As word of the new red zone restrictions spread on social media last month, I couldn’t help but think of Robin Hood. Not the character, but the 1991 film version, and Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham angrily shouting “…call off Christmas!”
Yes, the restrictions create challenges in celebrating the season. But just like Diwali in November, our community is finding ways to safely celebrate the holidays this December.
Mixing the spirit of Christmas and Waterloo Region’s spirit of innovation, The Lions Club of Kitchener held reverse Santa Claus parades in November. There were two reverse parades, one in Waterloo and one in Kitchener. Instead of sitting along Weber St. to watch the floats, parade attendees drove by a smaller selection of stationary floats — and the big man himself.
Many of the Region’s traditional events have been cancelled or modified this year to help reduce crowds and the spread of COVID-19. We can’t take a horse-drawn wagon ride at Christmas in Belmont Village this year or enjoy some of Nick and Nat Benninger’s bone broth at Christkindl Market, but there are still some great ways to celebrate the holidays and support local businesses while keeping apart to keep each other safe.
NES GADOL HAYA SHAM
Keeping your family — especially at-risk members like grandparents — safe means celebrating the holidays on Zoom or Facetime. If your dreidel and menorah are at your Bubbe’s house, you can pick up your own at the Chabad’s Chanukah Shop on Albert St. in Waterloo. They have menorahs, candles, dreidels, and everyone’s favourite gift — Hanukkah socks.
MENORAH LIGHTING IN WATERLOO
The City of Waterloo has cancelled their menorah lighting ceremony on Dec. 10, but they will still be lighting the candles during the holiday. You’re encouraged to come with your immediate family to see the menorah after it’s lit but avoid creating large crowds.
TRADE-UP FROM THAT CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS TREE
If you’ve never had a live Christmas tree before, this might be the year to do it. We’ll all be spending more time in our homes and a fresh tree brings the outdoors inside (which is good, as long as you check for squirrels first). Benjamin Tree Farm in Waterloo offers pre-cut and cut-your-own trees all the way to December 23. Further north, Outback Tree Farmin Listowel is open on Saturdays and Sundays to cut your own tree.
AT HOME WITH CHRISTKINDL MARKET
Kitchener’s German Christmas village in front of City Hall has been transformed into a 24-day celebration of Christmas. Starting on Dec. 1, they’ll be sharing a video or tradition for you to enjoy at home in their virtual advent calendar. Also starting on Dec. 1, you can shop online from some of your favourite Christkindl market vendors.
SINGING IS SAFE WHEN IT’S ONLINE
Even with restrictions, the show must go on. You can enjoy this year’s Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s Yuletide Spectacular online on Dec. 18. Chilina Kennedy will perform holiday favourites with the dancers from Carousel Dance Company. They’re offering choose-your-price tickets starting at $15.
LIGHT UP THE NIGHT
Waterloo Region is home to amazing Christmas light celebrations. You can walk at a distance or drive through Waterloo Park’s Wonders of Winter. Grab a coffee from Matter of Taste or Show and Tell, and take a walk through the Christmas Fantasy in Victoria Park. For something a little different, check out the awesome visual effects at the Old Post Office light show in Cambridge.
Whatever holiday you celebrate, make sure you do it safely so we can all be together again in 2021.
Alex Kinsella is a freelance content marketer and writer based in Waterloo Region, Ontario. He's behind the TL;WR newsletter–Waterloo Region's weekly events newsletter. He's worked with some of Canada's most well known tech companies in roles including customer success, development, product management, PR, social media and marketing. Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine and more.