Christmas in Canada
By: Cindy Caldwell
Christmas in Canada has a neat a little history, Canada was claimed by England in the 1400's later in the 1600's a French explorer by the name of Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec City, and Canada became a country with two distinctive backgrounds living as one.
Christmas Eve for the French Canadian was the highlight of the holidays preparing for days for the reveillon, the evening meal. They would the decorate the tree and place the creche, a Nativity scene under the tree before going to midnight mass. They would then come home from church to a feast of la tourtiere, a meat pie and various other dishes. Topping off the meal was the Yule log, a chocolate cake in the shape of a log to symbolize the birch log burned in the fireplace on reveillon before the French came to Canada. The children would open their gifts from their stockings during reveillon saving the big gifts for New Year's day. Christmas day for the French was a day for relaxation and for children to play and have fun.
Christmas for English Canadian's focused on Christmas day, with the exchanging of presents on Christmas day in the morning, and then off to church, and back later for a great feast. Dinner consisted of roast goose or beef and plum pudding. One fun tradition they had was the kissing ball -- a ring of evergreen boughs with candles, apples and nuts hung in doorway. Although it really represented the return of light after the winter solstice, young men used this opportunity to steal a kiss from any single lady standing under it, hence the name of kissing ball.
Christmas today in Canada is a conglomerate of cultures and traditions from all over the world. As in the United States, our country was populated with people emigrating from other countries searching for a better life. The Christmas tree came from Germany, as well as the Advent Calendars and gingerbread House, the English introduced greeting cards, from Ireland came the custom of decorating our windows with lights, the United States gave us Santa Claus, and the French introduced the creche (Nativity) scene and carols. So really a Canadian Christmas is a mixture of various cultures combined to create the festivities we have come to know.
When I sat down to write this article, I was not sure what to write about, since Christmas in Canada is basically the same as Christmas in the United States. As I was doing research, I came across articles on the Boston Christmas tree. Growing up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I had taken this tradition for granted, and had not really taken a look at the significance behind this tradition. This seems to be a habit we all can to fall into around the holidays, getting caught up into the shopping and commercialism Christmas has become, and forgetting what Christmas is all about.
For those of you that have not heard of the Boston Christmas Tree tradition, it started over eighty years ago with the Halifax Explosion. On December 6, 1917, two ships collided in the harbor and caused a large explosion heard over 100 Km away. The explosion and the tidal wave in its aftermath destroyed over 325 acres of the north end of the city, killing over 1900 people, and injuring over 9000 more. In response to this devastation, the people of Boston sent help in the form of doctors, nurses, food and supplies. And as a small token of appreciation, Canadians send a special Christmas tree to Boston every year.
Christmas is a time for tradition and goodwill toward others. The story of the people of Boston helping others in their time of need, even though it was not actually Christmas, still exhibits the true spirit of Christmas. And because of the kindness of strangers, a celebration between two cities in two separate countries has become a holiday tradition.