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Deck the halls — and the city

In case you didn’t know the holiday season was upon us, the festivedecorations throughout your city have probably reminded you by now.

In case you didn’t know the holiday season was upon us, the festive decorations throughout your city have probably reminded you by now.

Every year Canadian cities invest in outdoor decorations because making the streets look good is an important part of getting people into the spirit of Christmas.

In Vancouver’s premiere shopping district of South Granville, 11 blocks of primarily high end home decor boutiques, art galleries and antique stores are being dressed up to the nines with new planters, banners, wreaths and other street-level decorations by the district’s own Business Improvement Association (BIA).

Sharon Townsend, a spokesperson for the South Granville BIA, says the upcoming Olympics means this year they’re pulling out all the stops for decoration.

“Our neighbourhood is undergoing a simply enormous transformation. We’re pushing the Olympic theme and making sure the streets are festive and clean,” Townsend said.

To encourage individual store owners throughout neighbourhood to contribute to its beautification, the South Granville BIA offers marketing grants to members and has created a $320,000 decoration campaign with prizes awarded to the businesses that best decorate their exterior areas. A good-looking neighbourhood is beneficial for all business owners, Townsend says.

Here in Toronto, workers have transformed the space in front of City Hall with lights, wreaths and an enormous, 62-foot high spruce tree — the city’s official Christmas tree.

Neil Weller, 63 and president of Weller Tree services, has provided Toronto’s official tree for the past 46 years and says the responsibility is a great honour.

“We’re very proud of it. When everything lights up it’s a big bonus for us and it’s an honour to be doing it every year,” Weller said.

Kevin O’Reilly, 48, is the maintenance foreman from Toronto City Hall in charge of decorating the official tree every year as well as running preparations for Toronto’s city-wide Cavalcade of Lights celebration. O’Reilly and his team work hard to decorate the tree because the tree is an important symbol of holiday cheer.

“The Christmas tree is the centre of attention — it’s the most important part of the decorations. Everybody works together and there’s a passion for it,” O’Reilly said.

The team starts around Labour Day, usually about six weeks in advance of the celebration, collecting resources together and sending crews out to beautify the city. The tree itself takes two weeks to decorate. Despite the amount of effort involved, O’Reilly says it’s all worth it in the end.

“Watching people’s faces light up when the lights come on makes all the work worth the effort. It gets people in the Christmas mood, happy and smiling for the season,” O’Reilly said.

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