Christmas in Canada

By Maddy Simpkins

Christmas is practically a ceremonious ritual for us Canadians. It sits patiently at the warm heart of the intense and bitter winter (which we just barely tolerate for this one very reason). And already from 11:59 pm on October 31st, there is an unspoken anticipation for the Christmas season. This can be easily witnessed in how the retail stores undergo immense overnight transformations, seemingly bringing in expert decorators (perhaps even some big wigs from the North Pole itself?). As we rise, yawn and wipe the candy crumbs off our chins in the morning, uselessly riddled with a Halloween hangover, we’re unmistakably struck with an antidote: it’s CHRISTMAS. Tear down your pathetic pumpkin lanterns and spooky spider webs, people – it’s a nation-wide Christmas commencement and anyone not on board is quickly snubbed a “Scrooge”, “Grinch”, “Christmas Killjoy” and other insults of varying appropriateness. Those outliers who do express disdain for the holiday season know the sure-fire way to receive the cold shoulder – a pretty big dis (in Canada, at least).

In its essence, a Canadian Christmas boils down to a set of simple, yet highly symbolic values: family, love, generosity, and participation. I feel that the traditional aspect of the holiday provides us with an annual opportunity to take a little extra time to spread kindness and joy. A time to reflect on the year and to appreciate the little wonders we’re fortunate to have experienced. For me, one of these special instances actually happened a number of Christmases ago: I recall there being free horse-drawn carriage rides through the core of my hometown. There was the feeling of pure whimsy as we passed by homes, frosty windows pleasantly aglow with the sparkle of twinkling lights, festively dressed tables with an array of sugar cookies and gingerbread houses, stockings hung by a cozy fireplace. Picture perfect. I’ve got to say, it’s a image that’s left quite an impression on me throughout the years. In the corner of my Canadian living room this season will sit a freshly chopped Douglas Fir (my family’s go-to choice of coniferous) and it’s a custom of ours, and many others, to lug it home and embellish it to the nines. Not just the tree, but the interior, the exterior – pretty much every metre of space on your property becomes devoted to ornaments, wreaths, garlands, and assorted décor, that for the other 10 months of the year sleeps soundly in your attic until called upon for duty. It’s a style of ours: go big or go home.

At nightfall, you would think we fear the cold – however quite the opposite is true. The streets become alive with a magical kind of harmony for the senses. Street vendors cook up roasts over winterized barbeques, cafes stay open extra late to accommodate all those middle-of-the-night urges for candy cane lattes, and there is usually a free choir performance or jazzy Christmas band playing for open ears in the city square. We fully embrace the Canadian stereotype around this season, consuming ghastly amounts of hot chocolate and eggnog; ice skating; competing in snowball fights and
tobogganing races. Overall, the atmosphere is fantastic. Last year, I was in town doing some shopping and overheard a young woman claim, “Christmas isn’t just a holiday, it’s a state of mind”. It’s something we Canadians embody – adults and children like. I think our Christmas confidence arises from the tale that the “North Pole” is based on our soil, so obviously our kids get an at-home advantage.

Christmas is the ‘hallelujah!’ halfway point for a season that is just too intense for some of us non- acclimated folk that just want the winter to be over. I think it’s fair to say that the holiday season can bring out a decent share of our country’s pessimists and cynics. Although, knowing Canadians’ warm and gentle nature, layered underneath all the wrappings of bad attitude I have a great suspicion that every holiday grouch has got a Christmas soft spot. All in all, with its connectivity and sense of togetherness alongside the allure and charm for nostalgia’s sake – we Canadians are thoroughly fond of the holiday season.

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