There’s a special kind of coziness that comes with having a winter tradition to repeat with loved ones year after year. Whether you celebrate the season with an annual road trip to visit family, a snowball fight following the first major dusting of white, or by throwing on your most hideous light-up reindeer sweater and embarking on a Home Alone couch marathon with the littles, those little moments of quality time are the backbone of enriching experiences that help you feel connected year after year.
The best part of traditions is the anticipation. Fueled by memories that engage all the senses – the crunch of the snow and the frosty tickle on your cheeks as you form the world’s biggest snowball, or the crackling warmth of a fire during a family dinner – the anticipation has an exciting, insatiable quality to it that can only be satisfied by re-living the moment, and creating new memories that linger into the following year.
Looking to build new traditions that won’t require continually switching out the battery pack on your sweater?
Here are five new traditions to start in Ontario’s Highlands.
1. Roast your Timbits over a fire
If you’re the type of person who still remembers sprinting down the stairs the second you smelled your mother’s holiday baking wafting through the house every year, you’ll love creating a new food tradition that lasts all winter long: crispy, warm, DIY-roasted Timbits, prepared over a campfire at Perth Outfitters. Coupled with a warm hot cocoa or coffee following an outdoor skate through the woods on a 400-meter groomed trail lit with romantic tiki lights, it’s the perfect way to spend some couple’s time and feel like kids again, year after year.
2. Try the 12 Beers of Christmas
From “Cindy Lou Brew”, a candy cane Blonde Ale, to “Ho, Ho, Ho”, a flavourful smoked and spiced Stout, the festive 12-pack launched by Whitewater Brewing Co. in Cobden, ON, has “annual tradition” written all over it. Pick up a case at the brew pub’s bottle shop starting on December 13, and savour one brew a day leading up to Christmas; or enjoy with your group during your stay in Ontario’s Highlands (full disclosure: this year’s pack also includes an herb beer called “A Valley Christmas” that will make everyone feel like a local). Ask to be seated at the 24-person community table when booking your pub reservation and you’ll add another fun element to this new winter tradition: meeting new people in a new place.
3. Visit the Christmas Room
If you fall into the category of people who sing carols in November and drinks egg nog all year round, an annual visit to the Christmas Room at the Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery is the perfect way to unleash your inner holiday fanatic and celebrate the season all winter long. Full to the brim with glittery ornaments, festive candles, sparkly decorations and holiday-themed books and CDs that you can take home, you’ll feel like you’re wandering through an explosion of Christmas, taking in your surroundings with all your senses. The Christmas Room is one of eight whimsical theme rooms at the Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery, housed in an 1890s general store; other rooms include a Summer Kitchen, Husband’s Lounge and a Little Room Under the Stairs that features “miniature everything” and is a big hit with kids. During the holidays, the owners have been known to play A Christmas Story in the background and offer scrumptious homemade shortbread cookies and hot mulled apple cider to guests – need we say more?
4. Take an old-fashioned ride through the snow
Traditions that take you back in time can feel extra special, and Ontario’s Highlands is packed with family experiences that celebrate the magic of winter with a little nostalgia. Early in the season (until December 23), take a festive ride on the Rockin Christmas Wagon – your chariot of choice to the tree plantation at Hugli’s Blueberry Ranch, where you can cut your own Christmas tree, shop for gourmet foods and locally-made gifts, and taste delicious Christmas fudge flavours like Candy Cane, Egg Nog and Ginger Bread. Then, beginning in mid-February, take a horse-drawn sleigh or wagon ride through the snow-covered sugar bush at Fulton’s Pancake House, where the pitter-patter of hooves will become etched into memory, and the taste of maple taffy will turn into a craving that can only be calmed with another visit.
5. Uncover a new passion during a winter workshop
Few things connect people the way that working together on a project can and, at Abbey Gardens in Haliburton, there’s an entire Winter Workshop Series each year, specially designed so that you can develop a new skill as a group. Bring your girlfriends, your co-workers, or any of your favourite people to this unique outdoor location that encourages thinking more sustainably about land, food, energy and economy. This year, workshops include beer brewing, coffee roasting, off-the-grid living, snowshoeing and sourdough bread making. As you discover new skills and passions together, you’ll look forward to trying something new each winter, and relish in the memory of learning as a team.
Ontario’s Highlands Insiders
Knowledgeable in uncovering hidden gems, making fresh tracks, embracing new perspectives, and disconnecting from the everyday, this group of experts is happy to share their wisdom with you. With a passion for local stories, a love of delicious food, and a thirst for unrehearsed days, this team is made up of creative minds and wandering souls.