First time in Canada? Boy, are you in for a treat! No matter where you are and who you’re with, you’re sure to have a magical time celebrating Christmas in Canada.
Canada is the second largest country in the world. It also happens to have one of the most multicultural societies on the planet. That’s why it comes as no surprise that Canadians have many different ways of celebrating Christmas.
Unsurprisingly, most Christmas traditions were originally brought by the first waves of immigrants from France, Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Norwegian and Ukraine.
How do Canadians celebrate Christmas?
Just like in other parts of the world, Christmas in Canada is spent with friends and family. Most Canadians celebrate with a Christmas party at school or at work before taking time off to be with friends and family.
Canadians usually send Christmas cards to friends and family. It’s an inexpensive, yet very meaningful, way to express one’s best wishes during the holiday season. Write a little note and send it by post. Remember to give it enough time to arrive to its destination, the Christmas season is the busiest time of the year for Canada Post!
Canadians also love to decorate their homes in the spirit of Christmas. Most buy a tree (a real one is always an option, given the abundance of Christmas trees in Canada all year round) and brighten it up with lights and other festive decoration.
On Christmas Eve, Canadians celebrate with their families by getting together and opening their gifts. Some Canadian families only open their stockings, saving the actual gifts until Christmas Day.
Christmas Eve is also the time when Canadian families prepare large meals which include roasted turkey and mashed potatoes. Christmas desserts include puddings and Christmas cake. Everyone loves a slice of cake!
Christmas time in Canada also includes outdoor activities. Canadians are extra festive when it’s a White Christmas. Given enough snowfall, Canadian families go out to enjoy outdoor activities like skiing, skating and tobogganing. Make sure the little ones are all bundled up before heading out!
Santa Clause is a Canadian citizen
Santa Clause, in case you didn’t hear, is a Canadian citizen. That’s right, Santa Claus is big in Canada, with Canadian kids being able to write Santa a letter, with Santa writing them back!
Did you know that Canada has one of the world’s longest running Santa Claus parades? For over 100 years, the city of Toronto has held its annual Santa Clause parade, which attracts millions of visitors who brave the frigid temperatures to catch a glimpse of the Big Red Guy himself! Santa brings up the rear, with over 25 different floats and over 2,000 performers taking part. Santa sure knows how to party!
The Atlantic province of Nova Scotia is famous for its Christmas trees (of the fir and pine variety). Every year, Nova Scotia sends its biggest tree to the city of Boston, Massachusetts, which helped the province during the Halifax Explosion. Americans reciprocate this show of Christmas love by making a big deal out of lighting the tree every year.
Nova Scotia also has a tradition of Belsnickeling. Belsnickeling is when people get dressed as Santa Claus and go knocking on doors asking people to guess who they are. They usually bring musical instruments to complete their costumes when they go knocking on neighbourhood doors, where they get served with Christmas cake.
In the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the tradition of Mummering is kept alive and well. Mummering, which is similar to Belsnickeling, is when people get dressed in costumes and knock on doors asking: “Are there any Mummers in the night?”. People who answer the door are supposed to guess who the Mummers are, and if they don’t guess correctly, they’re supposed to join in on the song and dance. Who do we have to thank for this particular tradition? The Germans. Danke Shon! Did we mention, there’s also Christmas cake involved as well? Fun stuff!
Labrador City is famous for its Christmas Light-up Contest, where people try to out-do each other by decorating their houses with a lot of lights and the occasional ice sculpture. Not so unusual, when you consider that they receive up to 14 feet of snow every year.
Then there’s the Taffy Pull. People in Saint Catherine, ON, celebrate the patron saint of single ladies by throwing a party, with the express purpose of said ladies meeting eligible young bachelors. Nothing like a little bit of Christmas romance to spice things up!
By know, you might have noticed that Canadians love their Christmas cakes. You know what else they like? Christmas cookies! During their Christmas parties, Canadians get super competitive and bring a batch of their own Christmas cookies for other people to try. Don’t be surprised when your kids come home with Gingerbread House they put together at school. Christmas cookies!
Francophone Canadians celebrate in a uniquely French way with a Reveillon (which is French for “Christmas party). They go to church for Christmas mass, expecting Pere Noel (you know, Santa Clause en Francaise) will come and drop off the childrens’ gifts whilst they were away. If you’re celebrating with some Francophones, ask them if they can serve you some ragout aux pattens de cochons. Just so you know, it’s not halal. If you’re not feeling particularly adventurous, just have a tortiere, which is a meat pie made of pork or beef (and if your host is particularly fancy, venison).
Never let it be said that Francophone Canadians don’t know how to party. In the province of Quebec, they celebrate the La Fete du Roi by baking a cake with a tiny little bean in the middle. They give everyone a slice of the cake and whoever gets it gets to be king or queen.
Ever heard of Barley Candy and Chicken Bones? Canadian holiday candy can take some getting used to, but are especially fun for the kids. Barley Candy is comes in different shapes and sizes (like Christmas trees and snowmen) while Chicken Bones are cinnamon candy with a nice chocolate centre. Don’t let the name turn you off, Chicken Bones are a lot of fun!
If you happen to make some Ukrainian friends whilst in Canada, and you enjoy eating then you’re in luck. Ukrainian Canadians celebrate the 12 days of Christmas with a different meal every single day. Nice!
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