British Columbia

Christmas just got a little darker: Popular holiday events cancelled after COVID-19 restrictions extended

The lights are officially off at several major holiday events in Metro Vancouver this year.

Stanley Park Christmas train, VanDusen Festival of Lights, Canyon Lights are called off

The Vancouver Park Board says tickets for the VanDusen Festival of Lights and Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park will be automatically refunded. (Daniel Beauparlant/CBC)

The lights are officially off this year at several major holiday events in Metro Vancouver.

The Vancouver Park Board says it's cancelling the popular Bright Nights Christmas Train in Vancouver's Stanley Park, in light of B.C. extending its ban on all events and gatherings until Jan. 8.

The VanDusen Festival of Lights, where more than a million lights normally glitter across 10 acres of the botanical garden, has also been called off. 

The park board says tickets will be automatically refunded Friday, noting it may take up to two weeks for refunds to be processed.

The Canyon Lights display at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park has also been scrapped, although the park is still open for regular hours.

And the ice rink in Vancouver's Robson Square will not open either, Minister of Citizens' Services Lisa Beare confirmed in an email.

Many of the events already had approved COVID-19 safety plans in place before restrictions were introduced last month.

Their fate was unclear until Monday, when the provincial health officer's order was set to expire.

VanDusen had reconfigured its garden to allow for a one-way path and space for guests to physically distance.

The Christmas train in Stanley Park was set to feature Plexiglas dividers between each car. All riders were expected to wear face masks.

The Stanley Park Christmas train is one of the most popular draws for families each year. (David Horemans/CBC)

'Sad but for the right reasons'

Proceeds from the Bright Nights Christmas Train are the biggest fundraiser of the year for the B.C. Professional Firefighters Burn Fund.

Gord Ditchburn, president of the association that runs the fund, says the event typically raises $500,000. 

"It's sad but for the right reasons," he said. "We can't put our public in jeopardy."

Some other events have been spared a Grinch-like fate.

PNE's WinterLights display will go ahead, with the province permitting drive-in events that are capped at 50 vehicles at a time.

Drop-off events, such as holiday hampers and toy drivers, can also proceed under the 50-vehicle limit. 

The Twilight Drive-In theatre in Langley, B.C., will reopen Friday, with its movie lineup set to be announced Tuesday afternoon.

Religious services can also hold drive-in events. 

The province says drive-in and drop-off events must maintain physical distancing, control the entry and exit points, and avoid traffic congestion and people congregating. 

With files from Meera Bains

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