VANCOUVER — Canada’s major cities are set to ring in the New Year with more of a gentle chime than a resounding clang, with many official celebrations cancelled or moved online for the second year in a row due to COVID-19.
Across the country, residents are being encouraged to tune in to livestreams for fireworks displays and performances or trade parties for outdoor activities.
New Year’s Eve is coinciding with a wave of record-setting daily COVID-19 cases driven by the fast-moving Omicron variant.
Canada’s largest city is trading its tradition of crowding Nathan Phillips Square for an online event. The livestream will feature pre-recorded performances from iconic Toronto music venues and other locations leading up to fireworks.
“This year’s program allows Torontonians to enjoy the festivities safely at home, helping to protect against the spread of COVID-19,” the city says in a news release.
While there will be no fireworks at the square or CN Tower this year, the city says the “high-altitude fireworks displays” will launch simultaneously across Toronto’s waterfront and can be seen from anywhere with views of Lake Ontario.
The show will honour frontline workers and will be MCed by television personality Devo Brown from a closed studio set, the release says.
The City of Mississauga in Ontario is going further with its safety precautions, cancelling all organized events at Celebration Square for the evening, including fireworks.
The initial decision to host New Year’s Eve was made when the COVID-19 situation was much more stable, Jodi Robillos, commissioner of community services, said in a statement.
Typically, the event draws large crowds and it’s not the time to be gathering at that scale.
“This was a really tough decision to make but absolutely necessary to keep our residents safe,” Robillos said.
The skating rink at Celebration Square will remain open until 11 p.m., however, and food trucks will operate on-site.
In British Columbia, a provincial health order prohibits all organized New Year’s Eve parties, while limiting personal gatherings to a household plus 10 visitors or one other household. Everyone 12 and up must be vaccinated to gather indoors.
Even before the new rules were announced, the Vancouver New Year’s Eve Celebration Society postponed the Concord fireworks display until next year.
The event displayed in Coal Harbour has seen upward of 100,000 people in previous years but rising cases made it difficult to begin the planning process in earnest, the society said in a statement earlier this month.
Calgary is going forward with a fireworks display over the Calgary Tower set to a synchronized music soundtrack broadcast by radio. Those without a view of the tower are encouraged to tune into a livestream featuring a blessing from a local Indigenous elder and a countdown to midnight with Mayor Jyoti Gondek.
Quebec is marking New Year’s Eve with a new nighttime curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., which will continue for an indefinite period of time. Indoor private gatherings are banned and restaurants can offer takeout only.
There will be no celebration at the Old Port of Montreal, nor fireworks.
“Avoiding gatherings to ensure the safety of our employees and visitors is our priority,” the port says in a tweet.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2021.
Amy Smart, The Canadian Press