Finding Light in the Darkest Days of December

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The winter solstice is approaching. When we reach this day, many of us breathe a small sigh of relief. While it is the shortest day of the year, it means we’ve done it, we’ve made it to the darkest part of winter, and now begins the slow progression of a return to long sunlit days.

One reprieve from the darkness at this time of year is the multitude of coloured lights on display in neighbourhoods throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere. Many towns and cities in Canada and the United States have certain houses or whole street blocks that put extra special effort into their Christmas light displays. In-the-know locals, like our guides, always know where these pockets of winter brightness can be found, and an evening walk past the lights with a thermos of hot chocolate can be a great introduction to a new city.

Other ways to suss out those special pockets of seasonal brightness include searching for articles in local newspapers and city-focused magazines, or just simply asking around. Taxi and bus drivers can be great sources to tap: they see large swathes of the city every day and can not only point you in the right direction, but take you there.

If you're in Vancouver for the holidays, we can personally recommend heading to Trinity Street in the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood, where daytime reveals spectacular views of the North Shore Mountains and night brings some of the city’s brightest lights to three blocks of hundred-year-old heritage houses and the quintessential brick and stucco East Vancouver "specials". If you go on December 16th, you'll also get to enjoy hot chocolate and carol singers at the annual Trinity Street Christmas Light Festival.

Our guide Matthew in New York City has designed a December tour to take you to one of North America’s most famous neighbourhoods for Christmas light displays: Dyker Heights. This affluent Brooklyn community began its Christmas lights tradition sometime in the 1980s, and it’s growing brighter every year. The lights don’t just encompass a few houses or blocks of houses, but street after street takes part in outshining their neighbours. Matthew will drive you from your Manhattan hotel out to southwest Brooklyn to see these awesome displays of Christmas cheer – beacons of light on these darkest days of the year.
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