European Union Film Festival
Europe has far more to offer than financial crises, so catch 24 top films from 24 countries – including award-winners, festival favourites, Oscar submissions and 20 Vancouver premieres – as chosen by film aficionados in each nation, at the European Union Film Festival (at Pacific Cinémathèque until Dec. 8, eufilmfestival.com).
Take a break from stringing those holiday LEDs and learn about all the incredible ways animals create and reflect light at Luminescence, a new Vancouver Aquarium exhibit that comes with a giant jellyfish-inspired light installation, a Christmas tree lit by electric eels, glow-in-the-dark arts and crafts, and visits from Scuba Claus (at the Vancouver Aquarium until Jan. 2, vanaqua.org/luminescence).
Soak in more than 60 works by one of Canada's most celebrated visual artists as the Burnaby Art Gallery presents a sweeping 60-year retrospective of drawings and watercolours by Takao Tanabe – many of which have never gone on show before (until Jan. 22, burnabyartgallery.ca). And don't miss Vox, a new exhibit by famed Vancouver artist Roy Arden that uses oil painting, collage, sculpture and pop culture imagery to explore voice – spoken, musical, poetic and social(until Jan. 7, monteclarkgallery.com).
La Cage Aux Folles
Enjoy a show that's both naughty and nice at La Cage Aux Folles, a flamboyant musical about a gay couple who own a racy nightclub in St. Tropez, and whose family bonds get put to the test when their son and his fiancé, as well as her prudish parents, pay a visit. Also features some of Vancouver's top drag queens (until Dec. 24, vancouverplayhouse.com).
Disney On Ice
Get the kids to burn off a little early yuletide steam at Disney on Ice's chilly take on Toy Story 3, featuring Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie and the gang as they escape from the boisterous tots of Sunnyside Daycare (at the Pacific Coliseum through Sunday, pne.ca); or follow one of history's most famed composers as he arrives in New York for the grand opening of Carnegie Hall at the VSO's kid-friendly Tchaikovsky Discovers America (Sunday, vancouversymphony.ca).
Art For Life
Build your art collection as you help out a great cause at Art For Life, a fundraising auction that features works by top Vancouver artists and galleries, as well as performances by Public Dreams, the Drag Queens of Vancouver and a big finale by Bif Naked . All funds to the Vancouver Friends For Life Societ (at the Rocky Mountaineer Station Saturday, artforlife.net).
Santa Light Parade
Not quite feeling the Christmas spirit? Head for Santa's Light Parade in Victoria, where you'll find floats, marching bands, and the jolly old elf himself (Saturday, bring a food bank donation, islandfarms.com ), or wander through beautifully decorated holiday trees and help raise funds for the Children's Hospital Foundation at the Festival of Trees (in Vancouver, Victoria and Port Alberni until January, bcchf.ca). For another hit of festive spirit, see what the holidays were like before the days of Xboxes and iPads at the Burnaby Heritage Christmas (until Jan. 1, burnabyvillagemuseum.ca), then soothe your soul with stunning choral music at Chez Nous: Christmas with Elektra (in New West and Vancouver Saturday, elektra.ca).
Dance in Vancouver
Be wowed by some of the city's hottest dance companies including MACHiNENOiSY, Out Innerspace Dance Theatre, battery opera and The 605 Collective at Dance in Vancouver, a biennial event that has top dancemakers performing excerpts from new works and recent hits (thedancecentre.ca). For more memorable movement, head for MOVE: the company's The Red Nocturnal, a mixed program that runs the gamut from tango ballet to traditional thai dance (at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo Saturday, movethecompany.com).
Roméo et Juliette
Want your weekend to hit new heights? It can, vocally at least, at Vancouver Opera's production of Roméo et Juliette, Charles Gounod's operatic adaptation of Shakespeare's star-crossed tale, featuring Canadian tenor Gordon Gietz as Roméo and rising opera star Simone Osborne as Juliette (at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre until Dec. 3, vancouveropera.ca). Then keep that high going at Vancity Theatre, where they're screening Carmen, a production that sees Bizet's famed opera return to the Parisian theatre where it was first performed (Sunday and Monday, viff.org).
Put a serious dent in your holiday shopping – and find locally made gifts – at craft fairs around the province, including Make It! The Handmade Revolution (at the Croatian Cultural Centre through Sunday, makeitproductions.com), the German-inspired Vancouver Christmas Market on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre plaza (until Dec. 24, vancouverchristmasmarket.com), the Urban Artisans Craft Fair at the Roundhouse (through Sunday, roundhouse.ca), the Bizarre Bazaar in Whistler (Saturday, artswhistler.com), the Out of Hand Craft Fair in Victoria (through Sunday, outofhand.ca) and dozens more.