How Much Do You Really Know About Canadian Winter Holiday Traditions?

HISTORY

Ashley Linkletter

7 Min Quiz

Image: benedek / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

In Canada, the holiday mantra is "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow and then let it snow some more" (and in the warmer parts of British Columbia it becomes "please snow, just for a few days!") You don't have to wait for a Holy Night to celebrate — there are things to do, people to see and places to visit across the entire country for the whole month of December. Looking for a happening winter solstice party? Just ask your friends in Atlantic Canada what they like to do. Montreal and Toronto's rich Jewish culture means that a plate of extra-crispy potato latkes (not to mention brisket) are just a quick sleigh ride or skate away. In the mood for Christmas carols? From the oldest carol in Canada to cathedral recordings to best-selling crooners, there's a Christmas album by a Canadian singer for every taste, age range and official language spoken.

Pour yourself a glass of eggnog, make sure your stockings are hung with care and try your hand at these questions about the Canadian holiday season. You'll recognize some of your favourite traditional holiday activities, learn about the gift-giving habits of your fellow citizens and finish with a sudden need to add even more decorations to your holiday display. 

So come all ye faithful, let's get this holiday party started!

You may know December 26th as the day after Christmas, but what is it called in Canada?

Many Canadians enjoy an extra day off on Boxing Day, along with the citizens of other Commonwealth countries around the world. Although some people prefer to spend their day off watching movies and eating leftovers, Boxing Day is also Canada's biggest shopping day of the year, and many individuals brave the crowds to take advantage of sales.

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O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree! Where can you find the largest artificial Christmas tree in Canada?

Standing at 100 feet, the biggest artificial Christmas tree in Canada can be found in Toronto's Eaton Centre (the tree is surrounded by three levels of shops, to give you a better idea of its size.) The tree beats the famous Rockefeller Center tree by 6 feet, and its annual unveiling ceremony includes Christmas carolling and a visit with Santa and his elves.

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This Canadian singer-songwriter released the album "Christmas" in 1993. It features traditional songs in English and French as well as an original carol. Who is the artist?

Bruce Cockburn's "Christmas" album is on heavy rotation in many Canadian homes during the holiday season thanks to Cockburn's take on classic songs such as "Adeste Fidelis" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain." The song "Shepherd" was written specifically for the album, which was released on True North Records.

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Canada has a long history of celebrating Christmas through song. What is its oldest Christmas carol?

The "Huron Carol" which is also known as "Twas in the Moon of Wintertime" or, in its original Wyandot language, "Jesous Ahatonhia" translates to "Jesus, he is born." The hymn was written in 1642 by Saint Jean de Brébeuf, a Jesuit priest who lived among the Huron people in what used to be called New France.

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Christmas dinner wouldn't be complete without these loud party favours — what are they called?

An absolute must-have item for Canadian Christmas dinner, crackers are made of cardboard tube that has been twisted so that it looks like a candy (which explains why they're called Christmas bon-bons in some parts of the world.) Crackers make a loud "bang!" sound when pulled apart and typically contain a tissue paper crown, a joke and a toy.

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What is the name of the suspension bridge in British Columbia that is covered with fairy lights every holiday season?

Located in North Vancouver, the Canyon Lights Winter Festival kicks off at the end of every November and features hundreds of thousands of beautiful Christmas lights. The Capilano Suspension Bridge, the Treetops Adventure and the surrounding rainforest are decorated from top to bottom, making them the tallest Christmas trees in the world.

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If you're heading to this winter-time hotel for the holidays, you'll need to bring plenty of warm clothing. What is the name of these icy accommodations?

Made from 40,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice, the Hôtel de Glace is the only one of its kind in all of North America. The structure is remade in a brand new architectural style each year, and each of its 40 rooms is uniquely designed. While there's no changing the -5°C ambient temperature of the hotel's interior, there are sleeping bags, insulated sheets, hot tubs and saunas to keep you warm during your stay.

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Canada Post has released two Hanukkah stamps. One featured a menorah; what did the other stamp have on it?

In 2011, Canada Post released two stamps for Hanukkah, one with a picture of a menorah and the other a dreidel. Historically, dreidels were used by young Jewish children when they were forbidden to learn Torah by Syrian-Greek rulers. Hiding in caves to escape imprisonment, they would innocently play with their dreidels when the enemy passed nearby.

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Which Celtic-inspired singer from Stratford, Ontario, arranged and performed the album "To Drive the Cold Winter Away"?

With her signature soprano voice and gentle harp music, Loreena McKennit's sophomore album "To Drive the Cold Winter Away" is an ode to music best listened to with a cup of hot tea and a good book. "To Drive the Cold Winter Away" was recorded in three separate cathedrals in Canada and Ireland, any naturally-occurring sound in the churches was kept in for effect.

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When you're in Ottawa celebrating the winter holidays, you can go skating on which canal?

As soon as the part of the Rideau Canal going through central Ottawa freezes, it becomes the world's largest skating rink (and the second longest; the longest skating rink is in Winnipeg, Manitoba.) The canal, or Skateway as it's called, measures 7.8 kilometres in length and offers plenty of elbow room for beginner and experienced skaters alike.

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It's hardly surprising Canada has a large number of Christmas tree farms. How many of these farms does Canada have?

As of 2016, Canada has 1,872 Christmas tree farms, with most of them being located in Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. What did the cash receipts total at the end of the season? A whopping $77.6 million in Christmas tree sales.

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Toronto's Santa Claus parade is the oldest in the world — when did the very first parade occur?

Not only is the Toronto Santa Claus parade the oldest in Canada, but it's also one of the oldest annual parades in the entire world. The very first parade was on December 2, 1904, and consisted of Santa Claus walking the short distance from Union Station to the Eaton Centre downtown (the following year saw the addition of an actual float!)

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This Christmas movie about a Red Ryder BB Gun and a "FRA-GEE-LEH" leg lamp has a surprising number of ties to Canada. What is the name of this popular Christmas film?

Despite "A Christmas Story" taking place in Cleveland, Ohio, the movie was shot almost entirely in Toronto and St. Catharines, Ontario. Fun fact — the school scenes were filmed at Victoria Public School in St. Catharines, with the students acting as extras (they were paid a dollar each for their troubles.)

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Canadian children love to send Santa Claus a letter in December; what is his address?

If you want to get a letter to Santa Claus, you'll need to address it to the North Pole, making sure to use the postal code H0H 0H0 (no postage required.) To receive a response from Santa, mail your letters no later than December 14. Canada Post's volunteer elves have responded to over 26 million letters in 25 years in over 30 languages.

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Let's say you wanted to send the prime minister and their family a Christmas gift — what are you allowed to send them?

Unfortunately, the only way you'll be able to give the prime minister and their family a Christmas gift is if you know them personally. Thanks to security protocol and The Federal Accountability Act of 2006, the prime minister can't accept gift cards, money, or homemade presents (anything else is usually dismantled or broken during security screening.)

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Canadians love to buy gifts for their loved ones! Which region of Canada spends the most during the holiday season?

If you live in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island or New Brunswick, there's a good chance you love to shop during the holidays! According to a 2018 survey, residents of Atlantic Canada planned to spend an average of $813 on gifts, narrowly beating out Ontario ($805) and British Columbia ($688.)

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This Canadian crooner's Christmas album spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 2011. Who is this chart-topping singer?

Michael Bublé's "Christmas" album was the second best-selling album of 2011 in the United States, coming in behind Adele's "21." What makes this feat especially impressive is the fact that it was a holiday-themed album, which means that the vast majority of its sales occurred during a brief one-month period.

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It wouldn't be Christmas without a glass of eggnog (especially in a reindeer mug!) Can you guess how much eggnog Canadians drink every holiday season?

Thanks to a survey by Statistics Canada, we know that in 2016, over 5.2 millions litres of eggnog were sold across the entire country. It seems that Canadians are slowly dropping the eggnog habit for healthier choices; in previous years, the number was as high as 8 million.

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Christmas trees are big business in Canada! Can you guess how many Christmas trees our country exports each year?

According to a report from 2016, Canada exports about 1.95 million Christmas trees every year. Where do the trees end up? Everywhere, it turns out! The United States, Australia, the Caribbean, Thailand and France are all recipients of Canadian Christmas trees.

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Which famous claymation Christmas television special was voiced entirely by Canadian talent (with the exception of one character)?

Although everyone's favourite TV movie about Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, was produced by the American company Rankin-Bass, all of the voice talent, including voiceover actors and singers, were Canadian (except for Sam the Snowman, who was famously voiced by Burl Ives.)

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Approximately how many whole turkeys do Canadians purchase during the holiday season?

Approximately 3.3 million turkeys are sold during the holiday season, making up 47% of turkey sales from the entire year. Although turkeys are enjoyed as part of Christmas dinner, many Canadians prefer to serve ham, roast chicken or goose, roast beef or Beef Wellington.

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When did the National Ballet of Canada debut its annual performance of "The Nutcracker"?

A true spectacle to behold, the National Ballet of Canada has been performing "The Nutcracker" since 1995. Using a combination of prima ballerinas, character dancers, students of the National Ballet (not to mention all of the elaborate costumes and sets), this holiday tradition is for all ages.

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On average, how much do individual Canadians typically donate over the holidays?

If you guessed a very generous $300, you are correct! Women are slightly more likely to donate money to charity, as are people who identify as being religious or who actively volunteer throughout the rest of the year. 94% of Canadians donate food or cash at least once over the entire year.

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The Great North has many Christmas-y sounding geographical locations. Which of the following places isn't found in Canada?

Santa Claus is a Christmas-themed town in southwestern Indiana, but all of the other locations can be found in Canada. Snowflake is in Manitoba, Christmas Island in Nova Scotia and Reindeer Station is in the Northwest Territories. Missing from the list? Noel, Nova Scotia; Sled Lake, Saskatchewan; Noel, Nova Scotia and Turkey Point, Ontario.

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Santa Claus goes by a different name in French-speaking households. What is his name "en français"?

When French-Canadian children aren't whispering excitedly about Père Noël (Father Christmas), they wish friends and family a "Joyeuses fêtes!" which translates to "Happy holidays!" The Christmas carol "Petit Papa Noël" is also sung by children across the country, partly in thanks to Raffi's famous rendition of the French song.

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Jewish people in Canada have been celebrating Hanukkah for a very long time. When did they first begin observing this important holiday?

Hanukkah has been observed in this country since 1760 when the first Jewish people immigrated to what would eventually become Canada. Many Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah as a secular holiday in Canada, with a strong focus on traditional foods, gift-giving, and time with family and friends.

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In Vancouver, this secret society organizes a lantern festival to celebrate the winter solstice — what is the name of the secret society?

For over 25 years, the Secret Lantern Society has been organizing winter solstice events in and around the Vancouver and Lower Mainland area. Participants bring their own lantern (or can make theirs at the celebration if they don't have one) and listen to singers and drummers while joining the procession as it moves towards the return of the sun.

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Which region of Canada experiences the winter solstice first?

At 6:20 p.m. Atlantic Canada officially becomes the first region of Canada to experience the winter solstice (if you live in Newfoundland and Labrador the time is slightly later at 6:52.) What does this mean? At that specific time, the sun is right over the Tropic of Capricorn, meaning the angle of light is very shallow — producing very little warmth (compared to the rest of the year.)

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Always willing to show their thanks, which province donates a tree to the city of Boston, Massachusetts, every Christmas?

After the infamous and devastating Halifax Explosion in 1917, the city of Boston provided aid for the residents of Halifax, Nova Scotia. A symbolic gesture of thanks, Nova Scotia has been donating a giant Christmas tree to Boston every year since 1971, where it is decorated and lit throughout December in the Boston Common.

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If you're eating a cake on January 6th, you'll need to keep an eye out for a hard object baked into the dessert. What object don't you have to worry about?

In Quebec, January 6th is when the Epiphany or Fête des Rois (festival of kings) is celebrated. Participants share king's cakes, which have had an uncooked bean, small plastic baby or a crown baked directly into the batter. The person who gets the object in their cake is crowned the king or queen and receives royal privileges for the rest of the day.

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Calgary is home to many beautiful displays of Christmas lights and decorations. Which display is the city best known for?

The Lions Festival of Lights takes place every year in Calgary, inviting visitors to drive through a literal winter wonderland of lights and luminescent decorations. True to the overall nature of the city, the elaborate display is close to being 100% green thanks to the strict use of LED light bulbs.

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Any time is a good time for eating the big holiday dinner. When do many people in Quebec eat their main Christmas meal?

On Christmas Eve, many Québecois families attend a midnight Christmas mass. When they come home, it is still traditional to celebrate with a large feast called réveillon. Tourtiere, ham hock soup, seafood and desserts are the main feature of the meal, with each family adding their unique touch to the centuries-old feast.

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This pie sounds like it would be full of meat, but it's actually a sweet Christmas treat. What is it called?

Mincemeat pies originally came from England, where they were made from dried fruits and spices. Although they contained meat at one point, they have since become a dessert rather than a savoury pie. In Canada, mincemeat tends to come in tart form, and while some bakers swear by their own recipe, mincemeat can be purchased in jars for convenience.

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This yule log is for eating, not for chopping! What is it called?

Beautiful to look at and even better to eat, a homemade Bûche de Noël is a project for experienced bakers only. Modern iterations usually include yellow sponge cake, which is iced with a buttercream frosting and then rolled up into a log shape. The outside of the log is iced again and covered with a chocolate ganache, meringue toadstools and icing sugar "snow."

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Are you a spruce fan, or do you live for evergreen? Do you know which live tree is most popular across Canada?

Despite the overwhelming number of Christmas tree varieties native to Canadian soil, it's actually the Scots pine that is most popular every holiday season. Most of the trees are grown on Christmas tree farms. However, the Scots pine can now be found growing in the Canadian wilderness.

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