Patsy Van Roost used to hate Christmas, which is odd for someone known as the Fairy of Mile End. She disliked the shopping madness, the commercial impersonality of it.
Then she decided to make magic, and everything changed.
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One year, she taped 25 cards containing part of a Christmas tale to trees, mailboxes, and windows around the neighbourhood. To see get the full story, residents had to walk around and find the next section. Hopefully, they would start talking.
"I wanted to do work that brought people together," Van Roost, an artist, told CBC's Homerun. "Because today you don't know your neighbour."
Another year, she asked 25 of her neighbours to tape posters containing excerpts from another story. Same idea.
This holiday, the project has a new twist. She pierced 25 shoeboxes with the story parts — she used a pushpin to perforate the letters, one by one — and again asked her neighbours to display it on their windows.
And she placed a lightbulb inside the box.
"So it lights up at night. The story only comes alive at night," she said. "If you walk during the day you only see shoeboxes."
Another twist: only one part of the story is shown each day. At the bottom of the box, it says where to go the day after for the next part.
She's so well-known in Mile End that residents now hope they will be selected.
Today, Van Roost, a former wedding invitation designer, loves Christmas.
"I spread magic amongst neighbours," she said. "I like the idea that it costs nothing and it's magical."
Spoiler alert: the story is about a lonely count named Noël who needs to make 1,000 friends in 25 days so he can give away 1,000 Christmas presents. But in his search to find a perfect location to meet them all, he forgets to make friends.
"It's a spoof of Facebook and the idea of collecting friends," she said.