Christmas Traditions in Canada


Happy Holidays! James and I have celebrated the season, and our first married Christmas, in St. Johns, Newfoundland. I have to say that while the holidays are designed to be spent with as much family as possible, and we certainly missed ours, having our first Christmas with just the two of us was actually quite special. 

We watched at least a dozen Christmas movies, baked and decorated holiday cookies, cooked a grand Christmas dinner, and spent just about the entire long weekend in our pajamas. All the snow and below freezing temperatures meant lots of time cuddling by the fire. Prior to this year I've never truly had a white Christmas. A couple inches of snow that hit Dallas three or four years ago doesn't cut it. Waking up in St. John's glistening with powder was magical. 

I had a lot of fun playing around in the snow and trying to capture pictures. The atmosphere has mustered all the holiday feels.  Not that St. John's needs any help in generating reasons to celebrate. These Newfoundlanders really have it figured out. Christmas is not summed up by the day and its eve. Rather, here, the days on either end have their own significant meaning for celebration. Christmas lasts a full four days!

December 23rd is designated as Tibb's Eve. Also known as Tipsy Eve, you get a better sense of the meaning of this holiday. Southern Gazette shared some insight, stating this holiday started around World War Two, at a time when Christmas Eve was still a part of the Advent and therefore usually a sober time.  Tibb was a name given to a "loose-moraled" woman in England, dating back to the 1600's. Since Christmas Eve and Christmas are typically spent with relatives, Tibb's Eve is a time to toast friendship. To join in honoring the day one simply needs to share a drink with a friend. Something James and I were fortunate to do with a coworker of his, Lance. 

I love that this is a holiday specific to Newfoundland and Labrador. James and I have now vowed to celebrate it every year, no matter where it finds us. 

December 26th is Boxing Day in all Commonwealth nations, including Canada, which means James and I were able to join in the fun. We'd seen signs around town about Boxing Day, but hadn't a clue what it meant. We certainly had no idea the entire town would be shut down, leaving James and I wandering aimlessly, in twenty degree, snowy weather, on a hunt for coffee.  

Resolved to spend the entire day and night in our home, we were elated when a couple of friends we made on Roots, Rants and Roars weekend invited us to some house parties. Since Boxing Day means everything is closed, house parties are prevalent. Boxing Day is observed the day after Christmas, originally as a day off for servants who would have worked Christmas Day, preparing meals and such for their masters. An employee would gift a servant a box with money and perhaps food. Nowadays the holiday honors people of service, which is why all shops and restaurants are closed. A house party was the perfect way to celebrate. We met some wonderful people and had our first mummer experience!

The mummering tradition was something James and I really wanted to partake in. However, since public mummering became illegal after some violent activity and since I wasn't in town for the St. John's Mummer Festival, we didn't know how we'd get the chance to participate. At the first house party we attended the owner had made these awesome characters; the Hobby Horse, which leads the mummer parade, and a Christmas Bull. We were able to have some light-hearted fun dressing up in these guys. Next Christmas we will make it a priority to be together, in St. Johns, for the mummer parade so we can add that experience to our growing list. 

TravelLyndsay Cavanagh