Theatre Passe Muraille. December 9 to 18. Theatre Passe Muraille transforms into a public library for MIRIAM’S WORLD by Naomi Jaye. An interactive, multi-media narrative experience will often be funny and always strangeBased on Martha Baillie’s Giller Prize long-listed novel The Incident Report, which was recognized for its strikingly original structure, comprised of 140 fragments or “reports.” Among many themes, The Incident Report explores the tensions between private and public storytelling. A wry look into the life of librarian Miriam Gordon and a group of library patrons who frequent the branch where she works, MIRIAM’S WORLD exposes the dark, and often humorous side of urban life and the real-world issues of homelessness, mental illness, and suicide. Ticketed performances.

Canadian Tire Christmas Trail: November 12 to December 23, 1000 Murray Ross Parkway. In celebration of Canadian Tire’s 100th birthday, The Canadian Tire Christmas Trail is back to make this the Christmas of the century. The drive-along experience takes guests on an enchanted 1.5-kilometre journey through thousands of twinkling lights, interactive displays, and live entertainment featuring new and familiar faces. Guests will be immersed in the magic of Christmas and can capture their beloved annual photo with Santa in a memorable way, all from the comfort of their own vehicle. $25 per car (all proceeds donated to Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities to benefit child and youth sport throughout Canada) Tickets go on sale November 6 at 12 pm noon! And new tickets will be released bi-weekly on Sundays at noon. More info available here.

Better Together Pop-up Holiday Market: December 16 & 17 at Formula Fig (50 Ossington Ave) 10 am to 5 pm each day. Vancouver’s Better Basics and Verre Lune are visiting our city in this amazing opportunity to explore their goods and other women founded brands.  If you’re looking to shop sustainable for home and in beauty this is a fabulous opportunity to discover something beautiful for someone on your gift list.

Something Small, Something Sweet by award-winning comedian Gillian Bartolucci: Alumnae Theatre, December 9 and 10. Showcasing Gillian Bartolucci’s high energy cast of characters and choreo with memorable writing and expert precision. Through a collection of sketches and storytelling Gillian Bartolucci (This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Second City, Just For Laughs) captures the sweet and bitter parts of life in Something Small, Something Sweet, which won Best in Venue at the 2022 Hamilton Fringe Festival. Whether it’s the monumentous occasion of your fake ID working, to the crushing realization you’ve eaten the last All Dressed chip in the bag, Gillian recounts all of the good parts, the hard parts, and the small parts that make life so sweet. Ticketed performances.

Little Dickens at the Berkeley Stage Theatre:  November 23 until December 18. Internationally acclaimed puppet-master and theatre artist Ronnie Burkett returns to Canadian Stage with a charmingly mischievous and rip-roaringly funny re-telling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. an outrageously irreverent cabaret-style re-telling of the timeless classic in a marionette vaudeville mash-up of beautifully handcrafted characters, seasonal singalongs, cabaret renditions of beloved standards, and free-wheeling improvisation. Ticketed performances.

Regent Park Film Festival - Toronto

Regent Park Film Festival: December 7 to 10. Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas St. East) Toronto’s longest running FREE community film festival will make its return in-person and online with screenings and events taking place at Regent Park’s staple community cultural hub. This year, the Festival will celebrate 20 years of storytelling, bringing together the diverse communities that exist in the vibrant Regent Park neighbourhood and all across Canada to enjoy and engage with film as a means of artistic expression and a catalyst for change. Since its inception, RPFF has believed in the power of art and film to bring people together, to create empathy and understanding amongst neighbours, and to open one’s eyes to new perspectives and possibilities. View the full schedule at: rpff.ca/2022

Jingle Bell Ruckus at Second City: Thursdays at 8pm; Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 5pm & 8pm; Sundays at 7:30pm The Second City’s Jingle Bell Ruckus delivers a heaping serving of seasonal satire that’s the perfect alternative to those same old holiday shows. Nothing’s off-limits: holiday film classics, family gatherings, beloved Christmas carols, and of course all things wickedly funny about winter get a seasonal skewering in this fast-paced, interactive, original comedy revue filled with style, wit, and plenty of that famous (and festive) Second City improv! Ticketed performances.

Second City’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays: Mondays at 8pm; Saturdays & Sundays at 4pm. Guarantee yule laugh a whole latke as The Second City unwraps the most wonderful time of the year in our nut-cracking-est, jingle-bell-ing-est revue ever! Celebrate over sixty years of sketches, songs, and comedic conviviality as the next generation of comedy superstars perform their greatest holiday hits. Plus, The Second City’s famous improvisation means every show is like a snowflake: no two are alike … or are impervious to climate change. Ticketed performances.

Holiday Improv Brunch at Second City: Sundays at noon.From uproarious laughter to limitless libations, The Second City’s Holiday Improv Brunch is the gift that keeps on giving! For 3 weekends only, bring your band of merrymakers as they scramble together two of everyone’s favourites, comedy and brunch, for a scrumptiously seasonal breakfast with a totally improvised experience from the city’s finest. Whether you side on the Naughty or the Nice List, come enjoy mimosas…they won’t judge. Ticketed events.

Home Sweet New Home: Second City. Tuesdays – Thursdays at 8pm; Fridays – Saturdays at 7pm & 10pm; Sundays at 7pm. There’s no place like The Second City Toronto! Make yourself at their NEW home as you take in the cast of top Toronto talent hilariously taking on everything from awkward first dates to game nights gone wrong to gender reveals to the freakin’ multiverse. From improv games to classic sketches to sizzling satire, this interactive experience is the perfect way to welcome you all to The Second City’s Home Sweet New Home … where they’ll make you feel like family (but just the kind we actually like). Ticketedperformances.

The Nutcracker by the National Ballet of Canada: December 10 to 31. A holiday favourite for the whole family. Ballet companies all over the world perform The Nutcracker during the holiday season, each with a special take on Marius Petipa’s beloved classic. The National Ballet of Canada has one of the finest versions in James Kudelka’s staging from 1995, which opens at a Christmas Eve party in rural 19th century Russia. With non-stop dancing and magnificent sets and costumes from Santo Loquasto, with lighting by Jennifer Tipton, The Nutcracker is an unforgettable tribute to the imagination. We also can’t wait to see who the surprise celebrity appearances will be this season! Ticketed performances.

Peter’s Final Flight by Ross Petty Productions: December 2 to January 7. Ross Petty and his incredible team of performers return with a brand new live show to the historic Elgin Theatre this winter. Peter’s Final Flight is an action-packed original musical version of Peter Pan, full of pop songs, jokes, laughter, ad-libs and great singing and dancing from some of your favourite musical theatre performers. Great for the entire family. This is Ross Petty’s final holiday spectacular after entertaining families for over 25 years. Ticketed performances.

Nagata Shachu 25th Anniversary: December 3. Al Green Theatre.In November 1998, Nagata Shachu debuted as a professional Taiko drumming group presenting a full-length concert at Toronto’s Music Gallery in what was to be the first of an annual concert season. From 2013 it evolved featuring collaborations with both local and international artists. During the ensemble’s 25 years, it has toured throughout Canada, the US, and Italy, and has performed at major engagements in Mexico and Lebanon. The ensemble has also composed over 120 original works which have been featured on dozens of its own professional audio and video recordings. Nagata Shachu was awarded Japan’s Foreign Minister’s Commendation in 2019 for the promotion of cultural exchange through art between Japan and Canada, and in 2020 it was a finalist for the Toronto Arts Foundation Roy Thomson Hall Award for its contribution to Toronto’s musical life. Ticketed performance.

Vodkow - Sherway Garden -

VODKOW’s Pop Up at Sherway Gardens: If you’re a fan of cream based liquors (but can’t tolerate the cream like me) then you’ll want to explore the wonderful world of Vodkow lactose-free offerings. This Canadian Distillery (Almonte, Ontario — also known for it’s artisan community and popular UFO sighting locale). As Canada’s first lactose free dairy cream liquor, Vodkow has pioneered innovative science to help dairy farmers and the environment by repurposing unused milk sugars that would otherwise go to waste and turn to methane. These milk sugars are
then transformed into VODKOW’s superior lactose-free and gluten-free spirits. While shoppers hit the malls (also Square One), they are invited to a fun “out of the world” activation. Created by Toronto artist Alex McLeod, a futuristic display of cows and ufos are in place for great photo opps plus the chance to discover the line of Vodkow’s liquors including their limited edition holiday flavours like Egg Nog! The activation is running all month long.

Disney Animation Immersive Experience: opens December 21. Step inside the stories and see the Disney movies, songs, and characters come to life. Created by Lighthouse Immersive and Oscar winning producer J. Miles Dale (Shape of Water) in collaboration with Walt Disney Animation Studios. This experiential projection exhibition presented with some of the most popular Disney songs from their popular films including Encanto, Zootopia, The Lion King, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, and yes, Frozen. Great for all ages. Ticketed event.Disney Immersive TorontoBad Dog Theatre Company presents Comedy on Queen Street: Assembly Theatre (1479 Queen St. West). An electrifying new winter wonderland comedy pop-up theatre to celebrate the holiday season comes to us with two great shows!  All Of Us Are Naughty (December 3, 9, 17, and 23), a co-productio with Mahjong Mafia, is a comedy show fueled by your naughty secrets. Mahjong Mafia produces improv comedy shows in Toronto at local theatres with cast members who have a diverse cultural background. This show is now different and will be a wild and hilarious ride! Then, My Big Fat Immigrant Christmas (December 22 & 23) is a holiday comedy musical for folks who have strong opinions about turkey and a satirical look at the holidays by immigrant comedians. Award winning, Filipina comedy troupe the Tita Collective join forces with TikTok sensation, Anesti Danelis in this satirical musical comedy that takes aim at the dominant way we celebrate the holidays. Equal parts a comment on Christian hegemony and strong opinions on turkey. Ticketed performances.

Northern Lights: Grand Bizarre, Exhibition Place. December 1 to January 8. Journey through this 80,000 square foot of outdoor immersive space filled with holiday activities in. distance areas: Spirit of the Holidays, Holiday Town square, The Journey North, and The North Pole. Featuring art installations, photo opps, dazzling lights and decor throughout. There will also be a 25 ft illuminated Christmas tree, holiday market, and more. Tickets must be purchased online ahead of time at www.northernlightsto.ca

Glow Christmas Toronto: until December 31. Toronto Congress Centre. Ticketed event. Be prepare to be dazzled by more than a million lights at Canada’s premier indoor Christmas festival, which is back by popular demand for yet another year. Make a night of it with friends and family Stay and savour delicious food, enjoy holiday-inspired drinks, and shop for one-of-a-kind gifts. Ticketed event.

A Very Merry Mirvish Holiday Concert: December 15 at 12:30 pm at Union Station: Stars from the current shows playing on Mirvish stages – Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical – will perform a holiday concert in the West Wing of Toronto’s historic Union Station. The 30 minute concert is in support of the Daily Bread Food Bank.