This November, over 15,000 people will flock to Midland's Sainte-Marie among the Hurons where they will be captivated by a night sky illuminated by candles and lanterns. It will be a scene taken straight from the 17th Century. Historic buildings will be lit with the glow of over 5,000 candles and visitors will be delighted by re-enactments, intricate costumes and reconstructed churches and longhouses.
The experience is called First Light, and our friends at Ontario Tourism, Ontario150 and Sainte Marie among the Hurons invite you to join the annual celebration. It's been named a "Top 100 Festival & Event" in Ontario and Wheels.ca has previously recognized the event as one of the "Top Eight Christmas Light Shows in Canada."
Jeramie Jenkins and his family attend First Light every year. "It's how we know it's Christmas," he tells HuffPost Canada.
"My ten-year-old was still in the womb when we first started attending. It usually coincides with the first snowfall, so we bundle everyone up, make the one and a half hour drive from our house to the site and always have an amazing time."
When you're there, be sure to follow your nose to the cookhouse where you can indulge in delicious baked goods, take a candlelit stroll towards the stables, or visit the Blacksmith where sparks from his forge fill the night sky. Children will enjoy hands-on activities and crafts including corn husk doll making. Parents can get an early start on Christmas shopping, with over 25 unique artisans on site.
The experience is made even more magical with the sound of Indigenous drumming and singing, lively Franco-Ontarian folksongs, and holiday music sung by local children's choirs.
Louis Lefaive, his wife, and three daughters are members of musical group, Ariko. Their band, whose music celebrates francophone culture, has been performing at First Light for over a decade.
"It's truly one of our most cherished gigs," Lefaive says. "It's a magical experience and I just love the energy of the crowd." Lefaive's memories of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons go even further back to his days on stage. "I used to work there as an interpreter during the summer months when I was in university and I have incredibly fond memories of the place," he says.
The magic continues at Martyrs' Shrine, where you can learn about Indigenous storytelling, see multi-cultural Christmas displays and take photos with St. Nicholas.
First Light is especially meaningful for the local community. In the spirit of Holiday giving, don't forget to bring a nonperishable food item for donation to local food banks.
"Over 15,000 pounds of food go directly to Salvation Army annually from our visitors," Huronia Historical Parks Marketing Manager, Gary Molnar says.
First Light takes place from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on November 23-25, November 30 and December 1-2 and 7-9, 2017. Admission is 10.00 per person, with a donation of a non-perishable item. Children under five are free. Take advantage of the First Light package which includes a souvenir lantern, entry to the event, food voucher for dinner at a local restaurant and an overnight stay and breakfast at the Comfort Inn for only $189.00 per couple. Fireworks Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. Learn more or call 705-526-2090 to book.