Christmas Traditions in Canada

Canadian society is a multi-cultural mosaic. As a result Christians and non-Christians alike celebrate Christmas in many different ways.

Many stores will begin displaying Christmas decorations and merchandise early in November. Homes will be decorated inside and out with coloured lights from early December through the New Year. Many radio stations play Christmas music, some of it religious, for several weeks before Christmas and television stations often show a wide variety of Christmas specials including some Christian based programs. Businesses are closed on Christmas Day and the day after Christmas, “Boxing Day” is a holiday in Canada as well.

Most families will put up an evergreen (pine, spruce or hemlock) Christmas tree and decorate it with lights and ornaments. Although natural trees are still popular, many people now use an artificial tree. Gifts are exchanged at Christmas but depending upon the family’s background this exchange of gifts may take place on Christmas Eve (December 24) or Christmas Day.

The tradition of Santa Claus, based on St. Nicholas, bringing gifts for good children is widely practiced. Families often gather together, some members travelling great distances, for festive meals and celebrations. Turkey is a common Christmas dinner but tourtiere, a traditional French-Canadian meat pie, is also popular as are sweets and delicacies from various ethnic backgrounds.

Christians celebrate with special worship services Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Churches are often filled to capacity for these. It is common for the young children of a Christian congregation to prepare a special Christmas program or service. This usually includes Bible readings, Christmas carols and various recitations. Some of the children are often dressed as the people in the Biblical account of Christ’s birth. The children’s service is presented to the members of the congregation, often on Christmas Eve or the Sunday prior to Christmas.