Festive Toronto Christmas Traditions

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When Christmastime comes to Toronto, the city is transformed with the sights, sounds and smells of the holidays. With so much to see and do, there’s no shortage of activities of all types – both modern and traditional - to be enjoyed all over the city. For perennial favourites that are sure to get you in the festive spirit, read on.

A woman snaps a picture at the Toronto Christmas Market, just one of many great festive Toronto Christmas traditions.
The Toronto Christmas Market

Experience the Toronto Christmas Market

The uber popular Christmas Market is the quintessential Toronto holiday experience. From mid-November throughout December, the cobblestone-lined Distillery Historic District turns into a festive European-style Christmas Market.

Get your picture taken at the many whimsical holiday light displays, sip on some hot cocoa or mulled wine and sample sweet and savoury festive fare. Peruse the market’s curated selection of artisan gifts, crafts and ornaments, before making your way to the towering Christmas tree to marvel at its sparkly splendour.

Entrance is free of charge on weekdays, with a $6.00 admission fee on weekends, starting Fridays at 5 p.m. Buy your tickets online before you go to avoid long lineups at the gate.

Couple skates under the Christmas lights after dark at Nathan Phillips Square.
Nathan Phillips Square

Skate at Nathan Phillips Square

Perhaps no Toronto holiday tradition is as iconic as skating beneath the twinkling arches of Nathan Phillips Square at City Hall. Lace up for an evening of classic holiday fun as you soak up the stunning urban lightscape surrounding the Square, then round out this essential Toronto holiday experience with a cup of hot chocolate from the Snack Bar.

Ballet dancers perform The Nutcracker on stage in Toronto.
The Nutcracker /
December 8 to 30

See The Nutcracker

If you haven’t seen The National Ballet of Canada’s glorious rendition of this timeless treasure, this is the year to do so. This ravishing re-imagining of the Christmas spectacular was created for The National Ballet in 1995 and remains a beloved holiday tradition for Torontonians of all ages. With multiple performance running from December 8 to 30, 2018, it’s the perfect time to treat your family to this classic Christmas experience.

Visit Santa at the Mall

Do you remember visiting Santa Claus at the mall when you were a kid? Sitting on his lap and telling him what you wanted for Christmas that year? Although the stores may have changed, one thing has stayed the same – seeing Santa at the mall is still one of Toronto’s favourite Christmas Traditions.

This holiday season, you can relive those childhood memories and make new Christmas memories with your kids by taking them to one of Toronto’s many shopping malls to see Santa for themselves. Whether at the bustling Eaton Centre, trendy Yorkdale, or vibrant Square One in Mississauga, getting a picture with jolly old St. Nick is a treat for every kid.

Holiday window display mannequin at Saks Fifth Avenue Toronto.

Gaze at Holiday Window Displays

Every year visitors from Toronto and beyond have made a pilgrimage to Toronto’s whimsical and enchanting holiday window displays. Pick a crisp December evening, bundle up and make your way to Queen and Yonge for the Hudson's Bay Company festive displays. With animated polar bears and large, snow globes, the windows at Hudson’s Bay never cease to amaze each holiday season.

Just around the corner, you’ll find a fashionable take on the classic Christmas window display at Saks Fifth Avenue. Mannequins festooned with stunning haute couture holiday gowns and runway-ready interpretations of classic holiday scenes glam up the holiday season.

Santa Claus waves from his float at the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.
Santa Claus Parade /
Sunday, November 18

See St. Nick at the Toronto Santa Claus Parade

With a nip in the air, the excitement of waiting for Santa’s sleigh and the joy of seeing Saint Nick himself waving to the crowd, this beloved holiday tradition is sure to bring back memories of Christmases past. For over a century, locals and out-of-towners of all ages have flocked to the Toronto Santa Claus Parade to see the 25+ whimsical, enchanting floats. From towering elves to cheerful polar bears, elegant swans and even a few Pokémon, give your little ones a memorable experience this year at the Toronto Santa Claus Parade on Sunday, November 18, 2018. The fun starts at 12:30 so be sure to dress warmly and arrive early – spots fill up fast!

Illustration of angel blowing horn.
Handel's Messiah /
December 17 to 23

Experience the Power of Handel’s Messiah

If there’s one Toronto Christmas tradition that will fill you with awe and wonder, it’s the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Handel’s immortal oratorio, Messiah. Joined by a full chorus and special guest singers, this beloved Christmas classic will uplift you and fill your heart with holiday cheer. Performances take place December 17 to 23, 2018.