Victoria Day is a statutory holiday remembered informally as "the twenty-fourth of May,” or “May Two-Four.” Originally a celebration of Queen Victoria's birthday, the holiday now marks Queen Elizabeth II's birthday as well. Victoria Day was established as a holiday in the Province of Canada in 1845 and as a national holiday in 1901. It is observed on the first Monday before 25 May.
Easter is the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion, which is marked on Good Friday. Canadians commonly refer to Easter as the period from Good Friday through Easter Monday. Good Friday (and /or Easter Monday) is a statutory holiday in Canada.
The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year, is celebrated in Canada and several other countries. One of the largest celebrations for Canada’s Chinese population (consisting of more than 1.3 million people located mainly in Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal), it is also celebrated by Canadians from Vietnam, Korea and Southeast Asia. Although it is not a statutory holiday in Canada, many Chinese businesses are closed or have reduced hours for the occasion. Since 1 June 2016, this celebration has been recognized as an official holiday in Canada.
Christmas is celebrated in various ways in contemporary Canada. In particular, it draws form the French, British and American traditions. Since the beginning of the 20th century, it had become the biggest annual celebration and had begun to take on the form that we recognize today.
Chanukah (also Hanukkah, Chanukkah, Chanuka, and the Festival of Lights) is the Hebrew word for dedication. In Canada, Chanukah has been celebrated since 1760 when the first Jews were allowed to immigrate. Chanukah in Canada is a celebration for friends and families to gather, socialize, eat, and exchange gifts. It is arguably the first non-Christian holiday that was widely and publicly celebrated in Canada.
The first official, annual Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated on 6 November 1879, though Indigenous peoples in Canada have a history of celebrating the fall harvest that predates the arrival of European settlers. Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew are credited as the first Europeans to celebrate a Thanksgiving ceremony in North America, in 1578. They were followed by the inhabitants of New France under Samuel de Champlain in 1606. The celebration featuring the uniquely North American turkey, squash and pumpkin was introduced to Nova Scotia in the 1750s and became common across Canada by the 1870s. In 1957, Thanksgiving was proclaimed an annual event to occur on the second Monday of October. It is an official statutory holiday in all provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.2
Halloween is observed annually on the night of 31 October. It is believed to have originated primarily as a Celtic celebration marking the division of the light and dark halves of the year, when the boundary between the living and the dead was believed to be at its thinnest. Halloween customs, such as wearing disguises to ward off ghosts and offering food to appease malevolent spirits, were brought to Canada in the mid-to-late 1800s by Irish and Scottish immigrants. North America’s first recorded instance of dressing in disguise on Halloween was in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1898, while the first recorded use of the term trick or treat was in Lethbridge, Alberta, in 1927. Halloween became increasingly popular with adults beginning in the 1990s and by 2014 was estimated to be a $1-billion industry in Canada, making it the second most commercially successful holiday behind Christmas.
It has become common knowledge that the first Thanksgiving in North America was held by Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in Newfoundland in 1578. There are those — mainly Americans upset by the thought of having their holiday co-opted — who argue that it wasn't a “real” Thanksgiving. I would counter that Frobisher had reason to give thanks, and that giving thanks was an important aspect of Elizabethan society, so it would have been a natural thing for him and his men to do.
Groundhog Day is celebrated in Canada and the United States every year on 2 February. Legend has it that watching a groundhog emerge from its burrow can determine the weather forecast for the coming weeks. Accordingly, if it is a sunny day and the groundhog sees its shadow, it goes back to sleep for six more weeks of winter. If the weather is cloudy and the groundhog does not see its shadow, it stays outside, meaning that the worst of winter is over and spring will soon arrive. Approximately 10 communities in Canada keep up this tradition today, attracting the attention of tourists and media alike.