Victoria, BC Canada – December 2001

Lights, Music, Action
Christmas in Victoria, BC

Start with the lights. There’s no shortage of Christmas illuminations in Victoria, BC. Stroll the Inner Harbour to take in the landmark 1897 Parliament Buildings, outlined with more than 3300 red and green lights during the holidays.

For an instant celebratory mood visit the world-renowned Butchart Garden’s special show of Christmas Illuminations, "The Magic of Christmas". The gardens are highlighted by the glow of hundreds of thousands of coloured Christmas lights and decorated trees. Each year Butchart Gardens adds a new display to correspond with the Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas". This year "Nine Ladies Dancing" is the newest addition. Finish off a tour with a traditional Christmas meal in The Dining Room, or warm up with tea in the Blue Poppy.

The Canadian Navy gets into the spirit of Christmas with their "Ships Christmas Lighting Contest" when the West Coast Fleet decorates the dockyard’s residents. Take a drive-through for an unusual lighting treat.

With its strong British heritage, there’s no shortage of traditional celebrations in Victoria. One of the most attended Christmas services is the 11pm Christmas Eve service held at the Christ Church Cathedral.

Music lovers can revel in the Victoria Symphony offerings. The Christmas classic, Handel’s Messiah, is performed by candlelight at Christ Church Cathedral. Conducted by Michael Gormley, it features the Capriccio Vocal Ensemble. For something a little lighter, the Symphony’s annual Christmas Pops at the Royal Theatre ends with a carol sing-along. This year a 50-member children’s choir performs.

Craigdarroch Castle, one of the most famous heritage buildings in Victoria and a designated National Historic Site, chips in with music and eye catching decorations set amidst the splendor of Victorian furnishings and stained glass windows. The castle, built in 1887 by Robert Dunsmuir, a rich Scottish coal baron, provides Christmas music, refreshments, and performances.

Point Ellice House Xmas Tree
Point Ellice House celebrates Christmas in the British style, following the customs of the O’Reilly family who came here from Britain in the late 1800’s. Holly from original trees in the grounds and ivy grace the rooms while family letters and diaries give details of the holidays.


"The shops in town very gay and well stocked – drove to town delivered a lot of holly at St. John’s church."
(Peter O’Reilly to Caroline, Christmas 1889)

The Christmas tree in the dining room is decorated in the style of the times – garlands strung with popcorn, cranberries and rose hips, cookies and sachets made by the family.

Helmcken House, built in 1852 and now a heritage attraction, offers tours with professional actors demonstrating the celebrations of a traditional Victorian family at Christmas time. Snacks and drinks are available during the tour, and classical decorations enhance the historic setting.

Another historic home, Carr House, the birthplace of the Canadian artist Emily Carr, is decorated in high Victorian style. Hot cider, goodies, and traditional Christmas carols are on offer. Historic Craigflower Schoolhouse stages an original Christmas play, Christmas in the Chokie, in a candle-lit setting.

Victoria Carriage Tours
One way to see the lights and sights of Victoria is to indulge in the Victorian luxury of a horse-drawn carriage ride. Snuggle under a blanket, sip hot cider or chocolate, and enjoy an old-fashioned ride that takes in the downtown, Beacon Hill Park, and the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Stroll through the lobby of the Fairmont Empress, a restored 1908 hotel, on the Inner Harbour, and have a peek at more than 50 Christmas trees. Various organizations in town decorate the trees for charity, putting their own unique twist into the creative decorations.

The Oak Bay Beach Hotel runs a special show at Christmas time called Musical Memories of Christmas. It features Yuletide music from Broadway to Hollywood and favourite carols: White Christmas, Silver Bells, I’ll be Home for Christmas and many more. The program is performed by Harmony Street, a quintet of entertainers, four singers and a pianist, who specialize in close vocal harmonies as well as clever arrangements blended with comedy.

To truly make your holiday special you’ll want to treat yourself to a plush place to stay. Victoria has many places that exude that special atmosphere, especially when in holiday dress. Whether you choose a B&B or a full service hotel is a matter of preference. Historic and exquisite B&B’s – Abigail’s, Beaconsfield Inn, Prior House, Amethyst Inn, and Mozart House – can’t be beat for their pampering.

Ah, Christmas in Victoria. What better way to celebrate than a weekend in a special place, complete with special Christmas events. Whether you live in Victoria or away, treat yourself to the lights, music, and bustle of the holiday season.

Essential Information and Events

Annual Ships Christmas Lighting Contest
Dec. 19-26
Her Majesty’s Dockyard, at the end of Esquimalt Road.
Tel. 363-2000
Open to drive-through traffic between 7 and 10 pm, extended until 11 pm on Christmas Eve. Non-perishable food items or cash donations will be accepted on behalf of the Mustard Seed Food Bank.

Christmas at the O’Reilly’s
Point Ellice House
2616 Pleasant St.
Open Dec 16-31, closed Christmas Day
A special Christmas Afternoon Tea is served in the barn.
Admission: Adults $5.00 Children under 16 $3.50
Afternoon tea: $16.95, which includes admission to the house.
Information: (250) 380-6506

Helmcken House Christmas Program
December 19-24 and 27-31 (Closed 25 – 26)
Location: Directly behind the Royal British Columbia Museum
Tel: 250-361-0021

Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle
Victorian Christmas – December 1-31, closed Dec. 25&26 and Jan. 1
Location: 1050 Joan Crescent
Tel: 250-592-5323 for Christmas program.
Hours: 10:00am-4:30pm
Admission: Adults $8, Students $5.50, Children (6-12) $2.50, children under 5 free or by donation.

Craigflower Farmhouse – Christmas in the Chokie
December 15 – 26 (closed Dec 25)
Craigflower Road at Admirals Road
Admission: Adults $9, Children $7
Information 250-383-4627

Annual Christmas Pops Special
Performed by the Victoria Symphony
Conducted by Brian Jackson
Children’s choir conducted by Madeliene Humer
Performances on Dec. 14th and 15th, 8pm, Dec. 16th at 2pm.
Royal Theatre at 805 Broughton St.
Tickets and information: (250) 385-6515 or at 846 Broughton St.

Handel’s Messiah
Performed by the Victoria Symphony
Christ Church Cathedral at 912 Vancouver St.
Conducted by Michael Gormley
Capriccio Vocal Ensemble
Performances on December 21st and 22nd, 8pm
Tickets and information: (250) 385-6515 or at 846 Broughton St.

The Nutcracker
Tchaikovsky’s classic Christmas tale
Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton St.
Performances on Dec. 28th, 29th, 30th.
Information: 386-6121

Musical Memories of Christmas
Oak Bay Beach Hotel
Dates for the show, a fireside reception, and dinner are Nov. 23-24, Dec 1-2, 7,8,9, 14-15-16.
$49 per person.

Victoria Carriage Tours
251 Superior Street
Tel. 250-383-2207
Leave from Belleville Street in the Inner Harbour beside the Parliament Buildings 10am-10pm
Covered carriages for inclement weather.

Tally-Ho Horse Drawn Tours
Tel: (250) 383-5067
Leave from Belleville Street in the Inner Harbour beside the Parliament Buildings

Gray Line Tours
Tel: 250-388-5248
Butchart Gardens Illuminated Lights Tour departs from Bus Depot (by Empress Hotel) at 6:30 pm
City Lights Tour: From mid December
Leaving from in front of the Empress Hotel

Butchart Gardens
Christmas Illuminations
800 Benvenuto Avenue
Hours: Dec. 1 – Dec 14, 9am – 9pm (visitors welcome until 10pm)
Dec 15 – Jan. 6, 9am – 10pm (visitors welcome until 11pm)
Location: 30-minute drive or sightseeing bus ride from the Empress Hotel
Tel. 250-652-4422
Admission: $13.25 per adult (ages 13-17 $6.75 ages 5-12 $2.00)

Treasure Trove of Christmas at Carr House
Emily Carr House
207 Government Street
Tel. 250-383-5843
Open weekends through December (closed December 25 and 26), 2001

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Annual Christmas Tree Trimming/Family Sunday
Sunday, December 16, 2:00-4:00pm
Christmas inspired art-making and ornament decoration.
Seasonal music by the Viva Girls Choir.

The Empress Hotel
721 Government Street
Tel. (250) 384-8111
The hotel offers a selection of festive dining options from Santa’s Brunch, superb dining in The Empress Room to the sweet sounds of carolers during an Afternoon Tea.
Rates from $134 per night.

Laurel Point Inn
Extravagant Christmas buffet dinner in the Terrace Room on Christmas Day.
Seating at 4pm and 7pm.
$44.95 for adults and $22.95 for children under 12.
The dinner includes hot and cold selections, a carving station, pasta and dessert.


  • Mid-December to Mid-February Eagle Extravaganza
    Goldstream Provincial Park, Contact: (250) 478-9414 (Nature House)
    As the spawning salmon die off, after their annual return to the Goldstream River, over 200 bald eagles move into Goldstream Provincial Park. Visitors to the Nature House can learn more about eagles and other birds of prey or catch one of the free interpretative programs


  • January 1 – Annual Polar Bear Swim
    Featuring a cold water splash for those suffering from the after effects of New Year’s Eve. 2:00 pm at Elk Lake


  • Through December 30
    Starfish Glassworks, 630 Yates Street
    Starfish Glassworks presents a whimsical Christmas exhibition on the theme of seasonal lighting and candles with artists from all across Canada participating.
    Tel. 388-7827


  • Through April 7
    Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville St.
    Immerse yourself in the world of Emil Carr. Marvel at the scope of her extraordinary talents. Experience the unique presence of a spirited woman who has become an international legend. Check out the website at for special events that will illuminate Emily’s life and times.
    Tel. 387-3701


  • December 4 – 23
    Belfry Theatre, 1291 Gladstone Avenue
    An evening of pure pentametric pandemonium. You’ll see all 37 plays in a single evening performed by just three hilarious actors from Theatre SKAM.
    Tickets available at Tourism Victoria
    Tel. 385-6815


  • December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 & 16
    McPherson Playhouse, #3 Centennial Square
    Kaleidoscope Theatre presents this performance at 7pm on December 7th, 8th, 14th & 15th and 2pm on December 9th and 16th. Tickets are $14 each, with $2 off for students and seniors and $4 off for Family Concert series subscribers.
    Tickets available at Tourism Victoria
    Tel. 386-6121


  • Through December 3
    Various Galleries throughout Victoria
    The fifth annual Victoria Gallery Walk tours five of downtown Victoria’s best galleries in a horse drawn trolley as they stay open late for gourmet snacks and liquid refreshments, and of course great exhibitions of art of all types.
    Tel. 388-7827

    ©2001 by Barbara Ballard. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including images, and reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from the author is prohibited.



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