You know - I was going to writer an article for the paper on 'The last great family road trip' because with high gas - who would be driving across Canada anymore.... but now look at gas and the problem with blogging is Everyone is a Writer and someone's already probably done it...
but I was inspired - someone asked me to find truly Canadian Christmas traditions and I found a website with a little but decided to write my own:http://www.allthingschristmas.com/traditions/christmas-canada.php
The non-freak people of Canada tend to put up their trees at various times- some people in mid November, others only after Dec 1st. Especially with real trees, you can't leave them up very long after Xmas as they dry out so it is rare to keep them up past Ukrainian (Julian calendar) Christmas - Jan 7th or so. Canadians watch and sing the same Xmas shows and carols that Americans do - in fact, we claim that Santa Claus is Canadian
(his address is: Santa Claus, North Pole Canada, H0H 0H0)
but really don't have much unique Christmas traditions besides the ones of our ancestors.
Carols can be divided into various types
- 1) Winter Carols (Walking in a Winter wonderland, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells) which have absolutely nothing to do with Xmas,
- 2) hymns (Silent Night, Away in a Manager, Joy to the World) which our politically correct co-workers and teachers fear anyone singing about that Baby in a Manger guy,
- 3) Kiddie carols (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is coming to town, I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus) which focus on greedy little urchins sucking up to St Nick)
- 4) Old Yule carols (Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly, God Rest ye merry gentlemen, Here we go a wassalling) which are mostly British traditional folk songs about winter hospitality that are continued - the French signing different ones - and really are about getting together to kick back and drink a lot. Others like O Tannembaum are German, perhaps emphasized due to the Dutch founding of New York, New York which exported the whole Kris Kringle thing to the english speaking world.
While traditionally considered bad form, Canadians are always open to picking up gifts at anytime, as shopping is the cause of much joy and frustration in Canadian homes. Usually, the earlier the start, the more $ spent. Starting anything Xmas related before Halloween (Oct 31st) is REALLY TOO MUCH - but some cannot wait until after Remembrance Day (NOv 11th) to get going on decorating. People put lights and decorations on their houses, and recently, elaborate 3-D dispalys on the front lawn use a lot of electricity to showcase inflatable Santas and other gaudy statues.
Most churches and some schools have annual Christmas plays or nativity scenes where the birth of Jesus is recreated or (more likely in schools), Santa visits. Many towns have a Santa Claus parade with lots of lights or a place where youth can make their pitch to 'one of Santa's helpers' who dress up like the real Santa because he can't be everywhere at once and needs to keep making toys. Dads are often cajoled into putting up Christmas lights on cold days because of the idea that with no lights, Santa will pass the house by. Egg nog or warm drinks (such as cocoa) are enjoyed either in front of a fireplace or warm TV, where classic Christmas specials are aired, such as Charlie Brown's christmas, How the Grinch stole Christmas, Little Drummer Boy, It's A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th street, and others (like the dreadful Home Alone) don't fail to bring a sentimental tear to the eye. Stockings for small presents are hung by the fireplace or on a shelf, filled by parents in the middle of the night. Cookies and milk are left out for Santa, which the Dad must dutifully sample in the middle of the night when putting out extra special gifts, marked 'From Santa' so the old elf gets all the credit. Socks, underwear, or other clothing is usually given too which the children promptly ignore in favour of the more noisy toys. An orgy of package ripping (usually on Christmas morning, but impatient people will open some on Christmas eve, especially where in the case of divorce, there are several houses to visit) follows Santa's visit and everyone is quite thankful, parents lounge on the couch happily for about an hour before the first toy breaks, wondering at the total bills for the carnage. Christmas brunch is sometimes made of quick prepare foods to ease the burden on mom, but an all out Christmas dinner is traditional - looking a lot like the fare from Thanksgiving and Easter - except for ethnic variations. Turkey on all 3 occasions is common as it is the Canadian celebratory bird, despite the abundance of wild geese in the area. Mashed potatoes, buns, meat balls, and other feast foods are provided, usually followed by way too rich desserts or pie, followed by coffee. Liquor drinks abound, especially warm and rum based, but any booze is good booze on Xmas. Due to ease of storage and cost effectiveness, artifical trees dominate with many ornaments either homemade in kindergarten for grateful parents, or purchased at a store with characters that have nothing to do with Xmas ie: Hannah Montana icicles. Electric lights create a nice effect, as Canadians are terrified of using real candles on a drying everygreen and burn the cabin down.
The day after Christmas is Boxing Day (where charity was boxed up in the old days and gifts given to the poor) has turned into a hurricane of shopping as many items are on sale and children have money given to them on Christmas by relatives. Often, this is lauded as the day to 'get what you really wanted' because your loved ones haven't spoiled you enough. Crowds entering stores make the news every years, which makes the term 'news' ironic. Moms, often exhausted from baking, usually cannot wait to take down the decorations and get back to normal.
BTW: did you know that most 'Christmas' things are not really? Most things predate Christianity - even my 6 year old knows Jesus was born in the spring, not Dec 25th - and if you really break it down, only angels, stars, and candy canes are remotely Christian. Actually - the peppermint candy sticks acquired a hook (hence: cane) because St. Nick (an actual bishop) gave them out for ease of holding for little hands and it looks like a shepherd hook - so that's kind of on the line. So stars and angels - that's it, unless you have an actual manger scene on you tree. I counted once - my church going family had 130 ornaments on the tree but only 24 remotely Christian symbols - which makes us 18.4% Christian - tree-wise anyways.
Did you know that for almost 1800 out of 2000 years, most Christians were opposed to any gaudy Christmas displays as they considered it very pagan and licentious? Christmas has worked hard to get a little respectability.... but later today I'm off to a Festive Feast or Festivus for the Rest of Us at work - some people are allergic to the c-word.
I actualy have started using Xmas on things - because - like the monk who started the tradition of using X (first letter in Greek for Xristos) because he felt the holiday (holy-day) wasn't really so holy or Christian anymore.
And another thing....