Winnipeg Christmas Map a labour of love for merry community of holiday cheer-seekers
A digital map outlining the best and brightest Christmas lights Winnipeg has to offer is illuminating the sheer volume of Yuletide displays throughout the city.
Carol Cassell is the merry mastermind behind the online project.
She originally launched the map six years ago when she moved to Transcona, but it was originally dedicated to an entirely different holiday.
“It was for Halloween decorations,” Cassell told CTV News Winnipeg. “But after that first year, a lot of people started asking if there would be a Christmas map.”
The next year she did just that, mapping all the Christmas lights displays in Transcona. It continued on as an annual tradition.
“That’s how the map started. It was just me for the first five years, going out and looking for houses,” Cassell recalled.
Then the pandemic hit in 2020.
Cassell decided it was the perfect time to expand the map to the entire city of Winnipeg.
“Especially with last year with the lockdown and not being able to visit people, I think more people were going out to look at Christmas lights, and people who hadn’t done it before or done it since they were children were rediscovering how enjoyable it is,” she said. “It was a big hit.”
How big a hit? The Facebook group devoted to the original Transcona map ballooned from about 500 members to 26,000 after it expanded its reach to the whole city.
“I was shocked,” she said. “I had a thousand people joining every day for almost a month.”
With the expansion of the map, so too did its construction. Cassell still devoted free nights to driving around, looking for lights, but she also added a submission page where folks could send in their own addresses, photos and descriptions.
She now devotes about 10 hours a week to searching out displays and entering the bevvy of new submissions into the map.
This Charleswood home included in the Winnipeg Christmas Map is listed among the most decorated homes in the city. According to the map, everything in the display is handmade and has been in the works for over 20 years, stretching onto the neighbour’s yard. (Source: Google Maps/Winnipeg Christmas Map 2021)
Another upgrade—the map is organized using a legend so Christmas lights-seekers know exactly what attraction they’re hitting the road for. Gold stars represent the most decorated homes in and around the city, lights denote homes with light shows set to music, Santa hats mark very moderately decorated homes and bells represent other holiday attractions.
When asked if she has favourites, Cassell could name two—a Seuss-inspired display of Whoville on Devonshire Drive West, and an Island Lakes display with an array of mechanical features, including a miniature train that loops around the whole yard.
“It’s pretty magical,” she said. “I didn’t know that there were so many homes with such elaborate and beautiful displays. So much work goes into them, these displays.”
Cassell plans to take new submissions on the map until the week before Christmas.
While it’s a lot of work, Cassell said the best gift is the feedback she gets from fellow Christmas lights lovers.
“People who have been using the map have been really positive about it,” she said. “They take their families out. They go out on dates with their partners. They go out with their friends, and they’re just having a positive experience.”
The Winnipeg Christmas Map can be found here.
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