Christmas is fast approaching. The holiday season always conjures many fond memories of time spent with family and the love and laughter we all share. As we prepare for the holidays this year, I thought it would be fun to share some of the Canadian Christmas traditions that I’ve learned over the years.
Because of our large and diverse population, many of our traditions are based on our cultural influence, but there are some similarities that pervade all cultural boundaries. Many Canadians open gifts on Christmas Eve, as opposed to Christmas morning, though some families will open their stockings on Christmas Eve, or choose only one gift to open that night, saving the rest for Christmas Day.
Canadians are also famous for our sledding, skating and tobogganing over the Christmas holidays, and really, anytime there’s snow available on the ground. ‘Snick Tuck’ is a festival, which was started by the Inuit, which is celebrated in some provinces across the nation. Snick Tuck is celebrated with dancing and a present giving party.
In Labrador, turnips from the summer harvest are saved and given to children with a lit candle pushed through a hollowed out hole. In the Maritime provinces, during the 12 days of Christmas, small groups of belsnicklers, or masked mummers, used to appear at their neighbours, ringing bells, making noise, seeking candy or other treats. Their hosts may try and guess who the mummers are, and if the host is right, the mummer removes their disguise and stops making rude noises and actions. Children may also be quizzed by the mummers on their behavior to see if they’ve been good, and are rewarded with candy if they have been.
In Quebec, Réveillon, or midnight meal, is a huge feast that lasts until the early hours of Christmas morning. The traditional meal once consisted of stew made from pig’s feet. Nowadays, families feast on Tourtiére and other holiday goodies.
Christmas season officially culminates on January 6, La Fête du Roi. On this day, French Canadians share a cake with a bean hidden inside. The person who gets the slice with the bean is considered king or queen for the day.
Light festivals are also a popular attraction for many Canadians to visit during the holidays. Niagara Falls hosts the Winter Festival of Light, while Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Airdrie all have popular festivals of lights.
One tradition that comes just before the holiday season is the Taffy Pull, which takes place in Northern Canada. On November 25th, St. Catherine’s Day, households make taffy and share it with everyone. The taffy party also serves as an opportunity for single women to meet single men during the holidays. While the tradition of making taffy has been kept alive by many French Canadian communities, the taffy pull as a ‘speed dating’ event has all but faded.
Throughout Canada, there are many ways we celebrate the holiday season, whether it’s with some of the handful of traditions mentioned above, or with our own unique family celebrations. However you celebrate the Christmas season I hope you enjoy a safe and happy holiday this year.
Doug Downey is the Member of Provincial Parliament for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.