Christmas or Christ Mass is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. In Canada it is most widely celebrated on December 25th, though some communities such as the Armenian or Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on January 6th and 7th respectively.
Many nations have helped shape Canada’s diverse Christmas traditions. For example:
- England introduced Canada to Christmas greeting cards, the Christmas crackers, mince meat, decorating with holly and stealing kisses under the mistletoe.
- France gave Canada its celebration of the Nativity, honouring the birth of Jesus.
- Germany brought Canada the Christmas tree, the wreath, the advent calendar, candy canes, the gingerbread house, and the carol ‘Silent Night’.
- The Irish gave Canada their tradition of putting light in windows.
- Many European countries gave Canada dried fruit breads and cakes: the Panettone cake from Italy, plum pudding (the original ‘fruit cake’) from England, and Stollen bread from Germany.
- Scotland brought Canada shortbread and the tradition of serving roast turkey for Christmas dinner.
- Mexico gave Canada the poinsettia or the ‘Christmas star’, the amaryllis came from South Africa and the Christmas cactus originated in Brazil.
- The Dutch tradition of filling wooden shoes with food and straw for St. Nicholas (‘Sinter Klaas’) and his horse on December 5th brought about Canada’s custom of hanging stockings.
- Santa Claus, the jolly fellow inspired by the Dutch ‘Sinter Klaas’ actually made his debut in a Christmas card from New York in 1846.