Christmas light-up night is fun for kids of all ages. Check out what’s happening in your community. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Christmas light ups and more kick off an exciting holiday season in the Cowichan Valley

From Ladysmith to Mill Bay, including Duncan, Chemainus, and out to Lake Cowichan, there’s lots to do

Christmas comes but once a year, but that doesn’t meant that it brings a whole lot of fun with it when it arrives.

Ladysmith light-up

Ladysmith’s famous Festival of Lights, the 32nd annual light-up celebration in that community, is coming up this week, taking place Thursday, Nov. 28.

Starting with a community spaghetti dinner at 3 p.m. at the Eagles Hall ($10 adults and kids under eight, $5), there’s a Christmas craft fair at the Aggie Hall at 4 p.m. and street entertainment and food concessions open and onstage entertainment will continue until 6:15 p.m.

Then the place goes crazy as everyone gets into position to welcome Santa Claus, who shows up at 6:30 p.m. to light up Ladysmith, an event well worth seeing again and again. Following that, there’s a light-up parade starting at 6:45 p.m.

After the parade, at Aggie Hall, there’s the light-up at the hall, Bob Stuart Park, and the Chuck Perrin Christmas Tree, along with spectacular fireworks.

First Avenue will be closed to traffic from 3 p.m. until after the light-up. Organizers ask that people please do not bring pets downtown for the light-up.

This is a hugely popular event, so unless you plan to arrive really early, be ready to walk some distance from your car to get to your viewing spot.

Duncan Christmas kick-off

Christmas kicks off in Duncan on Friday, Nov. 29 with a massive event in the downtown core of the city.

There will be live music, horse wagon rides, hot cocoa, and roasted chestnuts, pictures with Santa Claus, and a stunning fireworks finale. With all the businesses in town dressed for the occasion, the whole city will be at its colourful best, just right for strolling around to check everything out.

It all starts at 5:30 p.m. and finishes about 9 p.m.

The popular Christmas mascot program is back this year at Duncan businesses. This year’s mascot, a little plush coyote, is already out and about in town. Visitors can add its name to their list at the Christmas kick-off and can put their completed lists in for a draw for two prizes of $50 each in Downtown Duncan Dollars.

Mill Bay Centre light-up

Mill Bay Centre’s Christmas Light-up takes place Saturday, Nov. 30 from 3 to 6 p.m.

There’s lots of entertainment by the fire with musician Phil Newns and children’s entertainer Shelley Vaags, plus hot chocolate, a hot dog sale, carolling, popcorn, treats and more. All donations go to the South Cowichan Food Bank.

At 5 p.m. sharp, Santa Claus arrives by fire truck, to the delight of the assembled families.

Be sure to make your way to the Centre for lots of outdoor family fun.

Cobble Hill Christmas Party

The Kids Christmas Party at Cobble Hill Hall takes place Sunday, Dec. 1, and includes crafts, snacks, story time, and a visit from Santa and a chance to meet Mrs. Claus. Photos with Santa take place between 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. There are snacks and door prizes, too.

Christmas Express at BCFDC

What could be better than riding on a 109-year-old steam train in the middle of December through a winter wonderland of lights and Christmas cheer?

Hop aboard the Christmas Express, a 1910 steam locomotive as it travels through thousands of twinkling lights that adorn the 100-acre enchanted woods of the BC Forest Discovery Centre. Thousands of visitors over the years have made a Christmas tradition of attending this colourful and entertaining event.

“We love bringing the Christmas Express out and seeing the magic of the holiday in the faces of everyone that attends. We invite islanders to come out to see the light displays, enjoy the seasonal music, make a Christmas craft, and ride the Christmas Express Train,” said Chris Gale, manager of the BC Forest Discovery Centre.

You’ll be able to keep warm with hot chocolate, mini donuts, and of course, enjoy a visit with Santa.

Avoid line-ups by purchasing advance tickets in the gift shop. It is open Monday to Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m., until Dec. 11 in person or by phone (250-715-1113 ext. 30). While at the shop, why not purchase an annual membership for 2020, a perfect gift for holiday gift-giving?

The Christmas Express event is a huge undertaking and largely driven by volunteer elves. The BC Forest Discovery Centre enjoys the support of so many volunteer elves from the community who work alongside the staff to ensure the lights are hung, they deck the halls, including showcasing the centre’s buildings and artifacts, to give the museum and the forest that magical festive look.

The Christmas Express is the museum’s largest fundraiser of the year and is paramount to the ongoing operation and maintenance of the antique vehicle collection, the trains, maintenance of the historical buildings and the preservation of an important ecosystem within the Cowichan region. Families and corporations can support the museum by purchasing a membership for the 2020 season.

The Christmas Express runs on weekends from Friday, Dec. 6 to Sunday, Dec. 15, with the addition of Wednesday, Dec. 18 through to Monday, Dec. 23, a total of 12 magical evenings. The BC Forest Discovery Centre opens at 4 p.m. on these dates with train departures every 20 minutes beginning at 4:30 p.m. The last train departs at 8:30 p.m.

Carols Afloat in Maple Bay

Carols Afloat & Christmas Celebration at Maple Bay Yacht Club is a great opportunity to see all of the boats dressed in the lights of the season.

It all happens on Sunday, Dec. 8. The carol ship sail past starts at 5:30 p.m. Families can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus as they pass through Maple Bay at the Maple Bay government doc at 6:15 p.m.

Little Town Christmas

A Little Town Christmas in Chemainus, offering food and fun for everyone, is lined up for Saturday, Dec. 14 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion Br. 191 building.

This includes free hot dogs, hot chocolate, games and prizes for the kids; the Chemainus Community Band will play Christmas songs, and there will be pictures with Santa when he arrives. Everything is free for children and by donation for adults.

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Christmas light up night is for everyone, no matter where in the Valley you live. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen file)

Santa and Mrs. Claus are going to be busy around the Cowichan Valley this year, meeting lots of children as communities kick-off their holiday seasons with parades, get togethers, parties, carol singing, and even fireworks. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen file)

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