The Vancouver Christmas Market: Facts, Scenes, and Tradition

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The Digital Orca sculpture, the Vancouver Convention Centre East, and the Christmas Market

The Christmas Market in Vancouver has become an annual tradition and is now in its tenth year. It’s held at the Jack Poole Plaza, which is located by the waterfront in downtown Vancouver. The market is styled after a traditional German one. Visiting the area is an enjoyable way to celebrate the approach of Christmas.

The market contains over eighty huts selling authentic German, European, and Canadian gift items and food. It also contains a Christmas Pyramid. Entertainment includes a visit with Santa Claus, live musical performances on the second story of the pyramid, a ride on the Christmas carousel, and other events.

Steps on one side of the Jack Poole Plaza lead to an area that provides a lovely view of Burrard inlet, the seaside walking path beside the inlet, and Stanley Park in the distance. It also provides great views of the Christmas Market. I took the photos in this article from the viewpoint. I’ve arranged the first four pictures from north to south in order to give an overview of the plaza. The last photo shows the north end of the market against a backdrop of Burrard Inlet.

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The Christmas Pyramid and the Olympic Cauldron

The market is a good place to visit for people who want to shop for interesting items that may not be easy to find elsewhere. It’s also fun for people who want to eat different types of food, watch the entertainment, and see the lovely Christmas decorations. The greatest concentration of huts can be found at the northern end of the market. The southern part has spaces around the Christmas Pyramid and the carousel so that people can listen to or watch the entertainment in the area.

There are so many vendors at the market that it would take a long time to list all of the products for sale. Though many of the vendors sell German products, some sell items from other countries. Some of the items available are artisan soaps and rugs, handcrafted jewellery, soap, and candles, decorative German beer steins, craft cider, Christmas ornaments, chimney cakes, pancakes, waffles, and freshly roasted chestnuts.

There’s also a hut that sells ugly Christmas sweaters, which are a Canadian tradition. An “ugly” sweater has a vivid pattern and is hard to ignore. To be honest, so far I haven’t seen any ugly sweaters for sale anywhere that I think deserve the name. Maybe I have unusual tastes in clothing.

The Christmas Pyramid is ten feet high and is based on a traditional German one. It has a propeller at the top. The bottom level provides Christmas drinks that are drunk in Germany. At frequent intervals, the choir and musician figures (which resemble wooden angels) move as the recorded music plays. The “Flying Stage” on the second story is where the real musicians perform.

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Beyond the Olympic Cauldron

If someone makes only one visit to the market, they should really try to stay until the sun goes down. The huts contain a wide variety of interesting gift items and food and the Christmas Pyramid is fun to watch, but for me there doesn’t seem to be anything really special about the area in the daytime. (People who love shopping may not share my point of view.) The situation is very different in the late afternoon and night.

I live near Vancouver but not in the city itself. I’ve never visited the Christmas market at night. Based on the videos that I’ve seen, the market develops a magical atmosphere when the sun disappears and the Christmas lights become more obvious. Areas that looked relatively mundane during the day burst into life.

A huge, walk-in Christmas tree decorated with over 36,000 lights is one of the market attractions that is beautiful at night. The Lovers Lane tunnel that can be seen in some of my photos has around 10,000 lights and is also more attractive at night. The market closes at 9:30 pm, however, which should be kept in mind. It’s a good idea to visit the market’s website before a visit to check admission and package prices and the facility’s open hours. The video below shows some night scenes from last year’s event.

The surroundings of the market are worth observing. The highlight is the view of Burrard Inlet, but there are other interesting sights. It isn’t necessary to enter the market to see the inlet, but the view is a nice addition to the site.

The Digital Orca sculpture shown in my first and last photos was created by Douglas Coupland. He’s an artist and a writer. He may be best known internationally for his first novel entitled Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. His orca (or killer whale) sculpture is made of blocks reminiscent of the pixels on a computer monitor. As a viewer gets closer to the sculpture, the blocks become more obvious. As they move away, the blocks tend to blend together. This effect was deliberate on the part of the sculptor.

The Olympic Cauldron was created to celebrate the 2010 Winter Olympics, which took place in Vancouver and nearby areas. Today it’s only lit for special events. Even without being lit, it’s interesting to see. It’s almost thirty-three feet tall and sits in a fountain. It’s made of steel, polycarbonate, and furnace glass. Parabolic mirrors below the surface of the arms produce a glistening effect. A model of Santa Claus and his reindeer temporarily sits in the fountain underneath the cauldron.

The Vancouver Convention Centre exists as an eastern and a western building, which are located near each other. Both have interesting features. The eastern building has a green roof where plants grow. The roof is mowed in the fall, but grass and flowering plants can be seen there at other times of the year. The roof has honeybee hives and attracts other types of bees.

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The southern part of the market and the carousel

The market charges an admission fee. This has always seemed a bit strange to me. A visitor has to pay first in order to pay again as they buy items. Tickets are a little cheaper if bought online instead of at the gate. One nice point is that a season pass upgrade is free when a ticket is bought online and only a dollar if the ticket is bought in person. Since the market lasts for almost five weeks, this could be very worthwhile. Various packages are available for purchase.

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Burrard Inlet and the Christmas Market

The Vancouver Christmas Market is very popular and is held in a lovely location. I’m hoping to visit it again before the season is over. Hopefully, I’ll see some of the night scenes and will be able to get some reasonably good photos. I may even find an ugly sweater that I truly believe is ugly. The market is an interesting place to explore.