With its snow-capped houses and twinkling Christmas lights, Canada is the quintessential Christmas destination. It’s a traditional affair too, but those traditions depend on where you are in the country. Bursting to know what Christmas looks like in Canada? Here are seven Christmas traditions in Canada to help you into the festive spirit.
Canadian Christmas Traditions
1. It’s home to one of the world’s largest and oldest Santa Parades
The Toronto Santa Claus Parade, also known as The Original Santa Claus Parade, started in 1913, making it one of the oldest Santa parades in the world. At first, it was just a single Santa being dragged through the streets of the city by a reindeer, with children along the route following and marching alongside him. Today, over a century later it’s grown into a mammoth event with over 25 animated floats and over 2000 participants. In 1976 the route was lengthened to 7.5 miles to allow for the bigger crowds – at that point, more than 30 million people from across North America were tuning in to see the parade.
2. They’re famous for their Christmas trees
The Eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia is renowned for its fir and pine Christmas trees. Most families in Canada will have a traditional fir or pine Christmas tree in the house, festooned with twinkling fairy lights and decorations. One old tradition sees Canada send its biggest, best Nova Scotia-grown Christmas tree to Boston in the United States. It’s a thank-you for their assistance in the Halifax Explosion, and the tradition has continued for decades.
3. Canadians love a Christmas turkey
Christmas lunch or dinner on December 25th will usually always feature a roast turkey. According to the Turkey Farmers of Canada, Canadians consumed 144.3-million kg of turkey in 2019. During Christmas that year, they purchase 2.7-million whole turkeys. This delicious bird comes dished up with trimmings like mashed potatoes, roasted parsnips and vegetables.
There will usually be a Christmas or plum pudding and mone pies for pudding, as well as a rich Christmas Christmas cake.
4. There’s always time to dress up too
On the south shore of Nova Scotia, there’s a tradition known as Belsnickeling. This involves putting on a funny Santa costume and knocking on doors in the area, until the homeowner guesses who you are. In Newfoundland, Mummering is a big tradition in smaller towns and villages. Also known as Jannying, it involves putting on a costuming, rapping at someone’s door and saying – in a disguised tone – “Are there any Mummers in tonight?”. Then they’ll have a sing and dance, possibly a slice of Christmas cake, before moving onto the next house. In some villages, if you can’t guess who the summer is, you’ll need to join the mummers in their merry ways.
5. Single and ready to mingle? It’s your moment
In Northern Canada, the Taffy Pull celebrates the life of the Catholic Saint Catherine, the patron saint of students and unmarried women. Saint Catherine was martyred in the early 4th century. In 1658, Marguerite Bourgeoys founded a religious community for women. She started off the tradition of making taffy to keep the attention of her young female students. Today, people still make taffy but it’s also a great opportunity for single women to meet single men, sort of like a festive version of speed dating.
6. They go big on the Christmas decorations
People deck out their houses with Christmas decorations all over Canada. In Quebec, people will display elaborate nativity scenes, while in Vancouver they host the annual Festival of Lights.
In Labrador City in Newfoundland, they take the Christmas lights very seriously, with an annual Light-Up Contest. They’ll also make huge ice sculptures in the front garden.
7. Who got the bean?
To mark the end of the Christmas holidays on January 6th, people in Quebec will host a big celebration called La Fete du Roi. As part of the festive fun, they’ll bake a cake and place a bean in the middle. Whoever gets the bean gets to become king or queen for the day, according to the tradition. The old custom started in France and continues in many French-speaking parts of the world, including Quebec, Acadian New Brunswick, Switzerland, Belgium and Lebanon. Tens of thousands of king’s cakes are sold every year.