Now that we’re into December and the Christmas season, our American and Canadian holiday schedules are finally coming together… but they got there in a very odd way. Christmas is Christmas, whether celebrated in the States or in Canada. Our dates and traditions are mostly the same, and it’s nice to feel a part of something that the people around you are gearing up for too. To start our Christmas season here on the island, our little family went to a local holiday light festival. This festival just happened to fall on the same date as American Thanksgiving, so our two holiday schedules collided in an odd mash up of Thanksgiving thoughts and Christmas imagery.
Since I’m still getting to know the area, I admittedly knew little about the town of Ladysmith where the Light Up festival was held other than the fact that it is mainly perched on the side of a mountain with painfully steep inclines that rival those of San Francisco. When we got to the festival, the early winter night was in full swing and the streets were packed with people eager to see the lights and the parade, and we slolumed down the hill with Little Man’s jogging stroller to be greeted by a fire juggler. The flames were the only special lights to be seen, since the special tree lighting ceremony had not yet been held and the copious holiday lights lining and crisscrossing the street had not yet been lit.
Our arrival coincided with dinner time, and both Little Man and I started to fade fast. So the three of us scouted up one hill and down the other, looking for a good place for dinner. There were some street food vendors that looked interesting, but with Little Man and all of our stuff (jogging stroller that we would not have survived without on those hills, potty seat and all assorted clothing changes in case potty was not achieved, etc.) we needed a place to sit indoors where it was warm.
What we found was a little Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant called The Wigwam (I have no idea why it has that name), which based on the stories we overheard during dinner sounds like it has been around for decades. I was a bit leery of eating in a Chinese restaurant with that name, but it seemed the best of our options and a booth opened up just as we got there. Because of the special parade night and the extra influx of diners they were only offering buffet (or smorgasbord as they say here north of the border… “smorg” for short), and it was pretty good. There were lots of good vegetables, sauces that tasted “real” not from weird packets, and copious amounts of Chinese tea to warm us from fingers to toes before going outside again. So while dinner was good, it was arguable the strangest Thanksgiving meal I’ve ever had… ever…
While we were inside toasty warm having dinner, we missed the lighting of the tree and the start of the parade. Then suddenly, from our booth in the Wigwam restaurant, we started to see the most massive semis going down the street, festooned with hundreds of lights and blaring their horns. Thus was answered the question of how on earth they were going to get dozens of parade floats up and down those near vertical hills… with large trucks. It was stunning, both visually and audibly. We quickly finished our meal and headed outside to see things better. Soon Little Man, who was on his dad’s shoulders for a better view of the floats, had Pooh Bear and his hands clamped over his ears. When his looks of wide eyed wonder turned to fear at the thought of one more truck horn, we decided it was time to go.
Before we could go far, we passed a store front where the wafting smell of cinnamon and sugar stopped us in our tracks. Dave and Little Man stayed outside to watch a few more floats, and I got in line at the awesome Old Town Bakery. The display cases were full of pies, cookies and the most amazing array of cinnamon and caramel rolls I’ve seen in a long time. Since it was American Thanksgiving, I kept myself focused on the task and limited myself to one apple pie and three small ginger cookies. Then back out into the cold to rescue my boys.
We tromped up yet another hill to catch a shuttle trolley ride back to our car. Had to stop only once for an impromptu use of the potty seat in someone’s driveway, and then finally made it up to the shuttle stop. After a short wait we all loaded on, and shortly after the shuttle started moving the fireworks started. We finished the fireworks display in our car in the parking lot, and then all three exhausted holidayers headed home. Next year we will plan things differently. Probably a light dinner in advance so we can have a street food treat at the festival. Definitely warmer clothes complete with hats and gloves so we can stomp around outside while waiting to see the official lighting of the tree. And most importantly, Little Man will get to join me in the Old Town Bakery to make his own selection from their amazing cases. It will feel just like Christmas.