Beloved Edmonton events are adapting to COVID-19 rules this holiday season

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Wondering how to get into the holiday spirit from home? From "A Christmas Carol" to the Festival of Trees, Morgan Black explores how some mainstays have turned virtual this winter. – Nov 17, 2020

A few Edmonton holiday favourites are encouraging you to get into the festive spirit from home.

The Citadel Theatre has been developing a digital version of A Christmas Carol since early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When things were being cancelled and being shut down, this was the performance we wanted to save somehow,” said artistic director Darcy Cloran. “It’s such a big part of who we are and how we connect with the Edmonton community.”

Cloran said taking in a performance is a holiday tradition for many.

Read more: The show must go on for Edmonton’s arts community amid COVID-19 pandemic

“People say to us ‘Christmas doesn’t start until I’ve come to the Citadel and seen A Christmas Carol,” Cloran said.

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The story remains the same — and was filmed over the course of two weeks inside the theatre. It will begin streaming on December 15.

“It’s happening only online because we can’t have a cast of 30 together,” Cloran said. “We had to record each singer in a sound booth by themselves and then lip-sync.”

Read more: Dinner theatre transforms performances to reopen during COVID-19 pandemic

Many familiar events are turning virtual — Edmonton’s Ukrainian Shumka Dancers is repurposing a 2017 performance of The Nutcracker for you to watch from home.

“We had a professional crew come in and video the whole show for us,” said Shumka’s Tash Orysiuk. “People can still feel like they are getting that part of their holiday tradition.”

Some winter events have postponed or cancelled outright in 2020. Glow Edmonton is delaying its opening until November 28 and Ice on Whyte has posted on its website it won’t be back this year.

Read more: Ice Castles not returning to Edmonton this winter

“Our event, Festival of Trees, has been a tradition for families for more than 30 years. We just thought, we can’t [cancel]. We need to do something,” said Jamie Bliss with the University Hospital Foundation (UHF).
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After cancelling the annual in-person event, organizers are offering holiday fun at home through virtual visits with Santa, an online auction and specialized tree designs.

“You can let [organizers] know what kind of tree you want, how you want it decorated. It gets built and delivered to your home and set it up. Then when the Christmas season is over we come back and take it down,” Bliss said.
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Annual Festival of Trees goes virtual this year – Nov 14, 2020

The spirit of giving is also an important aspect of many holiday events.

“Funds from the 2020 Virtual Festival of Trees could help make Alzheimer’s disease a mere memory,” said Dr. Jodi Abbot, president and CEO of UHF.

“Researchers at the University of Alberta have found a way to restore memory in mice that develop Alzheimer’s disease and they are excited about this possible breakthrough for people with this devastating condition.”

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“2020 has been so unusual for everyone…and Christmas is that time you want those family traditions around,” Bliss said.