Immigrating: Holiday Time In Canada

Immigrants, refugees and tourists alike must be very pleasantly surprised, and maybe a little puzzled, when they discover that Canada, Toronto in particular, has so many unofficial holidays. And the way things are going it won’t surprise anyone if Toronto ends up with a festival and a parade honouring a different ethnic group on every weekend of the year.

New Canadians from the Caribbean, Italy, Greece and Portugal have made their cultural festivals so spectacular that thousands of tourists descend on the city every year to sample the exotic food, drinks, music and all the fun-side of multicultural Toronto and, incidentally, pump millions of dollars into the economy of the GTA. So, if your own ethnic group doesn’t have an unofficial holiday or a street festival, why not get busy organizing one? The more festivals and parades we have, the better.

Here, for newcomers, is a partial list of our unofficial holidays: In January, Scottish people celebrate their national poet Robert Burns. Valentine’s Day in February is celebrated by the giving of cards, flowers and candy to spouses, lovers and others who are objects of our affections. In March, the Irish celebrate their patron saint on St. Patrick’s Day. In the summer months, the streets of Toronto hum with all kinds of ethnic festivals including the eye-popping Caribana Parade, the world’s second biggest gay and lesbian parades, the Chinatown Festival and the CHIN sponsored International Picnic. Halloween, at the end of October, is mainly for kids to go Trick-or-Treating (which involves dressing in costumes and asking for candy). Remembrance Day, on November 11th is a semi-official holiday, meaning that government and bank employees get the day off, but the majority of Canadians do not. Unlike any of the other holidays, Remembrance Day is a somber day set aside to honour Canadians who fought for our freedom in both world wars and Korea, those currently fighting in Afghanistan and serving as U.N. peacekeepers around the world.

Christmas is celebrated world-wide as a holy day for religious Christians, and, in Canada, it’s also a secular holiday that goes on for weeks. Newcomers will be familiar with many of our holidays because, like Christmas, they are not just celebrated in Canada. Canada does, however, have a very special holiday of its own called Canada Day which we celebrate every year on July 1st.

Canada Day is different from any of the other holidays, official or unofficial. Because it has nothing whatsoever to do with any religious or ethnic group, it’s an all-Canadian holiday that people from all walks of life celebrate in many different ways, from backyard barbecues to spectacular fireworks displays. On the first day of July, Canadians, from coast to coast, celebrate what the United Nations calls the best country in the world. So, to all you newcomers: Happy holidays, both official and unofficial, but especially, Happy Canada Day!

CNM