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Holiday Happenings: Heritage Traditions

Festive family fun abounds this month at the city’s heritage sites and historic museums. Step back in time and experience old-fashioned Toronto traditions that will delight both young and old. Events occur during daily museum hours except where noted.

Casa Loma

Casa Loma

Casa Loma
Experience holiday magic as classic storybook tales are brought to life at this enchanting hilltop castle. The attraction also offers a variety of registration-only special events: on December 13 and 20 families can feast on scrumptious pancakes at a breakfast with Santa Claus; or help your little elf decorate a miniature gingerbread house on December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20. And on December 22 and 30, get physical with a holiday-themed family archery lesson and learn the history and techniques behind this ancient sport.

1 Austin Terrace. Admission and special event prices vary; call 416-923-1171 for more information and to register.


Mackenzie House

Eschew the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping for the charm of a traditional Christmas in the 1859 row-house of Toronto’s first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie. Sample mulled cider and warm biscuits in an authentic 19th-century kitchen while little ones write letters to Santa Claus the old-fashioned way—using a pen and ink pot, plus stationery made with a circa-1845 printing press. And on December 13 and 20, gather in Mackenzie House’s cozy family room for an afternoon storytelling session featuring Christmas tales from the Victorian era.

82 Bond St. Adults $5.71, children $3.33; call 416-392-6915 for details.


Todmorden Mills Museum

Discover the simple pleasures of a Regency-era Christmas at Todmorden Mills—the site’s early 19th-century homes are adorned for the season with a lovely array of evergreen garlands and festive decorations. You can even create your own tree ornaments using a traditional felting technique. Register for the Cast Iron Chef cooking series on December 5 and prepare tasty holiday treats on an open hearth. On December 12, creative visitors can use wires, pliers and natural materials to make custom holiday decor at the wreath-making workshop.

67 Pottery Rd. Adults $5.24, children $2, workshop prices vary; call 416-396-2819 for details and to reserve.

Black Creek Pioneer Village

Black Creek Pioneer Village

Black Creek Pioneer Village
Step back in time to a Victorian country Christmas and enjoy festive performances, hands-on activities and festive treats at this living history museum. On December 5, 12, and 19 the historic village is bathed in the flickering glow of candlelight and oil lamps for Christmas by Lamplight, an annual celebration with costumed carollers, games and storytellers. Then return December 6, 13, and 20 for a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings served in the Village’s historic brewery restaurant.

1000 Murray Ross Pkwy. Admission prices vary; to purchase tickets for Christmas by Lamplight, call 416-736-1733, ext. 5331. For Sunday Christmas Dinner reservations, call 416-667-6295.


Colborne Lodge

Celebrate the holidays in winter-wonderland surroundings in a restored 1837 regency villa. Tour the picturesque home of High Park’s founders, John and Jemima Howard, while nibbling on delectable holiday snacks and toast the season with mulled cider warmed by an authentic wood stove. Sign up to make a festive seasonal wreath to take home on December 5, 6 and 10; on December 12, 13, 16, 17 and 19, craft custom adornments for your dinner table at the two-hour Christmas centrepiece workshop.

Colborne Lodge Drive. Adults $5.71, children $3.33, workshop prices vary; call 416-392-6916 for details.


Gibson House

Holiday traditions of yore come to life at this north Toronto family farmhouse built in 1851. The Georgian-style exterior is resplendent with seasonal finery; costumed staff lead capture the spirit with tours of this historic rural landmark. On December 19 and 20 the museum hosts Mincemeat, Pomanders and Paperchains—a weekend event with festive crafting for kids in the Discovery Gallery and traditional holiday fare from the open-hearth kitchen.

5172 Yonge St. Adults $5.48, children $2.62; call 416-395-7432 for more information.


Montgomery’s Inn

Enjoy plentiful seasonal entertainment throughout the month at this early-1800s Etobicoke landmark. Ring in the holidays on December 4 by singing 19th-century carols while sipping period-relevant drinks in the tavern at this historic inn. On December 4 and 5 the Humber River Shakespeare Company performs an original production of Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol. Also on December 5, master baker Monika Paradis presents a delightfully decadent Gingerbread House workshop. And on December 12, cozy up by the fire and enjoy readings of The Ghost of Christmas Present and many more seasonal stories.

4709 Dundas St. W. Admission prices vary; call 416-394-8113 for registration information.