How do we know the holidays are here? The ByWard Market smells like pine!

Carollers in the ByWard Market

Melodie Cardin is the special events and communications  coordinator for the ByWard Market Business Improvement Area, and she also apparently has some incredible mind-reading skills.  Just this weekend I passed by the very choir pictured above and thought I should write up a little something about just how wonderful the ByWard Market is at this time of year. The evening I sat down to write it, I realized I already had this little story sitting in my inbox. Thanks for your contribution Melodie!

I’m starting to notice as I head into work in the ByWard Market every day that the whole area smells like pine. It’s all the vendors outside, braving the elements to purvey Christmas trees, wreaths, boughs, centrepieces and all sorts of holiday goodies. There’s of course, also the traditional Canadian maple syrup (take it from me – get the amber – it’s the cheapest and the best!) and the usual mittens and hats and scarves reminding us all that the really cold weather is just around the corner.

The ByWard Market, circa 1903

This weekend, we started up our holiday programming and it was really a blast. For the first three Saturdays and Sundays in December, we have choirs who sing just outside EQ3 on George Street, and free hay wagon rides.  This weekend we had the University of Ottawa Residence Choir, Choeur de l’ìle from Gatineau, and the Nepean Choir. I just loved watching the choirs sing under just the teeniest bit of softly falling snow, as a crowd gathered to watch. It’s fun to watch the faces of people in the crowd, the smiles developing slowly as they walk by, the kids tugging on their parents’ hands to get them to stop and listen, and sing along, for a few minutes. The atmosphere is just wonderful and reminds me why I love Ottawa.

The wagon rides are also wonderful – there’s nothing that seems quite as magical as seeing a five year old’s face when that kid sees a horse. The kids and parents sing Christmas carols as the hay wagon makes its way around the Market. The hayrides are provided by Cundell Stables, which has been operating out of its York Street location since everyone was riding around in horse drawn carriages – the business is more than 115 years old.

There are two more weekends left to experience the choirs and hayrides – head down to the Market December 11th and 12th, or December 18th to 19th. The choirs sing between noon and 4 p.m., and the hayrides go from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.. They start on York Street, just outside the Moulin de Provence bakery. You can find more information at

What do you love about Ottawa in the winter?

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