Holiday advice for New Canadians
2017 has seen many new immigrants arrive in our country. For many, the holidays provide a welcome opportunity to adopt aspects of Canadian culture without the need to make a religious statement.
This article from Canadian Immigrant, 6 holiday traditions that you'll want to start this year, suggests several practices that are easy to adopt:
The holidays are always an exciting time in Canada; the season brings about a sense of closure to the past year and anticipation for the one upcoming. It’s a time of celebration, giving and family time. As immigrants, however, this time of year can bring a mix of emotions. If you’re unfamiliar with Canadian holiday traditions and missing family back home, the holidays can feel overwhelming for newcomers lost in the whirlwind of malls, lights, music and crowds. It doesn’t have to feel like that though! Creating your own family holiday traditions can help, by providing an opportunity to share new Canadian experiences with your children, family and friends.
Canadian Immigrant shares six unique holiday traditions for you and your family to try as you share your first, fifth or 10th holiday season in Canada.
1 Host an annual potluck dinner
Hosting a potluck dinner around Christmas time is not only a great chance to bring together friends and family to celebrate the season and discuss the year past, it’s also easy and inexpensive! Dinner potlucks are planned get-togethers where those invited bring something to eat for the entire group. Hosting a potluck dinner can be formal or casual (they are mostly casual though), and are great opportunities to invite over new friends and neighbours. If you are hosting one, know that all you have to worry about is providing one dish, some drinks, a space and plates!
2 Organize a “Secret Santa” exchange
The holidays can feel crushingly consumer-oriented, so instead of buying gifts for every person on your list, which can get pricey, consider organizing a “Secret Santa” exchange. Secret Santa is a holiday tradition many Canadians gladly participate in at the office or with family and friends as it saves both money and time buying gifts. How? Each person’s name is written on a piece of paper, tossed into a hat, and everyone involved picks a name from the hat, not revealing who they’ve selected. The name selected from the hat is the only person you buy a gift for. Among coworkers, there is often a budget set on spending, however among friends and family you can make the rules as you please.
[A note from Brittany: You can spice up this exchange by allowing each person to "trade" their gift when they receive it for one they like better. The person whose gift has been traded away gets to choose someone else's. And so on. If the gifts are interesting and unique, like Happy Birthday Kit's Loot Bags, the exchange can go on for some time with hilarious results.]
3 Celebrate winter solstice
Lights are part of almost every winter celebration, especially on the longest night of the year in Canada — the winter solstice, which occurs on Dec. 22. Marking this day with a simple celebration of light is not only a nice way to teach young children about the seasons, but can also be a much-needed respite from the hectic holiday pace. Making luminarias (paper lanterns) are one way people celebrate this day. To make a simple luminaria, just decorate a brown paper lunch bag by tracing a simple pattern in pencil on one side, then punching out your design with a hole punch. Fill each luminaria with about two inches of sand and place a tealight in the centre. Place the luminarias along a walk, patio or your balcony, light them and enjoy their beautiful glow.
4 Light a remembrance candle
Bringing loved ones together can be difficult if you have family far away. While Skype and other technologies exist to keep you connected, try this holiday tradition to keep your family close: pick a day and time during the holiday season and have family members get together in spirit (no matter where they are in the world) by lighting a candle and wishing one another a long-distance happy holiday. To make the tradition unique and your own, set a date for the big event that’s special to everyone and send invitations to all involved. Ask that everyone light a candle and send out wishes at an appointed hour. Don’t forget to take time zones into account!
5 Explore the lights and decorations
Revel at neighbourhood Christmas lights contests. Some families go over the top at this time of year decorating their homes with lights, Christmas fixtures and music. Ask around to find a neighbourhood where a lights show will be happening; community newspapers may also make note of them. Seeing this holiday spirit is enough to put anyone in a festive mood. Many stores also have gorgeous window displays. It’s fun to see the creativity and imagination the season brings about.
6 Go sledding on Christmas Day
Whether you do or don’t actually celebrate Christmas, Christmas Day is a great opportunity to take advantage of the calm that washes over neighbourhoods across the country on this day. Take the family out to enjoy the outdoors with some typical Canadian winter activities: sledding, ice skating and snowball fights, or nature hikes on the West Coast. Because Christmas Day is the one day of the year where (almost) all stores are closed, it’s the perfect time to take this day to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family. Treat yourself with some hot chocolate afterward!