toronto christmas market

Christmas markets are so popular in Toronto right now

With twinkly lights, the sweet and spicy scent of mulled wine, and vendors in little wooden stalls, the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District harkens back to a bygone time - one that probably never existed in the first place.

Regardless, this nostalgic event - which runs from November 18 to December 22 - has become an annual Toronto tradition. It's so popular that organizers needed to implement an admission fee ($6) on weekends and a $20 skip-the-line option. Other markets in the same vein as this one pop up all over the city, giving locals a new way to shop for presents and celebrate the holiday season.

Mathew Rosenblatt, who's started the Toronto Christmas Market, thinks his event succeeds because it captures a distinct feeling for visitors. "Our mandate is really to create an atmosphere that would remind people of what Christmas felt like as a child," he says.

He and his team curate the entire experience, making sure that everything from the lighting, food and smell (yes, even scents) imbue the pedestrian-only neighbourhood with Christmas spirit.

But this year, the Toronto Christmas Market might have some competition. Epilepsy Toronto, which is also behind BuskerFest, will host a Holiday Fair in Nathan Phillips Square from December 8 to 23.

"The sort of vision behind it is this very traditional holiday market that is right downtown in the centre of Toronto at Nathan Phillips Square," says Drew Woodley, director of communications for Epilepsy Toronto.

The goal is to bring a festive atmosphere to the heart of the city, while also giving residents and tourists an opportunity to look for unique gifts in Toronto's retail epicentre. Along with shopping, the market will include a midway with rides, a food and drink tent as well as the chance to visit Santa.

Beyond these massive activations though, there are many smaller Christmas markets throughout the city.

Since 2014, artist and community organizer Nadia Lloyd has been hosting a holiday market. This year, hers is on November 20 at the Great Hall. It'll feature 95 artists and designers, free coffee and a cash bar. Lloyd, who also runs the Toronto Art Crawl, says this market is always busy.

"People love to give, they love to be generous and this really gives them a chance to hand something over and say, 'you know I met the artist who made it and here's the story,'" explains Lloyd about why she thinks her market is popular. She thinks gift-givers like to make connections with vendors.

The Union Station Holiday Market also lets shoppers connect with local vendors. This year, the market's running for 12 days. While it attracts a varied crowd, founder Melissa Zuker think it's a special treat for commuters.

While markets may never replace big box stores or malls when it comes to holiday shopping, these seasonal affairs let everyone feel like a kid on Christmas morning. There's just something so nostalgically appealing about them, even to this Jewish writer who's never celebrated Christmas before.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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