Explore: Santa parade, craft fairs, tree fest and more holiday fun

Santa Claus is coming to town with the Island Farms Santa’s Light Parade, followed by the Christmas Tree Light-Up, Saturday in downtown Victoria.

This is the 36th year for the popular parade, the unofficial start of the holiday season, with its colourful floats, groups and marching bands spreading Christmas cheer.

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The parade is a signature event for the Greater Victoria Festival Society, the same group that organizes the Victoria Day Parade. Organizers say it is the largest nighttime Santa parade in Canada.

New entrants this year include floats by Capital Iron and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

The major change this year is pushing the start back an hour, to 5 p.m.

“We listened to the community. Starting earlier means more younger children can enjoy the parade,” said Kelly Kurta, general manager of the society. “Last year, the crowd was estimated at between 60,000 to 65,000. This year, with an earlier start time, we expect that and more.”

Younger children means shorter attention spans — with the parade shortened by approximately 20 minutes to accommodate that.

> Find more events in our Go! section

Although the route remains the same, starting at the corner of Belleville Street and moving along Government Street, the parade now concludes at Herald Street.

Families are then invited to walk to Christmas Square (Centennial Square), where they will be treated to milk, cookies and pictures with Santa.

In the square, the Rising Star Circus (weather permitting) and Theatre Skam are set to perform. There will also be creative activities at the Youth Advisory Craft Tent, swashbuckling fun at Pirate School and performances by Stages Dance Group, Viva Youth Choirs and more. Food trucks will also be on hand.

Santa will officially flip the switch at the Christmas Tree Light-Up event, turning on thousands of LED lights on the giant sequoia in the square.

Although the event is free, donations of cash and non-perishable food items are requested to the Mustard Seed Church (drop-off locations can be found along the parade route and in Centennial Square).

The parade starts at 5 p.m. Saturday from Belleville Street and travels north along Government Street. The Christmas Square is open 4 to 8:30 p.m., with the Christmas tree light-up taking place at 6:48 p.m. in Centennial Square.

For information, go to gvfs.ca.

On Sunday, Oak Bay Village will light up to mark the start of the 2017 Oak Bay Christmas Festival with activities, craft stations, street games and more.

This year, the family-friendly event features music written and sung by Canadian performers in celebration of Canada 150.

“More and more we are finding people want to participate in events — they don’t want to just come and observe,” said Martin Cownden, president of the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association.

“With more young families in the area, we are continuing to add activities that families can enjoy together. We want the entire community to enjoy this kick-off to the season.”

Theatre SKAM will bring Christmas stories to life in its Pop Up Theatre. Letters to Santa may be dropped in the special North Pole mail box on the front lawn of the Oak Bay Municipal Hall. A Canadiana music concert features music by Canadian singers and songwriters.

Sets will also be performed by the Getaway Band, Victoria’s newest country folk quartet. TheJoy of Life Choir will be encouraging the crowd to sing along to their favourite Christmas songs.

Santa Claus will arrive on an Oak Bay Fire truck immediately after the lights come on and will stay for photos following his Christmas greeting. Photo donations support the Oak Bay Fire Department.

The celebration is free to attend. The party starts at 2 p.m., the concert starts at 3 p.m. and the lights come on at 5 p.m. Sunday in Oak Bay Village, along Oak Bay Avenue. Details at oakbay.cavisitoakbayvillage.ca or Facebook.

One-of-a-kind gifts galore

Find one-of-a-kind fine crafts, artisan food, decorative arts and fashions at the Out of Hand Artisan Fair, Friday to Sunday at the Victoria Conference Centre.

This is the 29th year for the event, which features the creations of well-established artisans, new-to-you designers and craftspeople from throughout British Columbia.

For the first time, the fair will feature festive greenery — wreaths, swags, bouquets and garlands — plus custom orders for delivery at Christmas. Also included is a pop-up Etsy boutique where you might meet your favourite Etsy seller.

There will be an artisan food market showcasing Vancouver Island producers, including craft distilleries and vintners.

Shoppers will be entertained by live performers, with door prizes offered each day.

Admission is $9 adults (weekend pass $10), $7 seniors and students and free for children under 12. The event runs 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. Sunday at the Victoria Conference Centre, 720 Douglas St.

For a full list of exhibitors/vendors, scheduled entertainment and more information, go to outofhand.ca or call 250-479-4339.

For the art lover on your list

Give the experience of art by choosing from hundreds of original art works, sculptures, fabric and glass creations, greeting cards and prints by local artists and artisans at the Little Gems Holiday Art and Craft Fair, today until Dec. 20 at The Bay Centre.

The craft fair is an initiative of the Victoria Arts Council, a non-profit society and member-based organization dedicated to advancing local arts and culture.

All works are under $300, with 80 per cent of the proceeds going to the artist. The remaining 20 per cent goes towards cultural programming and art education in the community.

“The continued and generous support of The Bay Centre is much appreciated, and has been a critical factor in the success all Victoria Arts Council art exhibitions, including Little Gems,” said Stephanie Eisenbraun, executive director of the council. “This dynamic venue offers the opportunity to make local art easily accessible to our community.”

An opening reception take place 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. tonight. The gallery will be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday until Dec. 20. at the Victoria Arts Council Art Space, located in the Bay Centre, 636 Fort St. For more information, go to vicartscouncil.ca.

Vote for your fave festive tree

If you’re looking for inspiration to decorate your Christmas tree, look no further than an enchanted forest at the annual Victoria Festival of Trees, fundraiser for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation, today until Jan. 2 at the Bay Centre.

The annual event, now in its 26th year, features 83 beautifully decorated Christmas trees created by sponsors (including the Times Colonist), local businesses, organizations and individuals. The trees are sometimes traditional, but often unique and limited only by the creativity and imagination of the entrants.

Vote for your favourite trees in the People’s Choice Award, and make a donation with each vote — with no limit to the number of votes cast. Every year, more than 15,000 votes are cast, raising more than $138,000 for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation, making the festival the largest Vancouver Island fundraising event for the charity.

View and vote for your favourite tree in person or online. You can also Text to Vote — use the text to vote code of your favourite tree, or simply text TREE to 45678.

View the trees during regular shopping hours at the Bay Centre, 1150 Douglas St. The event runs until Jan. 2, 2018. Details at bcchf.ca/events/event-calendar/festival-of-trees/victoria.

The ghost of Christmas past visits the museum

Meet Father Christmas, as the Royal B.C. Museum transforms its Old Town exhibit to recreate the holiday season from times gone by, today until the end of the year at the museum.

The sights and sounds of Christmases past will welcome visitors to Old Town, with its wood-cobbled streets lined with festive garlands and shops showing off their seasonal finery.

Visitors can have their pictures taken with Father Christmas by donation from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 1 to 3, 8 to 10 and 15 to 17 in the Old Town.

On Saturday, attend Bridging Victoria: Stories from the Archaeological Past, a pop-up event that showcases three never-before-exhibited archeology collections.

You will be able to handle artifacts such as bottles and ceramics from Chinatown, woodworking from the old Songhees Village (Esquimalt), and military objects from the depths of Esquimalt Harbour. The exhibit will also include incredibly preserved organic materials such as leather shoes and basketry.

Students from the department of anthropology at the University of Victoria will present interactive, digital and hands-on storytelling to engage visitors of all ages.

The event is included in the price of admission. It runs 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Want to find out more about local history? Join Who Were They Anyway? Digging into Local History, a four-week social-history workshop that investigates the lives of historical and forgotten Victoria residents, up close and personal. Participants will examine clues found in photographs, documents and artifacts within the museum’s collections and archives. Cost of the workshop is $75. The first class runs 10 a.m. to noon Monday.

Regular admission applies. All events take place at the Royal B.C. Museum, 675 Belleville St. For more information, go to royalbcmuseum.bc.ca.

Orchestral program for baroque fans

Music lovers can rejoice as the Victoria Chamber Orchestra performs a program of baroque pieces, Friday at First Church Christ Scientist and Sunday at Oak Bay United Church.

The program includes Albinoni Concerto Grosso, Op. 10 No. 12, Vivaldi Concerto for Strings in G minor, RV 156, Locatelli Concerto in F minor, Op. 1 No. 8, C.P.E. Bach Sinfonia in B minor, Wq. 182 and Telemann Don Quixote Suite. Yariv Aloni is both conductor and music director.

Tickets are $20 adults, $15 seniors and students and free for music students. Performances run 8 to 10 p.m. Friday at First Church Christ Scientist, 1205 Pandora Ave. (at Chambers) and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Oak Bay United Church, 1355 Mitchell St. Buy tickets at Long and McQuade, Ivy’s Bookshop or at the door. For details, call 250-598-1966 or go to victoriachamberorchestra.org.

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