Newcomers: 8 Canadian Traditions That Will Surprise You

If you're moving to Canada soon, you probably already have a few stereotypes in mind about the Canadian way of life.

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traditions of Canada

If you're moving to Canada soon, you probably already have a few stereotypes in mind about the Canadian way of life. You may have heard of poutine, a popular dish made of gravy, cheese, and fries, and you might be picturing Canadians in plaid shirts playing hockey on a frozen lake.

But Canada is full of customs and traditions that are far more varied and surprising than those. From colourful celebrations to ancestral rituals, here are eight traditions of Canada that will warm your heart and give you a fascinating glimpse into the country's rich cultural diversity.

1. Sugar Shack

Every spring, during the sugaring-off season in March and April, Canadian families in the Eastern provinces gather at sugar shacks in the countryside. It's an opportunity to enjoy a quintessentially Canadian product: maple syrup.

At the sugar shack, you'll witness the transformation of maple sap into delicious golden syrup. Both young and old will enjoy scooping up the maple taffy spread on fresh snow with a little wooden stick. 

In addition to indulging in maple taffy, you'll discover a typical sugar shack meal including eggs, maple bacon, and many other delicious (and calorie-rich) dishes.

You can book this activity at a sugar shack for around $30 per adult and experience an authentic Canadian feast.

2. Remove Your Shoes When Entering Someone's Home

You might be surprised to learn that in Canada, it's customary to remove your shoes before entering someone's home. This tradition aims to keep houses clean and avoid dirtying the floors.

Given the region's distinct four seasons, footwear tends to gather mud, snow, or ice rapidly, emphasizing the importance of respecting this practice.

Follow suit and get used to taking off your shoes when visiting the home of a Canadian friend.

3. BeaverTails

Rest assured, Canadians don't actually eat beavers! "BeaverTails" is, in fact, a popular dessert that resembles a long, fried pastry. A ball of dough is stretched into a long, flat oval, fried in oil, and served in a paper sleeve. 

The classic way to enjoy it is simply sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, but you can choose other toppings like maple cream or Nutella.

It's a treat that will give you the energy to brave the Canadian cold, a delicious comfort no matter what the weather is like outside.

4. Thanksgiving

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, unlike the American version, which falls in November. Because of its northern location, Canada experiences earlier harvests due to weather conditions, prompting the holiday to be celebrated sooner.

On the menu are dishes similar to those in the United States: turkey with cranberry sauce, vegetables, corn or squash, and pumpkin pie for dessert. It's a time to gather with family and friends to enjoy a hearty meal and express gratitude for the good things in life.

5. Ice Canoeing Races

Imagine the icy waters of the St. Lawrence River and teams of Canadians crossing them in ice canoes! This sporting tradition dates back to the time of European explorers and early settlers.

The best place to watch this activity is from the 1869 bar at the Château Frontenac. Stay cozy indoors while enjoying the view of ice canoe races.

6. Corn Roasts

In August and September, during corn harvests, Canadians gather with family or neighbours for corn roasts. Pots of boiling water welcome the corn cobs, and everyone rolls their cob in butter and savours it. It's a friendly moment to share a simple yet delicious meal.

In Québec, where this tradition thrives, corn roasts are referred to as "épluchette de blé d’Inde," which literally translates to "peeling Indian wheat." The origin of the term "Indian wheat" dates back to Christopher Columbus' initial confusion, who believed he had reached the Indies upon discovering America. This term is still used in Canadian everyday language.

7. Halloween

Like their American neighbours, Canadians celebrate Halloween on October 31st. A few weeks before Halloween, families go pumpkin-picking and carve pumpkins, placing them at the entrance of their homes. 

Several scary decorations are also installed on houses and front lawns. On Halloween day, children dress up and go door-to-door collecting candies.

You can walk around your neighbourhood to admire some properties that go all out with decorations, which will impress you with Canadians' commitment to celebrating Halloween every year.

8. Garage Sales

On certain weekends, cities in Canada allow citizens to hold garage sales in their front yards or driveways. It's an opportunity to find bargains, discover hidden treasures, and meet your neighbours.

If you've just moved and are looking for second-hand items to add warmth to your new home, you can undoubtedly find unique items at low prices. Bring cash, as it's the best way to negotiate and pay; don't be surprised, there are no receipts or taxes during this exchange.

Ready to discover Canadian traditions?

Be curious and interested in the traditions of Canada, your host country, which can greatly help you integrate and build relationships with your new community.

You'll quickly make friends and feel at home in Canada by actively participating in local festivities, sharing traditional meals with your neighbours, and getting involved in community activities.

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