Canada Day family traditionsWritten by Matthea Schumpelt and Catherine Wilson
Canada Day was always special for me as a child growing up in our nation’s capital. Being from an immigrant family, I loved that we had a day to celebrate our home and our dual identities as Chinese-Canadians.
Every July 1st, my brother and I looked forward to spending the day off from school, eating maple syrup candies and bouncing around our parents like a pair of excited monkeys. And it was no wonder why: Canada Day was like one big birthday party – and everyone was invited.
For this one day, Ottawa was transformed from sleepy government town to buzzing cultural centre: Roads closed for street performers, music of the world filled the air and thousands of people packed the streets in a blur of red and white.
Even Queen Elizabeth came one year, and I waited all morning perched on my father’s shoulders to get a glimpse of her on a horse-drawn carriage, greeting us with her signature royal wave.
And as we waited for the Prime Minister to make an appearance, we would follow the sound of Caribbean timpani drums and South American flutes and watch multicultural musicians showcase their talents. First Nations groups displayed their totem pole carving skills while Chinese dancers gracefully spun plates in human pretzel form.
Finally, at the end of the day, we would gather downtown to watch the fireworks explode above Parliament Hill. When the light show blazed towards the grand finale, the crowd would sing O Canada and cheer and clap until the smoke of the last explosions faded into the night.
Canada Day may be a celebration of Canada’s history and diverse cultural tapestry, but it’s also a day left free for families to strengthen relationships by having fun together and taking part in activities sure to leave lasting memories.
I’m thankful that my parents made it a tradition to clear the calendar on Canada Day so we could enjoy each other as a family. Some of my fondest childhood memories are from this one day of the year. As I look back, I realize the importance of this family time, celebrating God’s plan in bringing my parents to Canada.
Most families in the country celebrate Canada Day very differently. Some traditionally go camping for the long weekend, spend it with friends or go to the cottage. Whatever you do on Canada Day, enjoy it with your family, and give God thanks for the home that we share. Happy 141st birthday, Canada!
Start your own Canada Day traditions
Whether you want to add to your repertoire of Canada Day traditions or start from scratch this year, here are some patriotic ideas for your family:
Show your colours – Share your enthusiasm and lift the hearts of passers-by by flying a "bouquet" of red and white balloons in your front yard, together with a patriotic slogan on a hand-painted sign.
Wear it loud – Purchase face paints or temporary Canada Day tattoos to display your family’s love for your country on your cheeks, chins, arms or ankles.
Blowin’ in the wind – Using sewing scissors, cut out a small rectangle of white fabric. Fold the edge over about three centimetres and sew together so you have a "sleeve" of fabric. Next, let the kids use red fabric paint or felt markers to decorate their "flag" with a maple leaf. Slip your creation onto your car’s antenna to show your Canadian pride as you’re out and about during the day or over the weekend. If you have sufficient time and materials, create a larger flag to fly from the front of your house, or drape it at the end of your picnic table while enjoying a Canada Day picnic.
Life in Canada is sweet – Celebrate by decorating a cake with the outline of a red maple leaf (small tubes of coloured frosting gel work well; they can be found at most grocery stores). Producing the outline of the leaf couldn’t be easier – simply go for a walk or a drive to find a real maple leaf to use as a pattern. As you’re out hunting for the perfect leaf, ask your kids why they think Canada is a great place to live. Explain that Canada Day is like celebrating our country’s birthday, then lead your kids in singing O Canada before you cut the cake.
- Stronger together – Download a map of Canada – preferably one that doesn’t show names of provinces or major cities – then carefully cut along provincial and territorial boundaries to divide the map into 13 pieces. Encourage your children to reassemble the "puzzle" as you explain that Canada Day celebrates July 1st, 1867 – the date that the eastern provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia first joined together to form the nation of Canada, with most other provinces and territories joining soon after. Add an extra challenge for high schoolers by inviting them to locate and name the capitals of each province or territory, and have them share what they’ve learned so far about the history of Canada.
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