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Festive outings

Sharing is what the holidays are all about. And what great fun sharing the holiday is. Here are some wonderful family events that capture the hoiday spirit.


Festival of lights

Before electricity, before batteries, before propane there were candles – they were the first light. It is that first light, 2,000 candles, that lines the path to the past for this winter's First Light celebrations at Ontario's first European settlement, Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. The three-day event running Nov. 26 to 28 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. celebrates Christmas in the 17th Century in a place where French Jesuits forged through deep forests and rivers, finally creating a settlement along the shores of Georgian Bay. It is widely believed that it was on this site that Father Jean de Brebeuf wrote the Huron Carol, Canada's first Christmas carol which was translated in 1926 into the English version we know today. That haunting tune, along with other Franco-Ontario music and entertainment is played throughout the event along with aboriginal drumming and singing in Sainte-Marie's longhouses. The cookhouse features a 17th-Century food display and there are children's activities, including quill pen writing, along with historic blacksmithing, teas and herb display, an encampment, artisans, crafters and a French cafe. Last year brought a record 5,300 visitors to the event. For more information go to: http://www.saintemarieamongthehurons.on.ca/english/special_events.html

Festival of trees

A stunning light display alongside Barrie's Centennial Park promises to grow every year. This year the Festival of Trees will include four large static displays and up to 50 trees decorated in something like 24,000 colourful LED lights. The lights go on Nov. 20, coinciding with the annual tree lighting ceremony at Memorial Square, and continues until after Winterfest, Feb. 6 and 7. "We'd like to see it grow into a festival with a whole event going on around it," said John Marvin of the Rotary Club of Barrie. The club, with help from the city, presents the festival. This year the waterfront light display is a major part of the festival, along with another tree display in Georgian Mall. It will also include a civic luncheon with a keynote speaker. The event raises money through sponsorships – signs are posted throughout the display advertising local companies that have contributed money. Last year Barrie's Festival of Trees raised $46,000 for the Rotary Foundation, which provides funding to charities, including the regional cancer centre. For more information go to: www.barriefestivaloftrees.com The Rotary clubs of the Orillia area have raised $500,000 over the past seven years in its Festival of Trees and this year the event runs Nov. 27 to Dec. 6 at the Orillia Square Mall, preceded by a gala Nov. 20 at Fern Resort and a fashion show Nov. 25 at Jim Wilson Chevrolet showroom. A teddy bear breakfast is also scheduled Dec. 6 at the mall, followed by a raffle draw. For more information go to: http://www.rotaryfestivaloftrees.com

Journey to Bethlehem

Follow the footsteps of Mary and Joseph on their "Journey to Bethlehem". Barrie's Inniswood Baptist Church uses 50 actors and the wooded acreage behind the Yonge Street church for this handson re-enactment which allows visitors to meet a prophet foretelling the baby's birth and speak with the Wise Men as they follow the star. Visitors will encounter shepherds in the fields with their sheep and they'll enter the busy gates of Bethlehem in their search for a place to stay for the night, finally happening upon the foot of the manger. The evening also includes carol singing, hot chocolate and freshly baked goods. The event runs four evenings, Thursday Nov. 26 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday, Saturday and Sunday Nov. 27 to 29, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free. For more information go to: http://www.inniswood.com or call 705-725- 8257.

Santa parades

Barrie
Nov. 21 - 5 p.m.
From Brock/Innisfil intersection to Bradford Street, north to Dunlop Street through Downtown Barrie to Poyntz
Street. Info: 705-721-5000

Bradford West Gwillimbury
Nov. 21 - 6:30 p.m.
Start at Bradford District High School.
Info: 905-775-1578

Orillia
Nov. 22 - 1 p.m.
Mississaga Street through Downtown
Orillia. Info: 705-326-4424

Wasaga Beach
Nov. 28 - 2 p.m.
From 22nd St. right onto Mosley Street
to the Wasaga RecPlex Community Centre.
Info: 705-429-2247

Innisfil
Nov. 29 - 1:30 p.m.
Innisfil Beach Road and Jans Boulevard,
Alcona. Info: http://www.innisfil.ca

Alliston
Nov. 29

Midland
Dec. 5
Info: http://www.downtownmidland.ca

Collingwood
Dec. 6 - 2 p.m.
Info: http://www.collingwooddowntown.com