Christmas in Canada: A Festivus Approach

by Julie Ovenell-Carter on December 3, 2010

by Julie Ovenell-Carter | December 3rd, 2010  

In a country that prides itself on tolerance and diversity, even using the word “Christmas” makes some Canadians skittish.

Political correctness be damned: December 25 is without doubt the nation’s most anticipated holiday, a jewel of light, hope and good cheer in an otherwise long, dark and unadorned season.

I have Jewish friends who never miss a seasonal performance of Handel’s Messiah, Muslim friends who decorate spectacular Christmas trees, and Buddhist friends who exchange presents. Who could be offended by this collective joy?

So let me be the first to wish you a hearty “Merry Christmas!” and offer these suggestions for how to enjoy the best of the Canadian holiday season in a manner that even Seinfeld‘s Festivus-loving gang could endorse:

  • Let there be light: It’s a little dark North of 49 in the winter, so Canada has become really good at light shows. Come December, you’ll find illumination extravaganzas across the country–family-friendly spectacles often mounted as fund-raisers for local non-profits.  My favourites include Vancouver’s Festival of Lights and Canyon Lights; Victoria’s Magic of Christmas; Calgary’s ZooLights; and Toronto’s Trail of Lights.

    Canyon Lights, Capilano Suspension Bridge, North Vancouver, BC

    Canyon Lights, Capilano Suspension Bridge, North Vancouver, BC

  • Head for the hills: Christmas + snow = skiing, boarding, tubing, snowshoeing and other powdery pleasures. Hunker down for a week in a ski hub like Whistler, BC or Banff, AB, or enjoy a more budget-friendly day-trip up a local backyard hill such as Vancouver’s Cypress or Vernon’s Silver Star. A day with friends and family playing in the snow–or skating on Ottawa‘s Rideau Canal or Winnipeg’s Red and Assinibone rivers–is about as Canadian as Christmas gets.
  • Make like a bear: Of course if freezing your butt off doesn’t appeal, you could always hibernate in style. During the holidays, Canadian hotels and tourism web sites reliably feature value-added packages. (They change all the time and I include good deals under the Canada Travel News heading here and on the WhyGoCanada Facebook page as I come across them. ) Look for goodies such as spa, shopping and dining credits; fuel rebates; free long-term parking; ski passes and other perks.
  • Feast: If there was ever an excuse to over-indulge, Christmas is it. Be warned that it’s hard to find a restaurant that stays open on Christmas Day–Dec. 25 is the one day in the calendar when Canada comes to a virtual stand-still. (Even hotels can’t be counted on to have their kitchens running at full steam.) But before and after the Big Day, many urban chefs court office parties, starry-eyed couples, and family reunions with indulgent seasonal menus, including kick-ass brunches. Knock yourself out with good food, but remember Canada’s strict drunk-driving rules and go easy on the booze. Or better yet, take the elevator home…

What have I missed? Please leave a comment below and let me know your favourite ways to mark Christmas in Canada.

>>Ready to book your holiday in Canada? Use the search tool below to find cheap hotels and airfares to Canada.

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Shannon December 3, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Check out The Festival of Christmas Lights at Mclean Mill National Historic Site in Port Alberni this weekend.

Another great one on Vancouver island is the Ladysmith Festival of Lights (Ladysmith Light Up). Unfortunately its over for this year, took place last night but if you are going to be in the area next year, usually the end of Nov, this is a must for all!

Authentic Seacoast Resorts December 3, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Here on the Nova Scotia Authentic Seacoast we’d add “coasting” to your list of activities when you head to the hills. Called tobogganing in other parts of Canada, coasting is a favourite holiday pastime. Other outdoor activities include ice fishing for smelt on the mystical Milford Haven and snow shoeing on the Osprey Shores Golf Resort peninsula. Other holiday traditions include board games and puzzles. We turn the private dining room at DesBarres Manor Inn into a puzzle room so guests can unwind and remember a time forgotten in the hustle and bustle of the city. You can check out our top 10 favourite winter activities at

Rose Chase December 3, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Just in time for the Holidays:

Rocky Mountaineer offers BC and Washington residents an exclusive opportunity to give the ultimate holiday gift this season with the Winter BC Resident Special, a breathtaking three and a half hour train journey on the Whistler Sea to Sky Climb between Vancouver and Whistler. Starting at just $119 per adult round-trip for groups of four or more, this limited time holiday special is available from November 22, 2010 until December 24, 2010, for travel departures from May 20 to September 28, 2011.

Click here for more details:


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