Butchart’s Brilliance

From Dec. 1 until Jan. 6, the gardens transform into a winter wonderland.

Butchart Garden's dazzling display of lights.

Christmas for Butchart Gardens begins in June.

It starts with a comment, advances to a conversation, and soon anyone with free hands is busy making bows and ribbons for the renowned holiday display and activities.

Come early October, Butchart’s staff is in full Christmas mode as gardeners begin to compete with electricians over who can install the most bulbs – one of the spring variety, the other of illumination.

“They’ve got a gazillion boxes of lights and Christmas decorations of all different kinds,” Graham Bell, public relations, explains. “There are people in cherry pickers, people that get out on the roofs.”

The outdoor ice rink starts to go up around the same time and is an ordeal all its own. Dump trucks of sand are brought into waterwheel square and made dead-level by surveyors. Cooling equipment is set up on top of the sand under a layer of waterproofing which is then flooded and refrigeration begins to take place.

“It takes a while. It’s a lot bigger than an ice cube tray in your fridge,” Bell quips.

By late November the hard work comes together and the display is ready for its public premiere at the light up Dec. 1. Then until Jan. 6, visitors can wander through the gardens, which have been transformed into a winter wonderland.

Passing through the entrance visitors are greeted with live Christmas music, from a brass band or choir, and the sight of the dazzling lights.

Continuing on through the vast garden, the music fades away and the quiet stillness of the winter night takes over, providing a magical atmosphere.

Areas such as the Sunken Garden are lit by thousands of bulbs, all in position to illuminate pathways and highlight the outlines of trees. As you stroll the paths you’ll inevitably catch fragments of people singing Christmas carols as they follow the 12 Days of Christmas displays.

“It’s not like walking through a shopping mall where you’re being bombarded by Christmas in some form or another,” Bell says. “It’s just a very pleasant, easy night to walk through with your friends and loved ones and just enjoy what Christmas is really all about.”

This is the 27th year for the popular attraction, which peaked in size when the display reached day 12 of the 12 Days of Christmas. It has remained an untouched tradition since.

“It’s tradition, and it’s long enough now that people who were brought through in strollers with their parents are now pushing their own kids through.”

The light up takes place Sunday, Dec. 1 at 5 p.m. with a short ceremony. Hours for the light display start at dusk and extend until 9 p.m. until Jan. 6.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pandemic reunites 2000s era Victoria rock band The Origin

Saanich musicians recording for first time since 2008

From Nanoose Bay to the bookshelf, Howard the Gnome now a children’s book

Vancouver Island author explores Howard’s move down-Island

Nanaimo country singer releases new music video

‘Adrenaline’ is the second single from Joel Lee’s upcoming debut EP

Vancouver Island dance school pirouettes into full-fledged education institution

Steps Ahead studio will provide assistance with distance learning, as well as artistic classes

Maclure house on tap in Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s virtual tour

Inaugural virtual House Tour features an online tour of a beautiful 1916 Samuel Maclure

Resident Alien returns to Ladysmith for filming in early October

New SyFy series back after spring filming interrupted by COVID-19

Island author launches literary podcast with Canada Council for the Arts grant

Shelley Leedhal will air 10 episodes of “Something Like Love” over 10 weeks

Nanaimo’s Cinefest film festival to be held online this year due to COVID-19

CineCentral Filmmakers Society’s annual festival to feature films made in 48 hours

Indigenous artists showcase extreme sport-themed art at Nanaimo Art Gallery

Touring exhibition ‘Boarder X’ features work inspired by skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing

Indigenous artist restores 20-year-old sculpture in downtown Victoria

Four Winds sculpture located near Tug Eatery encourages climate action

Gabriola theatre group live-streaming two new pandemic-themed plays

Gabriola Players to broadcast ‘All and Nothing’ and ‘Syd’s Cosmic Slump’ using Zoom

Kingcome artist wins contest at Museum of Anthropology

Coral Shaughnessy-Moon’s design will be sold on t-shirts at the museum and online

Most Read