Christmas Lights on Parliament Hill
I've lived in Ottawa for 18 Christmases now, and this is the first time I've ever gone to the Hill for the lighting ceremony. Might well be the last, too!
Oh, it was nice enough. They had free hot chocolate and Beaver Tails, if you wanted to wait in the massive queue for them. They had large bbq pits set up with free marshmallows for toasting, if you could get your marsmallow toasted before it froze solid. They even had free candles, and nothing says Christmas entertainment like watching your bored two- and four-year-olds in a stiff wind with open flame!
I had hoped for more carolling and Christmas music, but there was only the Peace Tower bells chiming festively. The boys were restless, completely understandable since it was about a hundred degrees below zero and all they could see was a bunch of shivering butts. I had also understood the 5:45 starting time to mean that the switch would be thrown at 5:45, but in fact, that meant that the political speechifying began at 5:45, carrying on in both official languages for the better part of half an hour. Just when we thought it was over, they started playing taped messages from every single provincial and territorial premier, and the shivering crowd groaned audibly.
And yet, in the endurance of the cold and the congeniality of a crowd of people all wondering together what on earth made them choose this escapade over a warm dinner and maybe a nice Seinfeld rerun on the TV, we found it was fun nonetheless. Because the crowd had densely packed itself in an attempt to conserve and share body heat, we couldn't actually see any of the more than 100,000 lights that illuminate the Hill, Confederation Boulevard and the rest of downtown, but the crowd did gasp appreciately when the Parliament Buildings were illuminated by multi-coloured spotlights and giant drifting snowflakes.
(You can actually see me shivering as I try to hold the camera steady!)