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The 'What's Up Wednesday' holiday rewind

We've featured many of Ottawa's small businesses and entrepreneurs who have been doing unique things in an extremely difficult year, through this weekly feature, and as the holiday shopping season heats up, we're looking back.
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This time last year, Christmas was on full display at Lansdowne. This year, on the other hand, holiday cheer is a bit harder to find out on Ottawa's streets. Kieran Delamont.

The holiday season is upon us, even if everything is looking a little unusual this year. The gatherings will be small, the festivities a bit more subdued, and the vibe a little more precarious. The local economy, as we know, has been struggling, and while we can begin to imagine a light at the end of the tunnel, things are still tough out there for small businesses. 

Every week, the What’s Up Wednesday editors dig through our mailbox to find a new suggestion from our deep network of craft business experts. But this week, as holiday shopping heats up, we instead found this letter from our most trusted of essential workers — the What's Up Wednesday Elves:

Dear CityNews Ottawa,

Here at the North Pole, deep in the What’s Up Wednesday laboratories of Holiday Elf HQ, Ottawa Division, we don’t need reminders about the importance of keeping things a bit more local this year.

All year, our workers are out there across the city of Ottawa, scouring main streets and strip malls for the best our city has to offer — the hidden gems, the meals you can’t miss, the gifts you can’t find anywhere else -- but the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the elf industry, just like many others.

Quarantining at the North Pole is no joke — Santa won’t upgrade the Wi-Fi, and anytime we try to bring this up he says he’s busy “working on his sourdough starter.”  We’ve kept our coronavirus cases to a great minimum — just a couple elves who temporarily lost their candy cane taste — but social distancing requirements mean we can’t pump out the holiday magic at quite the same rate, even with the federal government’s historic investment in Polar Protective Equipment.

Shop Local this Holiday Season

The bread and butter of the elf economy is gift-giving. The good news for both anxious shoppers and burned out elves is that there’s lots of opportunities to shop local in Ottawa this year, making our lives easier.

Freewheeling Craft has helped set up the Holiyay Craft Market, with over 70 different local vendors selling gifts ranging from art to candles to clothing. "Consider this the Amazon of local,” they write on their website. “Actually... we might be even faster than Amazon” — they’ve partnered with local couriers Gopher It Deliveries which offers same- and next-day delivery services, as well as pickup. 

Or, if you’re looking for knockout stocking stuffer ideas, holiday shoppers could reach out to any of the independent artisans who are making great picks, be it for looking your best for the Microsoft Teams™ New Years Eve Party or for self-care-ing your way through the holiday season in maximum coziness. Maybe that’s a sweet new scrunchie from Maya Beaudry to put your hair up with, or some beard oil from James Phillips’ Bytown Beard Co., or skin care from Beth Beamish at B Masked. These are great items that elves — blessed with perfect complexions, full beards and elf hats on our heads from the moment we were born — just don’t do well at making ourselves.

Food and Activities

With pretty much all holiday gatherings off the table this year, it might be hard to get into the holiday spirit. But it shouldn’t be impossible, and this year might be the perfect opportunity to try out a new tradition.

Maybe that looks like mini-golf: Par-Tee Putt has put together an all-ages, family-friendly mini putt package that includes 45 minutes of putt-putt-ing, ice cream and pizza. 

When many of you think about the holidays, you think of food. We do too. But with restaurants struggling, why not try some takeout or take-home food for those days when you just don’t feel like cooking? The Momo Spot have been selling their famous momos in frozen form, so you can cook as few or, let’s be honest, as many as you’d like. (Someone needs to fit in the Santa suit, right?) Or, if you want to go in more make-it-yourself route, your next grocery haul could come from Burrow Shop, and you can skip the crowded grocery store.

And finally, if you too run on coffee (recently legalized in the elf community; according to the New Pole Times, Elves were calling it C-Day) then try Francesco’s, or check out what’s brewing at Arlington Five.

Giving Back

And of course, the holidays are a time for giving back just as much as they are about giving and getting.

Thinking of roasting a bird? Try a spice blend from Thirteen: A Social Enterprise, which will kick your taste buds up a notch — or, drop on by their Social Market in Hintonburg for a whole host of other products that help support social enterprises across the country.

And finally, all the way up here in the North Pole, we’d love it if you did all you could to think of the environment this year. The Arctic sea ice is shrinking at a world historic rate. Just last week an elder elf fell off an ice chunk and into the water. He’s fine — we float — but working with a wet, cold, and grumpy elf is worse than working with no elf at all. We were happy to see our pals at Leaf House City Farms offering free, eco-friendly wrapping on their line of herbal teas. We applaud the idea, and hope that all gift-wrapping you do be done with recyclable materials.

We hope to be back at full capacity in the workshop soon, but until then, we elves are working as hard as we can to make the best of this unusual holiday season. We can’t do it all ourselves but we’re sure our small business friends can help take care of you this holiday season. 


The Elves 
Holiday Elf HQ
What's Up Wednesday - Ottawa Division

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