It’s many a romantic retiree’s dream to warm up by a yule log fire with some eggnog on a white Christmas evening. And what better place to enjoy the festive season than in the Great White North?
Canada is a very multicultural country, and with this mix of backgrounds comes a melting pot of Christmas traditions, events and festivities.
From French-tinged festivities in Quebec and the fir-treed fields of Nova Scotia, to European, Nordic, Crimean and First Nation-inspired merrymaking, if you’ve ever wanted to celebrate a white Christmas, Canada has you covered.
Did you know that Canadians proudly proclaim that Santa is from Canada?
This enthusiasm for the festive should be reason enough to plan your Christmas in Canada this year. And believe it or not, now is the perfect time to book your flights!
Christmas in Quebec
Quebec’s French heritage inspires a huge Christmas Eve festival called Réveillon – and the revellers make the party last well into the wee hours of Christmas Day. The party starts after the traditional Christmas Eve Mass, during which the children pray that Père Noel leaves presents under their tree.
A visit to Quebec during the festive season will not disappoint. The traditional meal is called ragoût aux pattes de cochons, which sounds amazing until you find out it’s a stew made with pigs’ feet. But don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it! If that doesn’t tickle your tastebuds, you could always try the tortière, which is a tasty meat pie made from venison.
And just imagine la Belle Province’s stunning architecture covered in snow and illuminated by lights as a backdrop for QuebecAdabra! This festival has an authentic German Christmas market through which you can browse for the perfect gift while sipping warm mulled wine. Now, tell me you don’t want to be there!
Experience the excitement of Eastern Canada with a seven-day tour starting in Toronto, travelling through Ottawa and Montreal before reaching Quebec City. The heart of French Canada has the feel of a European city and is the oldest walled city in North America.
Nova Scotia celebrations
During winter, this Eastern Canadian province would have to be the most Christmasy place in the world. Nova Scotia is famous for its fir and pine trees which, as we all know, are the quintessential Christmas decoration.
In Nova Scotia, people dress up in silly Santa costumes and go ‘belsnickeling’ in a tradition brought to the region by German immigrants in 1751. Belsnicklers wearing masks with long tongues run from house to house rattling chains and bells and asking the owners to guess their identity. They are then served cake and cookies before moving onto the next residence.
Each year, Nova Scotians deliver their biggest fir tree to Bostonians as a thank you for their help after the Halifax Explosion almost 100 years ago. Bostonians begin their festive season with the lighting of this tree each year.
Don’t miss the Holiday Parade of Lights, visit the 19th century Sherbrooke Village decked out in festive finery, head to Halifax for a head-spinning light show, brave the bay for a Nova Scotian beach party or visit Barrington, where they celebrate the beginning of the lobster season in conjunction with Christmas.
A traditional Christmas meal in Nova Scotia is, as you would imagine, fresh lobster caught in the North Atlantic Ocean.
This 11-day exploration of the enchanting Canadian Maritimes will have you driving the scenic Cabot Trail, cruising on Shediac Bay and going on many more exciting journeys along the way.
Ho-ho-ho downs in Toronto
Toronto is home to one of the biggest, brightest and longest-running Christmas cavalcades in the world – The Santa Claus Parade.
What began in 1913 with a single Santa being pulled through the streets of Canada’s largest city is now a world-famous festive spectacle featuring more than 25 animated floats and 2000 participants.
From the lighting of the tree in Nathan Square and the Cavalcade of Lights, to the Toronto Christmas Market and Christmas at Casa Loma – North America’s only Gothic castle, Toronto knows how to throw a jolly party.
Enjoy an eight-day, fully-escorted tour from Toronto to Montreal visiting Niagara Falls, Quebec City, cruising along the St Lawrence River, Montreal, and much more.
Nöel in Newfoundland
Each year, the Christmas Light-up Contest in Labrador City is truly a sight to behold. The locals dress up, light up their houses, decorate them with elaborate ice sculptures and really put on a show. And there’s no shortage of snow either, with around four to five metres falling around this time each year.
In the small towns of Newfoundland, people partake in a tradition called ‘Mummering’ or ‘Jannying’. Similar to belsnickeling, they dress up in costumes and during the 12 days of Christmas (26 December to 6 January), knock on doors and ask “Are there any mummers in the night?” or “Any mummers ‘lowed in?” while singing and dancing, eating cakes, drinking cocoa (or something stronger) and moving on to the next house. So much more fun than carolling, don’t you think?
Nöel in Newfoundland is a community affair, with get-togethers, craft fairs and pageants aplenty, including the Downtown Christmas Parade and The Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant Ever! being the ‘big ticket’ events of the season.
Immerse yourself in the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador on a 13-day discovery tour of the coastal communities, meeting friendly locals and learning about the region’s maritime history.
Very merry Vancouver
Since the 60s, Vancouver’s Carol Ships Parade of Lights has been the Christmas crowd-pleaser, with 80 boats strung up with tens of thousands of lights illuminating False Creek, Deep Cove and Port Moody. The locals also light bonfires, carol up a storm and generally carry on like it’s, well, Christmas!
Visit Vancouver’s Stanley Park and wander down the Parade of Trees, or take a train ride through a winter wonderland of 1 million lights during the Bright Nights festival. Or try a sleigh ride with Santa and real-life reindeer at the Peak of Christmas on Grouse Mountain. And don’t forget to see the Festival of Lights at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, or see the Rogers Santa Claus Parade or catch a matinee of The Nutcracker in Downtown Vancouver.
Embrace the winter nights and dancing lights, staying at the centrally located Sandman Hotel for four nights including Hop on Hop off passes for just $299 per person*.
And there’s so much more merrymaking in other regions. Solo travellers can head up north for the Taffy Pull held in honour of St Catherine – the patron saint of single women. For a First Nation celebration, dance and swap gifts with the Inuit during Sinck Tuck or just join in on cookie baking parties so common throughout Canada.
No matter your idea of Christmas, there’s a celebration for you. Heck, any excuse for a party, right?
Do you dream of a white Christmas?