Friday, November 4, 2011

The 12 Invitations of Christmas

A dear friend of mine went through a very tough time last year when she separated from her husband.  When Christmas time neared she was looking for ways to make it fun for her four teenage daughters, but she also had to do it on a significantly reduced budget.  Over a few weeks in October I helped her brainstorm what she could do to make this a memorable, but frugal Christmas.  

One of the ideas I suggested was to think of twelve different activities that she could do with her daughters in the period leading up to Christmas so the emphasis wasn't only on Christmas Day.  Well let me tell you she took the idea and ran with it.  

We Googled different activities in the Toronto area that were free or low cost and she had some ideas of her own.  She then texted each of her daughters with details about the twelve fun activities that they were invited to.  The texts were sent out to each of her daughters letting them know that these were invitations not expectations.  It was her hope that all four of her daughters would join her for at least one of the events and that she would have some time alone with each of them as well and that is just what happened.  

I recently asked her to remind me what they had done as I thought others might be in the same position that she is in and may want some suggestions, or some families may just want ideas of ways to spend some fun frugal family time together.  I also asked her if there was anything she would do differently and she told me that she wouldn't change a thing and hopes to do a repeat again this year.   Her daughters have fond memories of their outings from last year.   While most of my readers do not live in the Toronto area, you might still get ideas of things to do in your area this Christmas. 

Here are the 12 Invitations of Christmas (I've put details in italics about when these activities are being held this year):

1. Santa Claus parade.  The Toronto Santa Claus parade, which started in 1905, is a fun way to get your family into the spirit of Christmas.   Sitting outside for several hours definitly involves a good supply of sandwiches and thermoses of warm soup and coffee.   This year the parade is Sunday, November 20th, 2011 (you can see more details here).

Santa Claus Parade, Toronto

2. Swedish Christmas at Harbourfront.  The Swedish Christmas market includes food, crafts, and dancing.   Since Kensington market is only a short distance away, my friend and her daughter went there afterward for a warm drink and a little window shopping.  The Swedish Christmas will be on November 19-20th, 2011 this year.  You can read more about it here.

Elle Dub's Strawberry Social

3. Cavalcade of Lights at Nathan Philips Square.  The Cavalcade of Lights is a free show including live bands and a grand display of fire works leading up to the lighting of the Christmas tree in Nathan Phillips Square.  This year the Cavalcade of Lights is on Saturday, November 26th. (you can find more information here).

Calvacade of Lights, Nathan Phillips Square

4. Attend the Salvation Army Christmas Concert.  Try checking out Christmas concerts outside of the downtown area for less expensive options.  For example the Salvation Army Concert at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga is free (donations only).  It will be held on Sunday, November 27, 2011 and you can find more out about it here.


5. The Christmas Story at The Church of the Holy Trinity.  This live nativity play has been produced every year since 1937.  While the church suggests a donation amount, you can pay whatever you are able.  Since Chinatown is fairly close it is a great place to get a bite to eat afterward.  The Christmas Story is being performed this year on the weekends of December 9th, 16th, and 22 (you can read more about it and order tickets here).  

The Christmas Story at Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto

6.  Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District.  This is a free event that has entertainment, treats, and handcrafted goods for sale.  The market is being held from December 2-18, 2011 and you can find more information out about it here.

7.  Drive around Toronto in pajamas admiring the Christmas lights.  It is a good idea to Google where the best light displays are (search "best Christmas lights in ---") as it changes year to year.  I did find this blog that has done a post on the best lights in Toronto for the past few years.  This outing definitely involves travel mugs of hot chocolate and treats to nibble on in the car.

Christmas Lights in Toronto 

8. A drive through Downsview Park's Trail of LightsThe Downsview Park's Trail of Lights is a 2 km trail through a forest with hundreds of light displays.  The cost is $10-12 per person depending on the day you go and it runs from late November to early January (you can read more here). 

Downsview Park Trail of Lights

9.  Have an at-home spa night and watch videos of when the girls were young.  Try looking on-line for ideas - check out this link for ideas on how to make your own face masks and scrubs.


10.  Watch Christmas movies and eat homemade comfort food - like chocolate dipped strawberries and drinking spicy tea.  If you are in need of some ideas of Christmas movies have a look at this list on Amazon.


11.  Go caroling with your neighbours.  You could end up at home with a warm drink and snacks to finish the evening.


12.  Go tobogganing and have a hot picnic in the snow.   You can Google to find out where the best toboggan hills are in your area (well that's presuming you live in an area that gets snow - otherwise you will have to go for a walk together).  Here is a list of good toboggan hills in the Toronto area.

It is always worth Googling and asking around for ideas in your area so you too can have 12 fun Christmas outings.


  1. I LOVE this list - what great ideas! I had alraedy planned on checking out the Christmas Market at the Distillery but now I've got a few more destinations on my list as well. Thanks for posting!

  2. What a great list Grace and a great idea for your friend and her daughters. I especially want to make it to the Distillery district during December.

  3. HI Grace! Aren't these all terrific ideas?!? I love what your friend said about them all being invitations, NOT expectations, too.

    Happy PS!

    Big TX Hugs,
    Angelic Accents

  4. this is such a great idea....I am going to borrow this if you don't mind.

  5. Hi Grace,
    Thanks for the list...Toronto is a beautiful city. Your blogging tips have been very helpful. Thanks for dropping by my place. New follower.