With steaming mugs of hot chocolate in almost every hand, children’s laughter in the air and tens of thousands of candy-coloured bulbs lighting the lush and fragrant Brentwood Bay national historic site, the Butchart Gardens successfully kicked off December with the Christmas spirit.
On Dec. 1 at 5 p.m., the lever came down, the lights went on and the 33rd annual Magic of Christmas officially began.
Carollers sing Yuletide classics as crowds traverse the twinkling greenery, taking in the 12 Days of Christmas display that starts with a plump, lone partridge, swinging pleasantly from a tree strung with golden pears. Along the path, turtle doves pose regally from a hanging flight cage before visitors enter a startling green-lit projection on a tree-canopied route that winds past three french hens, seemingly enjoying a meal together.
The sparkling display continues through the carol’s lyrics, leading finally to the 12 drummers drumming. But there’s more than lights – Halfway along their lighted tour, visitors arrive at the Rose Carousel, installed 10 years prior. And near the entrance, couples and families wobbled – or glided – their way around the garden’s small ice skating rink.
The garden’s Christmas displays have been delighting locals and tourists for more than three decades, and as the endeavour grows, so does the labour required to assemble – and disassemble – it.
It takes more than 30 crew members nearly nine weeks to install the display, says Josh Bickerton, public relations manager for the Butchart Gardens. And another month to take everything down.
“It really is an amazing tradition,” Bickerton says. “We have visitors from the local community but also from up and down B.C. and Washington state. We have a very strong turnout.”
Bickerton estimates the number of lights to be in the tens of thousands.
“We encourage anyone to come out and try to count them for themselves,” he says with a laugh.
The Butchart Gardens Magic of Christmas runs from Dec. 1 to Jan. 6. The Lights are turned on at 3:30 p.m., with optimal viewing around 5 p.m. Staff recommend arriving before 4 p.m. in order to find parking and avoid longer line ups.
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