BC Adventures – Our To Do Picks for December 17-23

This week in BC: Listen to medieval music, catch the CP Holiday Train, see a seasonal satire, and more

Winter Harp features carols and Celtic music on 12th-century instruments

What to do in BC this week

See a Seasonal Satire
 – December 14-18
Is nothing sacred anymore? Seems not, and thank goodness for that — otherwise we wouldn’t have such tongue-in-cheek tales as Hotel Bethlehem, penned by award-winning playwright Drew McCreadie. His twisted take on the nativity story, taking place from December 14 to 18 at Shadbolt Centre for the Arts (6450 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby), ditches all the sacred stuff and replaces it with “raucous, absurd fun.” Buy tickets for the show, running nightly at 8 p.m. with Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m. matinees, at 604-205-3000.

Catch the CP Holiday Train – December 17

Fun, festivities and philanthropy combine at the CP Holiday Train, which chugs into the Lower Mainland on December 17 carrying special musical guests Tracey Brown and Valdy. This free family fest, which raises donations for food banks across the country, arrives in Agassiz at 2 p.m., Maple Ridge at 4:15 p.m. and Port Moody’s Queen Street Plaza at 5:45 p.m.

Catch a Christmas Reprise Concert
 – December 17
Where, exactly, are the cockles of your heart? Beats us, but we do know how to warm them — by catching A Christmas Reprise concert by the Vancouver Cantata Singers. The award-winning choral ensemble will have the Holy Rosary Cathedral (646 Richards St, Vancouver) ringing with seasonal songs, traditional and contemporary, on December 17, starting at 2 p.m. Tickets are available for $18 at the door or by phone at 604-730-8856.

Listen to Some Medieval Music
 – December 17-18
The one time you won’t mind listening to someone harping away for hours? At a performance of Winter Harp, a world-class ensemble whose annual Christmas concerts have been earning standing ovations for 18 years. Flickering candles set the stage as minstrels in medieval attire perform a playlist ranging from carols to Celtic to world music on rare 12th-century instruments. See it on December 17 at St. Andrews-Wesley United Church in Vancouver, or December 18 at The ACT in Maple Ridge.

Experience Victorian Christmas in Victoria – December 17-24
Which city deserves the designation of Christmas capital of Canada? Our money’s on Victoria, thanks to its quaint storybook setting and old-English heritage. And everywhere you go — from Butchart Gardens to Craigdarroch Castle — the city has embraced the spirit of the season. But for a look back at how Victorians celebrated yuletides of yore, check out Helmcken House (675 Belleville St), a heritage site hosting old-fashioned family festivities from December 17 to 24. Admission is by donation.

Light up the Night at the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival – December 21
Aside from vampires, few folks relish the arrival of the longest night of the year. But that doesn’t include fans of the Winter Solstice Lantern Festival, lighting up the night of December 21 with a lantern procession wending through five Vancouver neighbourhoods, including Yaletown, False Creek, Granville Island, Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside. This illuminating event starts at 6:45 p.m., with admission by donation.

Book the Deck the Halls Package at the Four Seasons – December 21-25
Who says hotels can’t be homey? Tell that to Four Seasons Resort Whistler (4591 Blackcomb Way), celebrating the season with its first-ever Deck the Halls Package. Available from December 21 to 25, the offer entitles guests to transform their room into a winter wonderland, complete with complimentary Christmas tree, decorations and personalized stockings, along with a CD of seasonal songs, hot chocolate, milk and freshly baked cookies.

Delight in VanDusen’s Festival of Lights – until January 2

Winter blahs, be gone! VanDusen Botanical Garden’s Festival of Lights (5251 Oak St, Vancouver) is making spirits bright through January 2. After all, who could be glum while sipping hot chocolate and strolling down scenic pathways dubbed Candy Cane Lane and Gingerbread Wood? Now throw in community choir concerts and a lakefront light show, and you have all the makings of a very merry Christmas. Catch it nightly from 4:30 to 9 p.m., excluding December 25.

Enjoy Stanley Park’s Bright Lights – until January 2

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — especially at Bright Nights in Stanley Park, where a million twinkling lights have transformed the scenic site into a winter wonderland. Amid the aromas of roasted nuts, hot chocolate and fresh popcorn, visitors can hop aboard the Stanley Park miniature train for a 12-minute journey past Santa’s workshop, tucked deep in the heart of an illuminated forest. Hop aboard nightly (except December 25) until January 2.

Shop Granville Island’s Railspur District – this season

No need to do the dreaded mall crawl when shopping for last-minute holiday gifts — just head to the Railspur Distrcit on Granville Island, considered “the best place in Vancouver to find unique, artisan-made gifts and products.” From jewellery (earrings shown from Jan Dean Johnson Jewellery Design) to textiles, ceramics to leather goods, and sake to boats, you’re guaranteed to find all manner of artful offerings for everyone on your gift list.

Get a Passport to Prana – anytime

The holiday season is no time to get bent out of shape — unless, of course, you’re talking about yoga. And you won’t find a better deal these days than with a Passport to Prana, entitling yogis of all levels to take one free class at dozens of participating studios in Victoria and the Lower Mainland. When you consider that a single drop-in fee runs around $15 or more, the passport’s $30 price tag is an unbeatable bargain.

Ride the Whistler Mountaineer – until January 16
Talk about a moving present! This holiday season wrap up a Whistler Mountaineer rail adventure for your favourite travel bug. Until January 16, you can pinch major pennies by taking advantage of the special B.C. Resident rate of $129 per person on round-trip journeys between Vancouver and Whistler from May 18 to September 26, 2012. Bag this deal, valid for parties of four or more, by calling 1-877-460-3200. And, rest assured: it’s one Christmas present that won’t be re-gifted!

Originally published in TVW. For daily updates, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.