Kathleen Brown 

Take an easy jaunt from Victoria for a glorious day at Butchart Gardens.

By Linda Hagen Miller

"On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … ,"a voice sings tentatively.

"What's on the 'ninth day?'" she murmurs, then remembers: "Oh,right, 'nine ladies dancing. Eight maids a-milking ... '"

During the holidays, Butchart Gardens is overrun with carolerswho are stuck on this song like a needle on a scratchedrecord―and it's totally captivating.

Set along Butchart Cove, off Tod Inlet, the longtime attractionlies a 30-minute drive north from downtown Victoria. While lit upon summer evenings as well, the gardens' 55 acres positivelyshimmer now. From December 1 until January 7, thousands of coloredlights ring trees, edge walkways, create symbolic streams andwaterfalls, and line rooftops.

Butchart introduced its Christmas display in 1987, and laterbegan adding the Twelve Days of Christmas displays, installing oneeach year throughout the gardens. Twelve drummers made their debutin 2004, completing the series. Most of the vignettes are easy tospot: Eight maids a-milking are a stately bunch outlined in whitelights on a knoll. Five golden rings float in the darkness ofSunken Garden Lake. But ask about the partridge in a pear tree andthe turtledoves―they are easy to miss.

Don comfortable shoes, bundle up, and leave Victoria for anentire day at the gardens. (Or have your hotel concierge arrangethe outing.) Enjoy afternoon tea or dinner amid the gardens in TheDining Room Restaurant. Or pause for casual fare in The Blue PoppyRestaurant or The Coffee Shop, where you can sit by the fire.

And be sure to brush up on "The Twelve Days of Christmas" beforeyou go. Call 866/652-4422 or 250/652-5256 (recording), or visit butchartgardens.com.

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