By Matthew Dufour
The time of the year to put up the Christmas tree is coming up which also means family dinners, light shows, decorations, and presents. Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays not just in the United States, but also throughout the globe being celebrated in over 160 countries. While most United States families are accustomed to the typical American Christmas traditions of turkey dinners, carols, and present opening, it leaves room for a big question: how do the United States’ northern neighbors celebrate Christmas as opposed to the common way of celebrating Christmas within the United States?
Canada is irrefutably one of the most multicultural countries in North America with 13.9% of the population being Scottish, 13.6% of the population being French, 13.4% of the population being Irish, 9.6% of the population being German, 5.1% of the population being Chinese, 4.6% of the population being Italian, and 4.4% of the population being Indigineous. As a result, the typical Christmas in Canada might not seem as typical of a Christmas to most Americans with numerous cultures being integrated into the festivities and traditions of Christmas in Canada.
However, one of the most commonly integrated cultures and if not the most integrated foreign culture in the typical celebration of Christmas in Canada is French culture, especially in the province of Québec where it is very common to see the integration of French dishes, practices, and traditions not only during the Christmas holiday but in everyday life.
For starters, many Americans would tend to associate a traditional Christmas dinner with an oven turkey, stuffing, ham, mashed potatoes, etc. While it may come as a surprise, in Québec this type of dinner may not seem as traditional as it seems to most Americans. Christmas in Québec heavily relies on French culture and its dishes as common items seen on the dinner table during Christmas. Some foods these could include are a tourtière (a type of meat pie), oysters, lobster, and even escargot (snails). However, this does not disvalue the presence of turkey in Canadian dinners. In fact, according to turkeyfarmersofcanada.ca, Canadians will purchase over three million turkeys every Christmas as opposed to the United States’ 224 million. While there may be a big gap in both numbers, it perfectly illustrates the difference in cultures and practices in regards to Christmas.
Additionally, the desserts may even come as a surprise to most Americans. When thinking of the standard American Christmas desserts and sweets, the first food items that may come to mind are pumpkin pie, apple pie, cranberry based desserts, etc. Throughout Canada common Christmas desserts may include a bûche de noël (a type of yule log cake), a gâteau chômeur (a maple syrup flavored cake), a pouding chômeur (a maple syrup pudding), and other baked goods.
While it is apparent that both the US and Canada contain differences with the preparation of their foods in order to celebrate the Christmas holidays, there are several other practices that Canadians follow that may come as a surprise to Americans. When thinking about the fall and winter time in the United States, it is easier to recognize
popular holiday events around the Thanksgiving time of the fall and winter, the most prominent example being the Thanksgiving Macy’s Day Parade.
While there may be smaller events that happen towards the Christmas holiday, the most of these popular holiday events happen more towards Thanksgiving time. The easiest inference as to why these events happen more early in the winter is due to the fact Christmas is a commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ and other cultural celebrations among billions of people around the world. However, in Canada despite the fact Christmas is equally as celebrated on a religious perspective as it is in the United States, it is more common for popular holiday events to be located around Christmas time as opposed to Thanksgiving time in the United States.
Similar to the popularity of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the United States, The Santa Claus Parade in Toronto is one of the oldest and largest Santa parades in not only Canada, but the world. Starting in 1913 when Santa was pulled through the streets of Toronto, children along the route would follow Santa and march along with him. It has easily been assimilated into the Canadian culture behind Christmas and has been taking place for over 100 years. In fact, it is now a huge event with over 25 animated floats and 2000 people taking part and is broadcasted around the globe.
There are dozens among dozens of other differences in the practices and celebration of Christmas between the United States and Canada, however, some of these differences can even go deeper than just between the two countries with differences in each individual province of Canada. That differ from common traditions and practices in the United States.
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples living in Canada and some parts of Alaska. Despite the Inuit being scattered throughout Canada, the Inuit practice Christmas with different traditions than some Canadians may be accustomed to. Especially in the northern areas of Canada, it is common in Inuit culture to celebrate Christmas by incorporating Sinck Tuck. This tradition involves large dinners, dances, and the exchange of presents. While it may sound like a typical Christmas celebration, it differs in the sense that it is a celebration of the winter solstice, and the meals often include caribou, raw fish, seal, and other foods that are easily acquirable in the inhabited areas.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, another distinct celebration of Christmas includes masked mummers. As described by mummersfestival.ca, Mummering in Newfoundland and Labrador describes the Christmastime practice of visiting several homes throughout an evening while dressed in a disguise. Groups of oddly dressed friends will piece together their disguises using whatever they have around their homes. They might change their walk, talk, shape, or size—whatever it takes to make them unrecognizable to the hosts of the homes they visit. Once the hosts guess who the mummers are, they take off their masks and stay for a party or social. Then the mummers go to another house…and another house….and another.
While Canadian traditions of Christmas may vary even throughout the provinces, Christmas is one of the most largely celebrated religious holidays in Canada similarly to the United States. So with the Christmas time coming up and with families preparing for big dinners, decorating and Christmas shopping, remember to wish our neighbors up north a merry Christmas and a happy holiday.
Matthew is a senior at Cienega High School and enjoys playing/making music, traveling, chess, and is interested in the field of neuroscience and psychiatry after he graduates.