The festival features the Forest of Miracles which is a large selection of Christmas trees that are beautiful to see at night. There is also a series of events with live entertainment on the three Saturdays leading up to Christmas. The event on the last Saturday is Christmas Wassail and Bonfire Night. It’s both free and lots of fun.
To learn more about the festival in general see our article about the Dundarave Festival of Lights or visit the official dundaravefestival.com website. To learn more about the festival’s last in-person event of the season each year, continue reading.
Christmas Wassail and Bonfire Night at Dundarave Beach
On the Saturday a week before Christmas each year a special event takes place at Dundarave Beach in West Vancouver. In the late afternoon and evening of that day there is live music and a giant bonfire. Santa Claus also comes for a visit, and in some years also the Grinch.
Christmas Wassail and Bonfire Night is a family-friendly event. Admission to it is free, as is the case with all the festival’s events and activities on other days. Donations benefiting the Lookout Society, however, are greatly appreciated.
The Lookout Society is a great non-profit organization that supports people with multiple challenges through housing and other programs.
For the festival’s official website click Dundarave Festival of Lights.
Wassail Night in 2022
In 2022 Christmas Wassail and Bonfire Night takes place on Saturday, December 17th, between 3:00 and 9:00 pm. Similar to last year and in the past before COVID, the 2022 event features live music, a visit from Santa Claus and a giant bonfire.
2022 Wassail and Bonfire Night Schedule
The schedule of events and activities in 2022 is the following (with exact times and other details subject to change):
- 3:00 pm – Music with Burstin’ with Broadway
- 4:00 pm – Music with the Hot Mammas with the Leading Ladies
- 5:00 pm – Music with Chris Davis & Friends
- 6:00 pm – Music and Dancing with Paul Silveria & Friends
- 7:00 pm – Music with Sospiro Misterioso
In addition to the above, the bonfire gets lit at 4:00-ish, around which time there is likely also entertainment by CircusWest Performing Arts. Santa Claus arrives at around 5:30 pm and after the music with Sospiro Misterioso there is carol singing.
What Happens at the Wassail and Bonfire Night?
The live music at the event takes place in a covered shelter. It’s a great venue for rainy days, which happen a lot in winter in Vancouver. Last year, in fact, on the morning of the Wassail Night event, it rained like crazy (like atmospheric river style)! Fortunately though, by the start of the festivities, it had cleared up and was sunny!
Last year the bonfire was lit at around 4:30 pm, or a little bit after. A drummer and a couple of bagpipers led the way. Santa and the official fire starter then made their way to the bonfire circle. While the fire was being lit, Santa walked around and said hi to the crowd. This year will likely be similar, although it looks like Mr. Claus might show up a bit later.
The fire itself is huge each year, and 2022 is no exception. Giant logs in a pyramid or teepee-style shape go up in smoke and flames. The area around the fire is protected by a fence so people can’t get too close. It’s a big space, which allows lots of people to see and admire the fire.
While the bonfire burns the music continues at the stage under the shelter. People also wander around and admire the trees. There are also usually hot drinks and snacks for purchase.
For the festival’s official website visit dundaravefestival.com.
Wassail and Bonfire Night Video
To give you an idea of what to expect at Wassail and Bonfire Night, watch the short video below. It shows scenes of the event from 2021 including the performance by the band Blackthorn Blossom.
As you’ll see in the video, the event features live music, a visit from Santa Claus and a massive bonfire. Of the events with live entertainment during the Dundarave Festival of Lights, this is usually the biggest and most well attended.
Hard to believe, just a few hours before this video was taken, it was pouring and the weather was miserable. It was a torrential dump of rain actually. You can still see a couple of the puddles on the ground. Miraculously, by the mid-afternoon, in time for the event, the weather was beautiful!
In addition to what you’ll see in this video, there is entertainment by other bands. Also, the bonfire looks increasingly impressive as it gets darker.
See our article about Wassail & Bonfire Night for more information and another video about the event.
What is Wassail?
Interestingly, Wassailing is a British tradition with pagan origins. It actually takes place on the twelfth night of Christmas, so on January 6th. “Wassail” comes from an old Norse word that means “be fortunate” or “be in good health”.
Historically, there are two forms of wassailing. One involves people going from door to door and singing in exchange for gifts, kind of like carolling today. The other involves going to a fruit orchard and singing to trees and spirits in the hopes of encouraging a good crop (for the benefit of cider-making in particular). Both activities involved music (and often a fair bit of drinking).
Wassail Night in West Vancouver doesn’t involve alcoholic cider, orchards or pagan rituals. And it doesn’t happen on January 6th. The North Shore event does, however, involve music, singing and merriment!
To learn more about the origins of Wassailing, see the entry about it on Wikipedia.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver’s December Calendar of Events
- Top Things to Do at Christmas
- North Shore Christmas Attractions
- West Vancouver’s Dundarave Beach
- District of West Vancouver
- Free Events in December