Anthropology: Holidays Celebrated Only in Canada

Canada and the United States of America share many of the same statutory holidays, including New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Halloween, and Christmas Day. Both countries honor these special days of the year with the same cultural traditions. These traditions have been passed down through the generations. And are still practiced by many people within Canada and across the border by our international neighbors today.

For example, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada and the U.S.A. It is a special day of the year that is spent showering your loved ones with roses, hearts, hugs, and kisses. However, Valentine’s Day is not considered a paid statutory holiday in Canada or the United States of America, it is still a much-loved holiday.

At Easter, kids welcome the arrival of the first weeks of spring and a visit from Peter Cottontail. The infamous Easter bunny who hops along the bunny trail bringing baskets full of treats to children all over the world. 

Halloween is celebrated on the last day of October. Children and various adults enjoy dressing up in scary costumes and knocking on neighbors’ doors asking for candy. Halloween has increasingly become a popular celebration for many people who go all out with outdoor decorations. Skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, and brightly lit orange-colored strings of lights adorn the front porches of many homes, guiding children up the walkways. 

And finally, Christmas Day is another holiday that is shared by Canadians, their U.S. neighbors and many other countries all around the world. Traditionally, Christmas Day is spent with family members and loved ones. Most businesses in Canada provide employees with a day off work. However, if employees must work, they are compensated with extra statutory holiday pay. Traditional festivities that take place on Christmas Day may include: 

  • Exchanging Christmas gifts with loved ones
  • Watching sappy seasonal holiday movies
  • Attending Christmas Eve mass and school Christmas concerts
  • Waiting for the big guy’s arrival down the chimney on Christmas morning
  • Family dinner gatherings with turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, and yuletide logs for dessert

Holidays Celebrated in Canada

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Ten Statutory Holidays are celebrated in Canada yearly.

But, did you know that Canada also celebrates some statutory holidays that their U.S. neighbors to the south don’t? Yep, they sure do. Here is a list of some statutory holidays that Canada can truly call its own. These holidays have been celebrated for years and represent the strong historical beliefs of many Canadians.

Victoria Day (May 24th Week-End)

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A holiday celebrated in Canada and Scotland in memory of the Queen’s birthday.

Victoria Day began in 1845 and honors the monarch of Britain, Queen Victoria’s birthday. A statutory holiday that is widely celebrated by many Canadians, Victoria Day falls on the first Monday after May 24th. This Canadian holiday is also shared with Scotland, but it is not shared with the United States of America or any other countries from around the world.

Victoria Day gives Canadians a sign that the sunny days of summer are just around the corner. And it also marks the first weekend of the year that it’s safe for Canadians to do their summer gardening. Flower baskets begin to adorn the front porches of many homes and flowerbeds begin popping up all around the country, adding a splash of color to front yards without the threat of frost and sub-zero temperatures threatening their enchantress. 

Victoria Day, also known  as ‘May Two Four Weekend’, provides a good excuse for Canadians to honor the day with a nice cold case of “24” beer to drink among friends and family in the great Canadian outdoors with an extra day off work to boot. Several Canadians also enjoy putting a finish to the week-end  festivities by lighting off fireworks in honor of Victoria Day.

Canada Day (July 1)

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Image Source: Global News. Canada Day is a holiday that is celebrated on July 1st in memory of Canada’s birthday.

Canada Day is a statutory holiday that honors the Confederation of Canada which took place on July 1, 1867. On this day, back in 1867, the Dominion of Canada was formed when the Province of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia united to become one federation.

Canada Day celebrations are common practice throughout the entire country in honor of this monumental event in the history of Canada. Canadians living abroad, and their international friends and families of Canadians also enjoy taking in the festivities of celebrating Canada Day.

In 1982, Canada achieved sovereignty as an independent country. Even though Canada remained with the  British Commonwealth and accepted the monarch as its own. Essentially, Queen Elizabeth plays a ceremonial role in the country and does not affect Canada’s self-governance as an independent country. 

Large celebrations take place every July 1st at Parliament Hill in Ottawa with huge  gatherings of people, setting off elaborate fireworks displays, and celebrity artists and concerts on hand. Other towns and cities throughout Canada also commonly honor Canada Day with large-scale events. Some popular celebrations in honor of Canada Day may also include:

  • Outdoor barbecues and celebrations with Canadian foods
  • Family get-to-gethers
  • Fireworks in most townships throughout Canada
  • Wearing red and white clothing in honor of the colors of Canada’s flag

Civic Holiday (First Monday in August)

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Civic Holiday celebrations are held in August in Canada.

This next statutory holiday in the calendar year is a Canadian original. The only problem, though, is that Canada never came up with an official name for this holiday, which falls on the first Monday in August. Therefore, this statutory holiday is simply called “Civic Holiday.” How original is that, eh?

Some Canadian provinces celebrate the civic holiday, while others don’t. It also has different names, depending on the Canadian province you live in. Some call it the August Holiday. While others, such as British Columbia, call it the Provincial Holiday, or Terry Fox Day if you’re from Manitoba.

In some Canadian towns and cities, residents gather on the first Monday of August or the Saturday before, in celebration of their culture, local achievements and history. Celebrations may include:

  • Provincial birthday cake cutting ceremonies
  • Sporting events, and local fundraising opportunities
  • Community meals, including breakfasts, or barbeques, luncheons, or suppers
  • Cultural festivities include heritage clothing, and authentic Canadian rituals.

Thanksgiving (Second Monday in October)

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Thanksgivingholiday  traditions in Canada

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October each calendar year. Thanksgiving honors the end of the harvesting season in Canada and the beginning of cold temperatures soon to follow. 

Although Thanksgiving traditions in Canada are similar to those of their southern neighbors in the U.S.A, the dates are a month different. The United States of America celebrates their Thanksgiving at the end of November. Thanksgiving in Canada also does not represent pilgrims as does the U.S.A. Thanksgiving holiday tradition.

Some popular Canadian traditions of celebrating Thanksgiving may include:

  • Family get-to-gethers
  • A traditional family feast of turkey, stuffing, potatoes and cranberries
  • Thanksgiving dessert traditionally features pumpkin pie.
  • Canadian homes are decorated with pumpkins, gourds and autumn-colored maple leaves.

Remembrance Day (Nov. 11)

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Holiday celebrated in Canada – Remembrance Day

This somber holiday falls on November 11th each year in memory of the brave soldiers and all the courageous men and women who valiantly served for their country. Remembrance Day is a day that people of all ages are strongly encouraged to give thanks and appreciation to those brave souls who fought for the rights of our freedom in World War 1.

Remembrance Day ceremonies have traditionally taken place in every Canadian community in honor of Remembrance Day since 1931. Each year, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 11.11.11. Canadians gather together in community parks, halls, schools, job sites or from the comforts of their homes to honor their fallen Canadian men and women. The United States of America pays tribute to their fallen soldiers and brave men and women on the same day of the year and calls it a holiday Armistice Day.

Remembrance Day is a paid statutory holiday in Canada that is one of the most important holidays for all Canadians. The traditions will continue to play a big role in remembering fallen soldiers, and honorable men and women who bravely fought in World War 1 for the rights and freedoms of Canada.

“The Act of Remembrance” is found in a poem called “For the Fallen” that was written by author Laurence Binyon in honor of our fallen comrades.

The Act of Remembrance

“They shall not grow old,

as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them,

nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun

and in the morning

We will remember them.”

Laurence Binyon

Wearing a red poppy has also become a popular tradition for many Canadians on Remembrance Day. Donations for buying poppies go to Canadian organizations in support of veterans and their families.

This tradition was inspired by a poem written by a Canadian medic from World War 1, John McCrae,  entitled “In Flanders Field.”

In Flanders Field

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That marks our place; and in the sky.

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.”

John McCrea

Boxing Day (Dec. 26)

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Canadian Holiday – Boxing Day

Traditionally celebrated each year in Canada on December 26, Boxing Day is another statutory holiday where Canadians can enjoy the day off work, or extra pay if they are assigned work that day. This holiday originated in Victorian England for the wealthy to hand out gifts to the poor and servants in appreciation of their poverty status.

However, today, December 26, has increasingly become one of the busiest shopping days in Canada. Boxing Day takes place the day after Christmas each year when the stores and shopping centers have huge sales, attracting crowds of shoppers taking advantage of the bargains offered. Some stores online and in person continue the shopping traditions with sales that last the entire week. It’s a great way for businesses to get rid of their last year’s inventory and prepare for the new year.

In the U.S.A., residents celebrate their shopping frenzy on Black Friday rather than Boxing Day. But for Canadians, the shopping tradition continues on December 26th. 

Just for fun, did you know that Canadians can also mail letters to Santa and have them answered? It’s true. Canada Post has employed a large number of elfs who volunteer their time to answer numerous  letters to Santa each year. The address to send your letters to Santa is:

Santa Claus

North Pole, Canada

HOH OHO

The Significance of Canadian Holidays

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Significance of Canadian Holidays

Canadian holidays typically evolved from fundamental patriotic and religious occasions that have significantly impacted the lives of Canadians throughout history and have remained honorable dates to mark on the calendar each year. 

Statutory holidays are determined by the Parliament of Canada and observed by Canadians and federal employees on set days throughout the year. Canada has a total of ten statutory holidays, including:

  • New Years 
  • Good Friday 
  • Easter Monday 
  • Victoria Day 
  • Canada Day
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Remembrance Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

These ten statutory holidays of Canada commemorate national traditions that have occurred throughout the history of Canada as a much-loved country by its almost 40 million residents. Sometimes called “public holidays,” most government buildings and businesses are closed on statutory holidays so that every Canadian has the opportunity to pay tribute to these monumental occasions. If a person must work on a statutory holiday, it is required by law that the employee receives extra pay for their contributions to the workforce that day.

A public holiday can be financially draining for the nation. Therefore, there are only ten occasions per year that are considered paid holidays. These dates are carefully considered and thought to be the most important occasions in the nation’s history.

Final Thoughts About Holidays in Canada

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Canadian Holidays and their significance today.

For many Canadians, statutory holidays mean extra time spent at their cottages, or relaxing at home with an extra day off work spent reading a book, going for a walk or tinkering around the house. No matter how you decide to spend the day, it’s always a bonus to have an extra paid day off work.

For payroll staff, statutory holidays mean an extra workload for them. But, I’m sure they would all agree that the small amount of extra payroll work is well worth the paid time off. Statutory holidays have also become a popular day off work to do shopping for sale items, such as on Boxing Day. 

Although there’s no doubt that many Canadians love having an extra day off work, statutory holidays may have lost their true meaning behind the holiday. The occasion that has marked them as a significant day in the history of Canada for many people has lost its true meaning over the years.

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