Celebrating holidays in Canada
By Delaney Rombough
Posted on June 21, 2021
Canadians celebrate many holidays throughout the year. Some holidays are designated as statutory “stat” holidays (also called public holidays) by the Canadian government. This means that it’s basically a paid day off for most Canadians. If you do have to work on a stat holiday like Remembrance Day or Boxing Day, you are entitled to bonus holiday pay, which is usually 1.5 times your regular pay rate. Stat holidays also vary slightly by province. Canadians take advantage of these holidays to relax, recharge, and spend time with their friends and families.
New Year’s Day—Jan. 1 (stat holiday)
New Year’s Day is celebrated on Jan. 1, the first day of the Georgian Calendar. It’s a day off for the public. Schools, stores, and most businesses are closed. Many people ring in the new year with a party that begins on Dec. 31 and continues into the early hours of the morning. People go to parties at clubs or bars, or they host their own party with friends and family at home.
Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year is a vibrant and festive celebration for many Asian communities in Canada. It’s a time where Asian-Canadians spend time with their friends and families. Festivities include events like parades, traditional dancing and costumes, fireworks, food, and arts and crafts. The largest celebrations take place in Chinatown districts in various cities across Canada.
Good Friday (stat holiday)
Good Friday is a Christian holiday that commemorates the death of Jesus Christ. It’s a public holiday, and schools and most businesses close for the day. It’s a day of mourning and prayer among the Christian community, and many attend a church service. For those who don’t celebrate, it’s a nice break during spring and a relaxing long weekend.
Easter is a holiday that many Christians observe. It’s a religious holiday that celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection after his death. Businesses may be open or closed. Those who observe the religious aspects of the holiday celebrate it by attending a church service and eating a big meal with their families. People also participate in Easter egg hunts, egg decorating, and Easter-themed baked goods, chocolate, and candy.
Victoria Day—the Monday before May 25 (stat holiday)
Victoria Day is named after Queen Victoria, whose birthday was on May 24, 1819. This holiday marks the unofficial start of summer for most people. It’s a day off for the general public, so schools and most businesses are closed. The weather is typically warmer during this long weekend, so Canadians may go to their summer cottages or celebrate with fireworks. This is also the weekend when many outdoor theme parks open for the summer.
Canada Day—July 1 (stat holiday)
Canada Day celebrates Canada’s confederation, which took place on July 1, 1867. Canadians typically gather with family and friends for an afternoon of barbeques, pool parties, and campfires. Many cities also host outdoor festivities such as community barbeques, parades, and carnival games. The day usually ends with fireworks.
Civic Holiday—first Monday in August (stat holiday)
Civic Holiday is a long weekend in early August. Different provinces have different names for this weekend, but it’s still the first weekend in August.
- British Columbia Day (British Columbia)
- Civic Holiday (Ontario)
- Heritage Day (Alberta)
- Natal Day (Nova Scotia)
- New Brunswick Day (New Brunswick)
- Saskatchewan Day (Saskatchewan)
- Terry Fox Day (Manitoba)
People use this time off to relax and enjoy the summer weather. This is also a popular week for people to go on vacation. Some communities may organize events such as carnivals or outdoor activities.
Labour Day—first Monday in September (stat holiday)
Labour Day was originally a day to celebrate workers, but now it typically marks the end of summer. Kids return to school the next day, and parents get back to their work routines. It’s a day off for the general public, and most businesses are closed. Some Canadians like to take the long weekend to go up to their cottages, and students like to throw end-of-summer parties with their friends.
Thanksgiving—second Monday in October (stat holiday)
Thanksgiving is celebrated at the beginning of October as a way to remember all that we have to be grateful for. In the United States, Thanksgiving is celebrated at the end of November. Indigenous peoples hold festivals and ceremonies to celebrate the bounty and the end of the harvest. One of the earliest Thanksgiving celebrations dates back to 1578 when the explorer Robert Frobisher held a ceremony after he and his crew safely arrived in Newfoundland.
Schools, post offices, and most businesses are closed on Thanksgiving. Most people gather with their family for a large meal consisting of turkey, potatoes, cranberries, stuffing, corn, green beans, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie or something similar. People may also take advantage of this long weekend to go up to their cottage or summer home one last time before the winter or take a short autumn holiday.
Remembrance Day—Nov. 11 (stat holiday)
Remembrance Day is observed in commemoration of the end of World War I, which ended on Nov. 11, 1918. In some jurisdictions, schools and businesses are closed, and in others, it’s a regular workday. On this day, Canadians take the time to remember soldiers who died in the line of duty and to thank the troops who continue to serve our country today.
Christmas Day—Dec. 25 (stat holiday)
Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s a day off for most Canadians, and schools and businesses are closed. Traditions vary from family to family, but many Canadians spend the day with their families and partake in activities like exchanging gifts, having a festive meal, or attending a special church service.
Boxing Day—Dec. 26 (stat holiday)
Most people have Boxing Day off, so they use it to relax and recover from their Christmas Day festivities. People may also like to go shopping, as most stores have their annual Boxing Day sales, which are typically some of the best sales of the year. Boxing Day usually also marks the beginning of the World Junior hockey tournament, which many Canadians enjoy watching from their homes.