恭喜发财 ! 金蛇贺岁 ! 新春同喜 ! For the 2013 Year of the Snake Chinese New Year parade on Feb 17, 2013, a Golden Snake slithered through Vancouver’s Chinatown along with the Fortune God 财神 giving blessing to anyone who were present. There were dragon dances, lion dances, First Nations dances, gypsy dances and more which altogether made up a very multicultural Lunar New Year procession.
Mayor Gregor Robertson was there along with many other federal and provincial politicians including BC Premier Christy Clark, MP James Moore and many others. It’s the Spring Festival 春节, time to say Gung Hay Fat Choy and wish for a prosperous lunar new year, the Year of the Snake.
It’s that time of the year again, with fire-a-burning and ‘People Get Ready’ (yeah, that song) as the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train on its Rock ‘n Roll trek is heading to a station near them.
In its 14th year, the 2012 trains have one running for Canada and one for the U.S. Beyond bringing joy and happiness of the holiday season to the masses, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) company also hopes the program will help raise awareness of the importance of local food bank along its vast North American network in serving local communities.
Both Christmas-lights adorned locomotives made stops at more than 150 communities and this being the Hurricane Sandy disaster year which destroyed many people’s homes and lives in the affected areas, CPR encouraged everyone to bring non-perishable food items and/or donate money to feed the hungry and needy.
The two holiday trains officially kicked off their journey on Nov 28, 2012. The Canadian Holiday Train started from Beaconsfield, Quebec, while the U.S. ‘train of lights’ began its trek through the American Northeast and Midwest from Scranton, Pa after making brief stops in Kahnawake, Delson, and Lacolle, P.Q.
Three weeks and thousands of miles later, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train finally headed towards its final destination, Port Moody, BC. With snow on the ground, Dec 18, 2012 was an usual cold night at this suburb in Greater Vancouver. While all waited for Engine 9815 (the locomotive’s designation) to arrive, the Metro Vancouver Firefighters Band played light-hearted Christmas music right next to a campfire built by the Port Moody firefighters to keep the crowd warm.
Soon as the train pulled into the make-shift station behind the Port Moody Recreation Centre, band members Doc Walker, Miss Emily, Randall Prescott and the Brothers Dube opened up a boxcar stage and performed a number of Christmas and railroad songs including People Get Ready (by Curtis Mayfiled), Little Toy Train (Roger Miller) and others.
Prescott played a raspy and firey harmonica number that rocked the rollicking audience of about 200 people who gathered. Santa appeared on stage while his elves went around greeting the crowd as the band played ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’.
In the U.S., CPR offered a matching donation of up to US$250,000 for corporate and community donations made to any local food bank. In Port Moody, a check of CDN$7,000 was presented to the Share Family + Community Services.
As Miss Emily sang Silent Night and asked the crowd to join in, it was a lullaby for a good-night call. Mission accomplished, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train 2012 sounded its whistler one last time and retreated from Port Moody.
The VanDusen Festival of Lights is a Christmas event that many nature-lovers have been waiting for to start the holiday season.
One of the guiding principles of the VanDusen Garden has always been to connect people to plants and the natural environment. Year-round, visitors have come here to appreciate and learn about conservation, gardening, plant lives and stories, nutrition, pollination, adopt a tree, birding in the garden and many more.
The VanDusen Garden is also a popular spot for wedding couples getting hitched.
Although there are more than 100 events happening all year, don’t think that during winter the garden would be in hibernation. No, December happens to be the busiest time of the year.
To celebrate Christmas and the Yuletide season, the garden comes alive with more than a million light bulbs illuminating all vegetation and the surrounding enclave. 1.4 million lights to be exact.
Nancy Wong, VanDusen Garden’s Public Relations Director, proudly pointed out that volunteers counted each light bulb every year and made sure they were working before putting them on.
The Festival of Lights is an extremely popular event. Families come in droves.
On the first day of the festival (Dec 02), there was a long lineup of people wanting in before the garden officially opened at 4:30 PM. In fact, visitors were advised to purchase tickets in advance at Tickets Tonight or in person at the Garden Shop at VanDusen Garden as early as Nov 1st.
Once visitors entered the garden, many of them seek out the popular Dancing Lights at Livingstone Lake in which a continuous series of strobe lights was synchronized to rock versions of familiar Christmas songs that reverberated with the audience, adults and kids alike.
Music is the universal language, no loss in translation there. It signifies the joyous season and everyone is excited to be there. Dancing Lights plays every half-hour and it has become one of the main attractions of the Festival of Lights experience.
After the light show, visitors began to explore different areas of the garden and there were plenty for them to see and enjoy – Santa’s Living Room, Gingerbread Wood, Make-a-Wish Candle Shrine, Sparkling Spruce in the center court, Candy Cane Express model train etc.
Roaming along the brightly-illuminated Candy Cane Lane, you would likely hear a singing choir that draws you nearer or encounter two Christmas Gnomes, Svend and Jens eager to entertain.
Svend joked often in a heavy Swedish accent while Jens played his quiet and abiding partner. Their routine worked out very well I must say.
It’s the Winter Light season (not Lights, in honor of director Ingmar Bergman) and with Svend and Jens close by, you are reminded of the Swedish filmmaker’s world-famous troupe of actors including Liv Ulman, Max Von Sydow, Gunnel Lindblom and others. Ja!
After an hour or two, you just might feel hungry and it is a perfect time to have dinner at the garden. Both light fare and full meals are available at the VanDusen Garden. Dinner is also served every night at the Shaughnessy Restaurant during the Festival of Lights. Reservations are recommended.
Ho-Ho-Ho, Santa’s rocking in his chair!
[Photos & Video by Ray Van Eng | www.vancouver21.com ]
Bright Nights in Stanley Park 2012 (Nov 29, 2012 – Jan 1, 2013) is entering its 15th season. And it’s that time of the year again. Christmas, Santa, Silent Night, Noel, Yuletide, New Year, Boxing Day, Hanukah & Seasons Greetings.
Same as before, Bright Nights is a family-friendly event and an opportunity to raise money for the British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund. It is for a charity cause to honor the men and women who put their lives on the line every time they go out to save those who might be threatened by a raging fire or trapped in a dangerous environment. So be generous.
Entry to the Christmas Park display area is FREE and the entire place is adorned with Christmas-themed décor—reindeer, Santa, gingerbread houses, nutcrackers, presents, Christmas lights etc. A ticket is required for the Christmas Miniature Train Ride. (Prices are listed below.)
The Stanley Park miniature train, a key component that had made Bright Nights and other events such as the Halloween Ghost Train and Klahowya Village Train a great success every year, was transformed into the Bright Nights Train as it rode through the world-famous Douglas fir and cedar forest illuminated by what seemed like millions of colorful lights just in time for the holiday season.
Though smaller in size and stature than a life-size train, the engine designation is a special one – Engine 374. The namesake of which is the engine that pulled the first-ever transcontinental train to arrive in Vancouver in May 1887 all the way from its shop in Montreal.
Here at Stanley Park, the miniature train pulls passengers through an unforgettable journey of a brightly–lit Christmas Winter Wonderland. The view at the bridge over a lake is awe-inspiring and the trip boring through a tunnel full of modern cave-like paintings brings sheer delight of love, peace and joy. It just stimulates the mind.
indeed, Bright Nights at Stanley Park is not just for kids, adults enjoyed it just as much. Many come with their family to get into the Yuletide mood. This year’s the train’s soundtrack includes many modern renditions of old Christmas favorites for your enjoyment. You won‘t be disappointed.
Ho-ho-ho, Santa’s waiting.
Chritmas Train Ride Tickets -
Adult: $10.00 includes HST;
Child, Youth & Seniors: $7.00 includes HST
(Children & Youth 3-17, Seniors 65+)
Children Under 3 years of age are FREE
Christmas park admission is FREE
Advance tickets can be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.ca or charge by phone: 1-855-985-5000. (Note that Ticketmaster services charges apply)
Sails of Light 2012 Christmas at Canada Place in Vancouver BC. From Nov 29, 2012 to Jan 1, 2013, the five sales at Canada Place lights up to celebrate the Christmas season. Each year, an elaborate light show is projected onto the Teflon sails much like an artist applies brushstrokes on a canvas.
An estimated 500,000 people this year would enjoy the illuminated artwork on one of Vancouver’s landmark architectures, the Five Sails, from around Stanley Park, the downtown waterfront areas and on carol ships out and about in Coal Harbor and the Burrard Inlet. The event is a visual feast and a way for Canadians to tell their stories using lights, colors, shadows, animation, time duration and illuminated imagery.
Beyond being an artistic endeavor that reflects Canadian values, the Sails of Light venture also invites corporate customers to participate as partners and explore branding opportunities.
Sails of Light at Canada Place had become a Vancouver holiday tradition since 2009 when the event debuted just two months before the opening of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games that further established the city as an international destination.
CandyTown 2012 Vancouver Christmas Celebration Arrived Early in a Horse-draw Carriage through Historic Yaletown for the Holiday Season
One of the first to get into the spirit of the holiday season in Vancouver BC, the inaugural CandyTown 2012 at Yaletown celebrated the Yuletide season with a two day festival (Nov 24-25, 2012) that also helped re-introduce the historic heritage region of Yaletown to locals and visitors alike.
Presented by Concord Pacific, CandyTown 2012 is also the only FREE outdoor Christmas event in town. Kids and adults were invited to skate for free at the Scotiabank Ice Rink in Bill Curtis Square (right next to the Yaletown Rouindhouse Skytrain station) for the two days from 3PM – 9PM. On Saturday, NHL star Trevor Linden made an appearance from 12 Noon to 3PM and passed out autograph for fans. A signed Trevor Linden hockey jersey was also awarded to a lucky fan who entered the draw.
At the All I Want for Christmas Street Market, one of the boutique shops would seem to have something that you always wanted on sale to make the area an even more attractive locale to do your Christmas shopping.
One of the key highlights of the festival is the FREE horse-drawn carriage sponsored by Concord Pacific and hosted by Allan Financial that took passengers on a short 10-minute trip across historic Yaletwon which like Gastown elsewhere in the city used to be an industrial area but now filled with upscale boutiques and shops. Many generous riders gave donations at the end of the tour which were gladly accepted.
Ho-Ho-Ho, a long line of visitors also sat on Santa’s lap at a nearby tent and had their friends and family took photos of them using their iPhone, Blackberry and other what-have-you camera gear. An iPad user was seen sweeping the scenery shooting video to capture the festivities.
Indeed, the festival promised to have something for everyone. Join the Candytown Cocktail Tour if you like and follow the large martini glass sign and you will find your perfect candy-themed cocktail mix at participating Yaletown restaurants, taverns and bars.
By nightfall, the ice sculptures at the 1000-block Mainland Street glowed in the dark with changing colored-lights lit from below. Christmas-costumed figures leisurely strolled by to add to the carnival atmosphere for the holiday season.
Ah, allow me, clumsy as it maybe, to change the lyrics to the song ‘Let It Snow’ to fit the mood –
Oh the weather outside is not frightful
The ice sculptures delightful
Since we have CandyTown to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…
[Photos & Video by Ray van Eng | www.vancouver21.com ]
Vancouver Christmas Market Brings Old-World German Holiday Tradition & Best Shopping Experience You’ll Have All Season to Vancouver BC, Canada.
Get into the Holiday Spirit, Vancouver!
The Vancouver Christmas Market (VCM) follows the centuries-old tradition of a German Christmas market and brings all the cultural delights at this time of the year from Deutschland to all families from every community in this part of the world to help celebrate the holiday season. Besides Christmas-themed foods and entertainment, the VCM promises to offer the best shopping experience you’ll have all season as well.
This year as was last year, the location of the Vancouver Christmas Market is at the open plaza area right next to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (QE Theatre). It is a good location and just a short 5-minute walk from the Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain station and readily accessible to buses including some Northshore lines.
As suggested by VCM which tries its best to follow sustainable eco-friendly principles, the best way to get the market is by making use of public transportation. Though parking is also conveniently located including one that is right underneath the QE Theatre should you decided to drive.
This QE Theatre location is also where the First nations Aboriginal Pavilion was during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. In fact, the founder and president of VCM, Mr. Malte Kluetz indicated that he was inspired by that global sporting event that further established the City of Vancouver as an international destination to setup a world-class Christmas market with ideas based on his homeland country of Germany.
So what can be found inside the Vancouver Christmas Market?
With 45 vendors participating this year, many of then from Germany and Austria, the VCM offers a sampling of products, services and entertainment from the Bavarian country and surrounding regions. Here, you will find Bavarian Weisswurst, German Bratwurst, Swiss chesses, salted Bretzels, waffles, cinnamon bakeries, fine Belgian chocolates and the many different varieties of hand-crafted and painted chocolate candies.
Yes, there is a Carousel ride which is Vancouver’s first and only Christmas Carousel at $3 per ticket or 5 tickets for $10 too. Information for rates, tickets, prepaid special groups (of 20 people or more) and a 2-for-1 lunch pass (for downtown workers) are available at the Vancouver Christmas Market web site at http://vancouverchristmasmarket.com.
New this season is a FREE RE-ENTRY offer. You paid once for admission and you will receive a re-entry pass that allows you to come back anytime you want for the entire season which opens its gates from November 24 to December 24, 2012, 11am-9pm with early closing on Christmas Eve (Dec 24) at 6pm.
The Vancouver Christmas Market is largely an outdoor venue, so dress appropriately. Kaethe Wohlfahrt, Germany’s top Christmas ornament and décor company which sells hundreds of unique and one-of-a-kind Christmas decorative items, is the only shop sheltered inside a building that is part of the QE Theatre complex. Many of the outdoor shops are housed inside wooden huts. Washrooms are exterior temporary toilets (i.e. portable johns.)
No Christmas tree, either real or fake is sold at the market, so don’t come shopping for that and you won’t be disappointed. At the market, you will find many finely-crafted Christmas items on display with everyone seemingly having a story to tell and an old-world tradition beckoning you to find out more.
The VCM is a licensed premise, so alcoholic drinks are available for those who can be proved themselves to be 19 or over. Glühwein and a popular variant, the Feuerzangenbowle with a rum-soaked sugarloaf set on fire and dipped into the wine (usually red) are also served at the market. Adhering to the principle of sustainability to reduce waste, these popular German Christmas beverages are served in recyclable mugs. After your enjoyment, you can return the mug to get your $2 mug deposit back.
However, due to food and liquor licensing, no dogs or other pets are allowed with the exception for guide dogs. The market is also easily wheelchair accessible.
There is a live stage which features live bands, dancers and entertainment by artists and groups from such countries as Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Germany, Estonia and others. The Santa’s Brass Band plays traditional Christmas tunes with a toe-tapping rhythm that sees many visitors dancing with their partner around the stage.
And yes, this is a suggestion for the organizer – The melodies from ‘The Sound of Music’ would seem to fit in the market very well and indeed one would feel ‘the hills are alive’, so perhaps we might see (and hear) some of that in the future? On the other hand, the Vancouver Christmas Market is certainly teeming with life with a constant stream of visitors milling about the merchant stalls on Sunday afternoon Nov 25. Mr Kluetz said he expects to have 160,000 visitors this year. The 2011 attendance was 130,000.
Besides merchandizes from European producers, there are also no shortages of local and fair Trade goods including Fraser Valley honey, products from Ecofair Tarding and Tradewinds, woolen hats and clothing from Namaste National Products etc. And speaking of honey, Germany is the biggest honey-lover in the world, proclaimed one of the honey vendors at the market.
On Remembrance Day (Nov 11, 2012) in Vancouver, the Seaforth Highlander Pipes and Drums Band lead by Pipe Major CWO Mitchell “Mike” Bain, together with the Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services band performed a moving musical tribute at the Cenotaph in Victory Square in downtown Vancouver BC, Canada. Some of the musical compositions played included The Lament, Sands of Kuwait, Maple Leaf Forever, God Saves the Queen, In Flanders Fields and others.
Of those present to place a wreath were BC Premier Christy Clark, Mayor Gregor Robertson, the RCMP, veterans, dignitaries and military personnel. After the official ceremony is over, the public got to lay their poppies on the wreaths. Kids and adults from age 8 to 80 and over all participated.
Lest We Forget.
Sands of Kuwait by Seaforth Highlander
[A Video by Ray Van Eng | www.vancouver21.com ]
After an elaborate military ceremony on Remembrance Day 2012 (Nov 11, 2012) in Vancouver BC, which was not unlike such formalities in past years, a long line of soldiers stepped along downtown Hastings Street as if they were on a Farewell March. This year’s parade which seemed to be the largest-ever assembled of the Canadian regiment, veterans, RCMP, cadets, police, the Red Cross and others, begged the question – Is Canada becoming more militant? Or are we just more patriotic than ever before? Or maybe both?
The crowd cheered loudly and applause enthusiastically as the procession passed by. Are we becoming more like the Americans who are quite ready to have their loved ones sent oversea to fight a war thousands of miles away, especially during times of a threat to their security like after the 911 incident? Is Canada facing the same fate? If yes, are we ready to do the same as the Americans?
Speaking of security, the threat of terrorism that plagued many parts of the world hit home a few days ago when packages of explosive material were discovered at Vancouver’s Skytrain transportation system. Police are still investigating and don’t know if this was a prank or something much more sinister. But the alarm bell has been sounded.
These latest incidents of a bomb scare may just be a wakeup call for Canadians including those in BC which can normally live their lives in peace without much worry of bombers lurking among us. Are we just realizing that we are no longer immune to the concerns for national security and terrorist attacks that have plagued much of the world?
To counter-balance things a little, at the end of the soldiers parade, a few lone individuals including two military personnel with their medals all decked out and some young men in civilian clothes carried a sign that read ‘Let Peace be Their Memorial’. There are no shortage of supporters for this group as well, as the on-lookers cheered and clapped their hands just as boisterously as they did for the men and women in uniform who strolled by just a while before. Are Canadians motivated now but still in conflict within ourselves about sending troops to fight an enemy abroad?
Earlier in the day, a Changing of the Guard ritual took place at the Cenotaph and the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services Band and others played ‘Maple Leaf Forever’, ‘In Flanders Fields’, a bag-pipe performance of ‘The Lament’, ‘God Saves The Queen’ and other tribute music to pay respect to those who gave their lives in the service of Canada during World War Two (WWII), the Iraq War and most recently the Afghan War. A military aircraft fly-pass was also part of the Remembrance Day or Poppy Day programming this year.
REMEMBRANCE DAY 2012 SOLDIERS PARADE [A Video by Ray Van Eng | www.vancouver21.com ]
One of the main events at the Remembrance Day 2012 ceremony was the Changing of the Guard in Victory Square by the Canadian regiment and RCMP. Two soldiers stood side by side at each of the three surfaces of The Cenotaph with their head bowed down in vigil.
Conducted by the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services Band, vocalists sung ‘Maple Leaf Forever’, ‘God Save the Queen’, ‘In Flanders Fields’ and other music. Many soldiers and military personnel that took part in the Second World War (WWII) came to paid respect and tribute. It was the thing to do and they don’t want to it miss it every year. Many arrived in wheelchairs and blankets to keep them warm in the usually chilly morning when the ceremony is invariably held at 11 AM sharp.
BC Premier Christy Clark, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and other dignitaries were present at the formality which also comprised what seemed to be the largest ever ensemble of Canadian regiment, RCMP, Vancouver police, cadets and veterans who took part in a Soldiers Parade at the end of the ceremony that has the Canadian military aircraft fly-by overhead multiple times.
On the other hand, at the end of the military procession, a small group with two elderly soldiers with their medals all decked out, walked slowly with others, accompanied by two younger men holding up a sign (about 5 ft by 10 ft) that read ‘LET PEACE BE THEIR MEMORIAL’. Many in the crowd along Hastings Street cheered and applause just like they did for the military personnel that marched earlier.