As a Canadian who has lived most of her life in Canada (except for 6 years in Taiwan), I thought I’d give you some information and advice about Christmas in Canada!
Yes, Christmas originated as a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but nowadays in Canada, many non-religious and non-Christian people celebrate Christmas, in whatever way they want to celebrate it. In a negative way, Christmas has become a holiday where we spend lots of money, on presents, parties, food, etc. On the other hand, Christmas has remained a time when we spend a lot of time with our families and try to be kinder and more patient with everyone, including strangers. We also think of it as a time to think of people who are less fortunate, and we give money and donations to charity.
So, what do Canadians do at Christmas? That’s a big question to answer, but I’ll try to cover the basic points. On Christmas Eve (Dec. 24th), we try to spend the night with family or friends. Children leave out milk or cookies for Santa Claus. Children usually wake up very early on Christmas Day (Dec. 25th) to see what presents Santa has brought for them! They rush to the Christmas tree in the living room, and everyone opens presents together. Even people who don’t have children still enjoy this tradition, and often buy presents for their family or friends. Then everyone spends the day relaxing (except for whoever is cooking!) then there is a big dinner in the evening. It’s traditionally a roast turkey, with cranberry sauce, stuffing, and side dishes that feature locally-grown food, i.e. potatoes. At Christmas, we usually don’t eat anything that couldn’t grow in Canada, i.e. mangoes. However, remember that Canada is a multi-cultural country, so if you’re staying in a homestay, they might be cooking something different for Christmas dinner, or not having it at all! Be aware that a lot of stores and services will be closed this day.
The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day. Some people go shopping on Boxing Day because there are big sales (it’s the Canadian version of “Black Friday”). If you want the best deals, you have to go very early in the morning, or even sleep outside the store the night before! I personally don’t like shopping on this day because the stores are so crowded, but it’s up to you! I recommend going shopping on the 27th, 28th, etc., because the stores may still have some “Boxing Week” sales, and it’s not so busy. All the stores are trying to sell their winter merchandise (especially clothes) because they will be bringing in new stuff in the new year.
Finally, December 31st is New Year’s Eve. It’s one of the biggest party nights of the year. People usually go to parties or to a nightclub. Be aware that a lot of the nightclubs will be charging higher prices this night. It will also be very difficult, almost impossible to get a taxi home, so make sure you get on the Skytrain or the bus before it gets too late!
I hope you’ve found this information helpful. I encourage you to “get in the Christmas spirit” while you’re in Canada. Join the Tamwood activities: there will be special Christmas activities! Give to a charity, either in Canada or in your home country! Do a Secret Santa with your friends! If you follow my advice, you are sure to have a great Christmas season!
Words by: Ellen Goodall, a Tamwood ESL Teacher
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