Many Jewish Canadians celebrate Rosh Hashana (or Rosh Hashanah), which is also known as the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashana starts on the first day of Tishrei (or Tishri), which is the seventh month in the Jewish calendar, and may last for two days. It is sometimes called the Day of Remembrance or the Day of Blowing the Shofar.
What Do People Do?
Many Jewish Canadians observe Rosh Hashanah, known as the New Year in the Jewish calendar, for two days, while others celebrate the event for one day. It is a time of family gatherings and special meals. Rosh Hashana commences at nightfall the day before the actual holiday. The celebrations begin after the evening prayer, when family and friends join in to reflect on the past and make a fresh start for the New Year. Jewish Canadians traditionally eat challah bread, pomegranates, and apples dipped in honey on Rosh Hashana.
Unlike the secular New Year in the Gregorian calendar (January 1), Rosh Hashana is a time when God reviews and judges a person’s deeds in the past year, according to Jewish belief. It is also a time to look ahead with hope. Many Jewish people in Canada seek forgiveness from friends and family prior to this event. Rosh Hashana (or Rosh Hashanah) greeting cards are also sent at this time of the year.
Another activity that occurs during Rosh Hashana is performing the tashlikh, which involves reciting prayers near naturally flowing water and “throwing sins away” (for example, in the form of bread pieces). The shofar is also blown like a trumpet in the synagogue during this time of the year. Some people of Jewish faith may take the day off work or organize time off during this time of the year, to observe the belief that no work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah.
Rosh Hashana is not a national public holiday in Canada. However, many Jewish organizations may be closed or have restricted opening hours on Rosh Hashana.
Rosh Hashana (or Rosh Hashanah) marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year and covers two of the 10 High Holy days that conclude with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Some sources say that the early Jewish calendar had four New Years, corresponding the seasons, with Rosh Hashana being one of the New Years.
Festivals to mark the beginning of a new year in the fall have been held since the earliest days of the Israelites. These took the form of prayers of thanks for the grain harvest. The custom of blowing trumpets on the 10th day of the month of Tishrei is first described in the vision of Ezekiel, a prophet who lived sometime around 600–500 BCE. This custom has continued into modern times.
The challah bread, which is eaten during Rosh Hashana, symbolizes the continuity of life. The apples that are dipped in honey symbolize sweetness and good health throughout the New Year. Some people also eat fish heads, which symbolize their desire to be on top, not the bottom, of life in the New Year. Pomegranates symbolize an abundance of goodness and happiness.
The shofar reminds people of Jewish faith that God allowed Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead of Abraham’s son, Isaac. The tashlikh is an act that symbolizes throwing one’s sins in the water, so people believe that they are freed from their sins.
Note: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday.
The first Friday of October every year is celebrated around the globe as World Smile Day. The unofficial holiday encourages people to do acts of kindness to spread good will and cheer.
First started in 1999 by the creator of the smiley, Harvey Ball, the holiday celebrates the intent behind the now universally recognized icon – to bring a smile of the faces of people around the world. The purpose of the holiday was the move away from the commercialization of the smiley and to use it as a symbol of kindness and affection.
The smiley made its debut in 1963 as a way to increase the morale of the employees of a life insurance company. Today, it is one of the most popular nonverbal ways to convey joy, happiness and cheer. The smiley face began as a bright yellow circle with two dots to represent eyes and a black line that represents a smiling mouth.
Today, there are many different versions of the smiley, representing many other human emotions such a sadness, surprise, worry and laughter. In modern texting smileys are used to express emotions in online conversations on a smartphone or on a computer. The practice has its origin in Japan, and the smileys and other icons are known as emoji.
How to Celebrate?
- Make people around you smile.
- Do a random act of kindness. Buy a stranger a coffee. Compliment someone. Give your seat up to someone on the bus.
- Surprise someone in your family with a visit, cook a meal for them, or do something special for them.
- Volunteer your time and/ or money at a local nonprofit organization.
Did You Know…
…that babies are born with the ability to smile?
Remembrance Day commemorates the sacrifices of people in all armed conflicts.
What Happens on Remembrance Day?
Many people wear artificial poppies on their clothes in the weeks before Remembrance Day. Red poppies symbolize the memory of those who died and white poppies campaigns for non-military interventions in conflict situations. On November 11, special church services are organized. These often include the playing of “The Last Post”, a reading of the fourth verse of the ‘Ode of Remembrance’ and two minutes silence at 11:00 (or 11am). After the service, wreaths are laid at local war memorials.
The official Canadian national ceremonies are held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario, according to a strict protocol. A service is held and wreaths are laid by armed services representatives. In May 2000 the remains of a Canadian soldier who died in France in World War I, but was never been identified, were laid in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial.
Since then, members of the public have laid poppies, letters and photographs on the tomb. Similar services and events are held throughout Canada. Some schools that are open on Remembrance Day hold special assemblies, lessons and presentations on armed conflicts and those who died in them.
What’s Open or Closed?
The federal government recognizes Remembrance Day in the Holidays Act as a national holiday, but not all provinces treat it as a paid statutory holiday. Its status varies by province.
Manitoba retail business is prohibited between 9am and 1pm on Remembrance Day, with exception to professional health services, goods or services relating to:
- Living accommodation or prepared meals.
- Veterinary services.
- Drugs, medicines, surgical appliances, or infant formula.
- Gasoline, motor oil or related products.
- Or parts and services for emergency repairs to a vehicle.
Remembrance Day is not a general holiday under Manitoba’s labour legislation but most industries in Manitoba are not allowed to operate that day, with some specified exceptions.
In Ontario, some employers give their employees a holiday on Remembrance Day, but they are not require to do so under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).
Remembrance Day is also not a statutory holiday in Quebec, although corporations that are federally registered may make the day a full holiday, or instead, designate a provincially recognized holiday on a different day. When Remembrance Day falls on a Sunday or Saturday that is a non-working day, workers are entitled to a holiday with pay on the working day immediately preceding or following the general holiday.
Remembrance Day is governed by the Remembrance Day Act in Nova Scotia. Some employees may be entitled to a benefit. Employees required to work on Remembrance Day in Nova Scotia get an alternate day off with pay, except for those types of businesses that are exempt from the Act. Employees who do not work that day, do not get paid for the day, unless the employer offers pay as an added benefit. Remembrance Day must be observed on the actual date.
About Remembrance Day
Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the official end of the World War I hostilities on November 11, 1918. World War I was a massive conflict was played out over the whole globe, but particularly in Europe, where troops from Canada supported the Allied forces.
World War I resulted in the loss of huge numbers of lives amongst both civilians and military personnel. Many more people were badly injured. The war left great emotional scars in the servicemen, who had experienced it, and in the communities, whose sons, brothers, fathers, uncles and even grandfathers had died. Remembrance Day commemorates those who died in armed conflicts, particularly in and since World War I.
In Canada, November 11 is officially called Remembrance Day, but it is also known as Armistice Day and Poppy Day. Remembrance Day is commemorated in many countries, particularly members of the Commonwealth, including Australia and New Zealand (where it is also referred to as Armistice Day). In the United States, Veterans Day falls on the same date. In the United Kingdom, the Sunday closest to November 11 is known as Remembrance Sunday.
Remembrance Day is symbolized by the artificial poppies that people wear and place at war memorials. The poppies may be worn or placed singly or as wreaths. The use of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance comes from a poem written by John McCrae, a Canadian doctor serving in the military. The poem is called In Flanders Fields and describes the poppies growing in the Flemish graveyards where soldiers were buried.
Poppies grow well in soil that has been disturbed. They also grew in large numbers on battle fields. The red color of their petals reminded people of the blood lost by victims of and casualties in the conflict. Some people choose to wear white poppies to campaign for non-military interventions in conflict situations.
Other symbols of Remembrance Day are the war memorials, which are often near the geographical center of communities. These commemorate members of the community, who have died in military action. A particularly well-known memorial is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, Ontario. The military parades held on November 11 are also symbolic of Remembrance Day.
Note: For more information on the day, government sources such as Veterans Affairs Canada have a more detailed account.
World Hello Day on November 21 is an unofficial holiday created to promote world peace through interpersonal communication.
The unofficial holiday was created by Brian and Michael McCormack as a response to the Yom Kippur War between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egyptand Syria in 1973.
The purpose of World Hello Day is simple – to encourage communication and dialogue between people of different backgrounds in order to achieve peace and understanding.
Since its beginning in 1973, the day has been celebrated around the world annually with several Nobel Peace Prize winners and peace activists taking part in it.
How to Celebrate?
- World Hello Day requires that participants greet at least 10 people. These people can be family and friends, but it is suggested that one finds strangers to greet and talk to.
Did You Know…
…that hello was used as a telephone greeting for the first time by Thomas Edison?
Many Christians in Canada celebrate the beginning of the Advent season on the first Sunday of Advent. It marks the start of the Christian year in western Christianity. Its length varies from 22 to 28 days, starting on the Sunday nearest St Andrew’s Day and encompassing the next three Sundays, ending on Christmas Day.
What Do People Do?
In the Roman Catholic Church and in some Anglican communities the third Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday, from the first word of the introit (psalm or antiphon) “Rejoice”. In some churches rose-colored vestments may replace the purple and flowers may be placed on the altar. In many eastern Christian churches, the church year begins in September 1 so Advent begins at a different time to when it starts in the western churches. The Eastern equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast, which runs for 40 days. It is sometimes called Philip’s Fast, or the Philippian Fast, and begins on the day following the Feast of St Philip the Apostle (November 14).
Advent around the world is usually associated with the Advent calendars that parents give their children to help them count the days until Christmas. Preparation for Christmas is an important theme for Advent, particularly at the beginning. It is a time when the Christmas menu is planned, gifts are bought or made, then wrapped, carols are sung, Christmas cards are sent and houses are decorated with Christmas-themed lights and other decorations. Advent customs in some European countries, such as Germany, include lighting candles and hanging special Advent wreaths.
The first Sunday of Advent is not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. However, churches may be busy on this day, as are families who use the beginning of Advent as a time to prepare for the Christmas season.
It is uncertain as to when exactly the celebration of Advent was first introduced in the Christian church. Some sources say that Advent began on November 11 (St Martin’s Day) at some time in the fifth century in the form of a six-week fast leading to Christmas. Advent was reduced to its current length at some stage in the sixth century and the fasting was later no longer observed.
It was customary, although no longer practiced, for poor women to carry “Advent images”, which were two dolls dressed to represent Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the northern parts of England. Those who saw the dolls were expected to give a donation in form of money and bad luck was believed to occur to those who were not visited by the doll-bearers before Christmas Eve.
Advent is originally a time to reflect and prepare for Christmas similarly to how Lent is in preparation for Easter. Advent has sometimes been referred to as the Winter Lent. In recent times the restrictions that Advent brings to Christians have become more relaxed.
Purple is historically the main color used for Advent because it reflects penitence, fasting, and the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the king (Jesus Christ). The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his first Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his second Advent. Some churches use other colors in recent times. For example, some churches mark the third Sunday of Advent with pink or rose, colors that represent joy. Many Protestant churches use blue to distinguish the Season of Advent from Lent.
Advent wreaths are symbolic of Advent in some countries. They are usually made of fir and decorated with gold and silver ribbons or scarlet woolen threads. Lit wreaths may be displayed on the table where family and friends sit while singing carols and preparing handmade gifts.
Many Christians, particularly those of Catholic faith, in Canada observe the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on or around December 8.
What Do People Do?
Some churches in Canada, particularly the Catholic churches, hold special services (or masses) to commemorate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on or close to December 8. The feast focuses on the concept that the Virgin Mary was conceived without sin. Many churches that observe the Feast of the Immaculate Conception are busy preparing for the occasion prior to its occurrence.
Many church-run schools teach their students about the observance and its meaning around this time of the year. Some people write feature articles about the observance in publications or gazettes that are centered on the theme of religion.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is an observance among many Christian churches but it is not a nationwide public holiday in Canada.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception centers on the belief that Jesus’ mother, the Virgin Mary, was conceived without sin. Pope Pius IX issued an apostolic constitution, known as the Ineffabilis Deus, on December 8, 1854. This document clarified the importance of the Immaculate Conception in the Catholic Church.
Various paintings, statues and other forms of artwork have been made depicting the Immaculate Conception. Images of the Virgin Mary are shown in many of these artworks. Some churches and church-run schools in Canada are named in honor of the Immaculate Conception.
Conception Bay, in Newfoundland and Labrador, is named to commemorate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. People from Europe came to this area as far back as the early 1500s to use the bay for its rich marine resources.
The Anniversary of the Statute of Westminster is observed in Canada on December 11 each year to mark the statute’s establishment. The Canadian flag and the Royal Union flag are flown together on this day.
Flags Up from Sunrise to Sunset
Businesses, individuals and government offices across Canada observe the Anniversary of the Statute of Westminster on this day. Canada’s national flag and the Royal Union Flag, also known as the Union Jack, are flown from sunrise to sunset. The flags can be seen at federal buildings, airports, military bases and other government establishments.
What’s Open or Closed?
The Anniversary of the Statute of Westminster is not a public holiday but government and military officials ensure that the Canadian flag and the Royal Union flag are flown together from sunrise to sunset on this day.
About the Day
The original Royal Union flag, or Union Jack, was first raised at a British settlement in Newfoundland, Canada, after 1610. In 1870 the flag was incorporated into the flags of the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governors of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In 1904 the flag became a Canadian symbol and was used by Canadian troops during World War I.
However, for many years during the early 20th century Canada sought to gain formal recognition of its autonomy from the United Kingdom. Finally, in 1931 the Statute of Westminster, 1931, which was an Act of the British Parliament, gave Canada its autonomy. This statute marks the independence of Canada as the nation that it is today.
In 1964 Canada’s parliament approved for the Royal Union flag to be used as a symbol of Canada’s membership in the Commonwealth of Nations and of the nation’s allegiance to the British Crown. Canada remains close with the United Kingdom and flies the Royal Union Flag along with the Canadian flag for occasions such as the Anniversary of the Statute of Westminster, Commonwealth Day, and Victoria Day.
The Royal Union Flag, which is seen on the arms of British Columbia and on the flags of Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, incorporates the diagonal cross of St Patrick with England’s St George’s cross and Scotland’s St Andrew’s cross. The Canadian flag is red and white, the official colors of Canada, with a stylized 11-point red leaf in its center. When flown together, there must be at least two flag poles and the Canadian flag takes precedence, never being replaced by the Union Jack.
Many Muslims in Canada celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s birth and life or mourn his death onEid Milad ul-Nabi (Mawlid, Milad–un-Nabi). The date occurs during the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-awwal. Some Muslims mark the Prophet’s Birthday by fasting or with parades, special prayers or conferences.
What Do People Do?
Many Muslims in Canada may mark Eid Milad ul-Nabi by fasting during daylight hours or saying special prayers. Some communities organize parades, lectures or readings of poems on Muhammad’s life and work.
Many people believe that it is important to tell the story of Muhammad’s life to children. Children often play an important part in the celebrations. Many mosques organizeEid Milad ul-Nabi celebrations that include sermons, prayers and a communal meal. The rooms used during the celebrations may be decorated with banners or modest flower arrangements.
Eid Milad ul-Nabi, the Prophet’s birthday is not a national public holiday in Canada. However, some Muslim businesses and organizations may be closed for part or all of the day or offer a reduced level of service. Parades may cause some local disruption to traffic, particularly in Toronto.
Prophet’s Birthday Observances
Note: Regional customs or moon sightings may cause a variation of the date for Islamic holidays, which begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday. The Islamic calendar is lunar and the days begin at sunset, so there may be one-day error depending on when the New Moon is first seen.
Many Christians in Canada mark the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25, which is known as Christmas Day. It is a day of celebration when many Canadians exchange gifts and enjoy festive meals.
What Do People Do?
Many Canadians have a day off work on December 25 and many spend the day with close relatives or friends. It is customary to exchange gifts, enjoy a special festive meal and, perhaps, attend a special church service. However, some people, particularly in Quebec, do some or all of these things on Christmas Eve as well as, or instead of, on Christmas Day.
The traditions centered on Christmas gifts in Canada vary a lot between families. In some families, a mythical figure called Santa Claus brings gifts. He travels on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, enters homes via the chimney and leaves presents and candy in Christmas stockings or in a pile under the Christmas tree. In other families, individual members exchange carefully selected gifts. Popular gifts are toys, games and candy for children and clothes, music, alcohol and practical or luxury items for adults. Canadians may open their presents on Christmas Eve after a special church service or during the morning or after lunch on Christmas Day.
Some people consume large quantities of food and drinks on Christmas Day. The day may start with a cooked breakfast, such as ham and eggs or pancakes. Lunch is often a very large meal with a stuffed or dressed roast turkey, potatoes, a selection of vegetables and cranberry sauce and gravy to add flavor. After the savory part of the meal, plum or Christmas pudding is traditionally eaten. Some families also eat a large evening meal, perhaps based around a leg of pork or ham, or re-heat the leftovers from the lunch. During the day, many types of sweet and savory snacks are served, including candy, oranges or mandarins, nuts and butter tarts or shortbread.
Christmas Day is a national public holiday in Canada. Schools, post offices and many businesses and organizations are closed on Christmas Day. Some stores may be open. Many public transport services are closed or offer a reduced service. When Christmas Day falls on a Sunday or Saturday that is a non-working day, workers are entitled to a holiday with pay on the working day immediately preceding or following the general holiday.
Many Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem on December 25, although the true date and year of his birth is unclear. The tradition of celebrating his birth at the end of December may come from the widespread European tradition of celebrations around the winter solstice. Christians who follow the Eastern Orthodox tradition celebrate the birth of Jesus on January 7, while it is marked on January 6 by the Armenian Apostolic Church.
There are many symbols of Christmas. These include images of baby Jesus and the Holy family in the stable, stars and Christmas trees. Another important symbol of Christmas is Santa Claus. This is a mythical figure with origins in European, particularly British, Dutch and German, cultures. He is a jolly man who wears a red suit, has a long white beard, lives at the North Pole and travels in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. On Christmas Eve, he travels to the homes of children and leaves them presents in Christmas stockings or under the Christmas tree.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which monitors and controls the aerospace above the United States and Canada, even “monitors” Santa’s movements during November and December. Images and models of Santa Claus and actors playing his role can be seen in many places in the lead up to Christmas.
New Year’s Eve is a day of reflection of the past year’s events and a time to prepare for the New Year. It is also the last day of the Canadian tax year. Many people attend special parties or other events to mark the end of one year and the start of the next one.
What Do People Do?
On New Year’s Eve, social gatherings of all sizes are organized to mark the end of one year and the start of the next. These range from small parties with family members and a few good friends in private homes to huge street parties with live entertainment, music, dancing and even public fireworks. Many events start in the middle of the evening on December 31 and continue into the early hours of January 1.
Some people mark the stroke of midnight by opening bottles of champagne or sparkling wine and drinking a toast to the New Year and the health of everyone present. Others take a short vacation to enjoy Canada’s natural beauty at its wintry best or to take part in winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding. In rural areas in northern Canada, particularly in Quebec, some people spend all night on a frozen lake with a group of good friends and fish through holes in the ice.
December 31 is not a public holiday and in general post offices, stores and other businesses are open. However, they may close earlier than usual. Bars, restaurants and clubs may have special opening hours and different entrance policies to usual. Public transit services usually run as usual in the morning and early afternoon but may offer a reduced service or close down completely in the late afternoon or early evening. In some large cities, there may be extra transport services late in the evening on December 31 and the early hours of January 1 to enable people to return home from New Year celebrations safely.
In Europe, the darkest part of winter has been a time of celebration with displays of fire, evergreen plants and nature’s bounty since pre-Christian times. When many inhabitants of Europe were converted to Christianity, these festivals were merged with Christian beliefs and in time came to mark Christmas and the New Year. When European settlers came to Canada, they brought these customs with them and their celebrations evolved into the events seen today.
Symbols of New Year’s Eve include images of Canada’s winter landscape, winter sports, champagne bottles, and some New Year fireworks are in the form of traditional symbols associated with Canada, such as the maple leaf.