Canada is known to be a little quirky. Visitors to the great white north often have some questions with how we go about our day-to-day: why is there a Timmy’s on every corner? What does “eh” even mean? Bagged milk, really?
So it only makes sense that our holiday traditions are little odd. Here is a sample of the shenanigans our fellow hosiers get up to across this strange country.
Meet your soul mate at a taffy pull
On St Catherine’s Day, Quebecers have a sweet (and strange) tradition: they make taffy. The patron saint of unmarried women, St. Catherine was executed in 307 AD for refusing to marry the Roman Emperor Maxentius. So how did taffy get into the mix? This tradition began in New France by a teacher who decided that taffy would focus the attention of her distracted students. It became customary on St. Catherine’s Day for “marriageable” women to show off their cooking skills to young men in the area by making taffy. Today, people still celebrate this strange holiday with a fundraiser, traditional music, and of course, taffy.
Find the bean
To mark the end of the holiday season, Quebec celebrates “La Fete du Roi,” which for those who might be a little rusty on your high school French, means “Party of the King.” Hidden in a cake is a small bean; whoever gets the slice of cake with the bean is named king or queen for the day.
Who am I?
Though Newfoundland has quite a few to choose from, mummering is probably the strangest of their holiday traditions. While it has tapered off throughout the years, mummering still remains a holiday tradition in some parts of the province and beyond. People travel from house to house with masks on and disguise their voices as they ask “are there any mummers in the night?” Once they are invited into the house, their hosts will watch as they perform and try to guess their identities.
So many Santas
It seems that Nova Scotians also like to dress up and test their neighbours. Similar to mummering, “belsnicklers” move from house to house dressed up in Santa costumes, perform for their neighbours, and have their identities guess at.
A Christmas tree of thanks
During the Halifax Explosion of 1917, Boston officials immediately sent a relief train to help the survivors. The people of Nova Scotia decided to honour this show of support with a very festive gesture; they sent a massive Christmas tree. Now, years later, that tradition endures. Nova Scotians continue to send a Christmas tree to Boston in remembrance of the first responders who came to their aid.
Traveling light show
What could be more Canadian than the CP rail? Starting back in 1999, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train travels across the country, spreading holiday cheer, raising money, and collecting donations for food banks. See when it will streak through your town here.
Spend Christmas with the birds
This one’s for all the nature lovers out there. Each year, thousands of Canadians participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count across the country. For over a hundred years, this tradition has worked to gather valuable information on how North America’s feathered friends are faring over time.
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?
And finally, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without an orange in your stocking. Whether this tradition began as a representation of St. Nicholas’ gold, the result of Depression-era gift giving, or a way to fight off scurvy, this sweet orange surprise still finds its way into modern day stockings.