The Butchart Chronicles : October 27, 2017

What's New for Christmas This Year?

What’s New for Christmas This Year?

Discover what's being updated for the 2017 Magic of Christmas Display

By Bruce Watson, Director of Arts and Entertaintment

"What's new for Christmas this year?" I often hear this question at this time of year, but from my perspective the Christmas Display is constantly changing. One of our challenges each year is taking our existing Christmas effects and laying them out on the evolving organic canvas that is The Gardens. Shrubs grow, outgrow, or overgrow the effects they sheltered the year before. Trees are removed, or flowerbeds altered, and these changes force us to adapt the show each time we install it. The very nature of The Gardens ensures that that which is the same is never the same.

In addition to our altered landscape we also face the effects of time. Owing to the outdoor nature of our display, Christmas lights, props, and décor are subject to rapid aging in the winter elements and require continual maintenance simply to look like they did the year before. In the Arts & Entertainment department, we are constantly working on refurbishing the Christmas display, shoehorning in tasks throughout the year amongst our work on fireworks, concerts, or garden lighting. We think nothing of attending to a Christmas project, decked out in our shorts in the heat of the summer. For us, Christmas is omnipresent.

One of our big maintenance projects this year was to repair and replace many of the costumes on the “11 Pipers Piping” display. Fabric suffers in the damp conditions of the west coast winter, and after more than a decade out in the elements, the costumes had gathered dirt, worn out where in contact with the regular movement of the marionette strings, and had faded in the (albeit limited) UV light. It was time for the Pipers to refresh their wardrobe.

Some costumes were deemed salvageable and could be repaired, but many had to be replaced. We opted to match the replacements to the original designs as much as possible. Patterns no longer existed from the original construction, so our costumer gathered up the original costumes as templates, took them away for a rebuild, and went fabric shopping. This summer she returned with the re-creations and we roused the Pipers from their summer slumber and subjected them to an entire day of costume fittings.

We needed to make sure the new costumes were the correct size, see how they could be improved to better fit the Piper frames, and to select locations where the marionette strings that control the Piper movements would pass through the costumes, locations that would later be reinforced with grommets. The new costumes shine in comparison to the old costumes and the Pipers are eager to show off their new finery for you this holiday season.

Other “unseen” maintenance upgrades this year include continual repairs to the birds that personify so many of the 12 Days of Christmas, replacing and re-lighting the entire collection of worn-out vine balls, upgrades to the “Eight Maids a Milking” lighting control system, and the addition of LED colour changing lighting fixtures to the Dragon Fountain. Of course there will be new additions as well. New light displays will adorn the Concert Lawn and Rose Garden lawn, along with musical additions to The Gardens and a special display with a nod to Canada’s 150th anniversary.  

With autumn upon us, the Christmas installation is already well underway, the nine-week long installation as regular as the changing of the seasons. Yet, like each autumn season, it is both familiar but never exactly the same. I hope this year’s Christmas display offers you the chance to see something new, or simply brings a change in perspective to your visit.