Canadian Christmas Traditions

Christmas lights at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada.

While many Canadian Christmas traditions are strikingly similar to those celebrated in the U.S., the many diverse provinces have unique takes on the jolly holiday. With influences from Scotland, England, Germany, France and the U.S., Canadians enjoy a rich holiday filled with family and tradition.

Christmas Similarities to U.S.

Canadians share more than just a border with the U.S. Many of the holiday traditions are similar to those celebrated by people in the U.S.

For example, the Christmas tree is a decoration found in many Canadian homes, which is actually a German Christmas tradition. Advent wreaths and Christmas wreaths adorn many homes during the holidays. Nativity scenes are also popular décor for Canadian Christians.

Children anxiously await the arrival of Santa on Christmas Eve, although some families may wait until New Year's Day for present exchanges. Christmas stockings are hung with the hopes of being filled with presents and goodies the next morning.

Christian Canadians often attend a midnight mass, followed by a large dinner called a reveillon. Typical foods served include:

  • Beef, turkey or goose as the main dish
  • Tourtiere, a meat pie served in Quebec and other provinces
  • Vegetable and sauce side dishes
  • Puddings, such as rice and plum
  • Doughnuts, pastries and cookies
  • Yule logs

The exchange of Christmas cards is another tradition Canadians share with people in the U.S.

Provincial Canadian Christmas Traditions

Canadians have their own way of celebrating the holiday, too. As it is a vast country with many cultures, the traditions in each province can differ.

In the northern areas of Canada, native Eskimos and Inuits will celebrate Sinck Tuck. This celebration involves much feasting, dancing and the exchange of presents.

Belsnicklers, or masked mummers, often roam the streets of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland during the holidays. They ring bells, make noise and ask for candies and treats at homes. If the home's host can guess who is behind the mask, the person must take off the mask and end his or her annoying ways.

Residents of various provinces, including Labrador, celebrate with outdoor holiday Christmas lighting on their homes.

National Capital Christmas Lights

Government buildings of the entire country are lit together as part of Christmas Lights Across Canada. The National Capital Commission started Christmas Across Canada in 1985. It helps unify the country by bringing together the 13 provinces and regions together with the capital to create goodwill between Canadians.

More Canadian Holidays

Like other countries around the world, the holiday celebration does not end when the clock strikes midnight on Christmas day. Instead, the holiday season is celebrated by many people through January 6. Two of the major days between Christmas and the first week of January are Boxing Day, December 26, and La Fete Du Roi, January 6.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day is a federal holiday recognized by the Canadian Labour Code. It follows the English royalty tradition of bestowing goodwill on to the less fortunate, such as:

  • The opening of alms boxes for the poor at churches the day after Christmas.
  • The giving of gifts (boxes) to the poor.
  • Giving boxes of leftover food from Christmas to servants.

Today, Boxing Day is largely celebrated because of the amount of the best after Christmas sales in the retail industry. Major sporting events, especially hockey, are also played on the 26th. If Boxing Day happens to fall on a weekend, many employers will give their employees the next workday day off or holiday pay on the next workday.

Fete Du Roi

The Fete du Roi, primarily celebrated in Quebec, marks the end of the Christmas season. It means "Party of the King." A special cake is made with a small bean hidden inside. Whoever gets the slice of cake with the hidden bean is name the king or queen for the day, similar to the French tradition of the three kings cake.

Canadian Christmas Traditions