Canadian Christmas travel

Travel to Canada at Christmas: Information and Advice for Foreigners

Christmas is a magical time of the year for children and adults in most Western countries. And if you enjoy a white Christmas, traveling to Canada might just be the best idea for your winter holidays. In fact, Christmas is considered one of the peak times for tourism in Canada.

Like in most Western countries, you can expect Christmas lights and decorations, special traditions to celebrate with friends and family, and a general festive atmosphere that will put everyone in a good mood.

Moreover, snow is practically guaranteed in many parts of the country so that lovers of winter sports can burn the extra calories gained with Christmas food on the ski slopes.

On this page, international tourists will find information regarding:

  • Canadian Christmas traditions and public holidays
  • Winter climate and temperatures
  • Best places to travel for Christmas in Canada
  • Documents necessary to visit the country, including the Canadian online visa

Celebrating Christmas in Canada: Traditions and Festivities

Christmas is a very popular holiday in Canada. Just like in most Western countries, children take time off school and help their parents decorate a Christmas tree. Skiing, ice skating, and building a snowman are all popular activities during the days surrounding Christmas.

On Christmas Day, families gather for a large meal. Traditional Canadian Christmas food includes roast turkey, seasonal vegetables, mashed potatoes, and gravy. For dessert, you may find plum pudding and mincemeat tarts as well as a special Christmas fruit cake.

Christmas parades are a popular way of celebrating, with Santa Claus parades held in most major cities for the enjoyment of the whole family. Arrive early to find the best spot as the biggest parades are attended by thousands of people.

Canada is also a proudly multicultural nation where many traditions and religions peacefully coexist. The large Jewish communities across the country (the biggest being in Montreal and Toronto), for example, celebrate Hanukkah during this time of the year.

What Are the Canadian Public Holidays Around Christmas?

As it’s to be expected, Christmas Day is a public holiday in Canada. This means that almost everything in retail and services shuts down so that Canadians can enjoy time with their family. Restaurants and pubs are likely to be fully booked or closed as well. If you haven’t had the chance to book weeks in advance, try a hotel.

Christmas Eve (December 24th) is not a public holiday. In fact, most people leave the office early to rush for a last-minute Christmas shopping. You can expect stores to be open until around 6 pm.

Boxing Day (December 26th) is not a public holiday nationwide but it’s observed in the Ontario province and by federal employees across the country. It’s also very common for workers to take the day off.

New Year’s Day is a statutory holiday for the whole nation.

Does Canada Have a Santa Claus?

Not only Canadian kids post their wish lists to Santa every year, but the Canadian government has officially recognised Santa as a citizen of Canada in 2008, and in 2013 he was issued an official passport.

Where Should I Go for Christmas in Canada?

Depending on what you’d like to do, there are plenty of Christmas destinations in Canada.

  • Lights festivals are a spectacular way to celebrate Christmas. The most famous and impressive ones are set up in the capital Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and of course, Niagara Falls.
  • If you’re after the ultimate old-fashioned Christmas setting, Old Quebec City is the place for you. Imagine snow-capped 17th-century buildings and cobblestone streets decorated with Christmas lights.
  • Kids will love Saskatoon, which has officially been named the city with the highest number of candies and toy stores per capita in a study published by the University of Toronto.
  • In Edmonton, the capital of the Alberta province, you’ll be able to enjoy a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.

How Cold Does it Get in Canada in December?

Canada is a large country and although it can be said that it will be cold everywhere in December, temperatures can vary greatly from one region to the other.

Usually, it doesn’t get much warmer than 9 degrees Celsius while the lows can go well below 0 degrees Celsius. Make sure to pack warm and waterproof clothes.

Here is a breakdown of the average temperatures in Canada during the month of December in several cities:

  • Vancouver, BC: 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) high; 34 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) low
  • Edmonton, AB: 21 F (-6 C); 1 F (-17 C)
  • Yellowknife, NWT: -2 F (-19 C); -17 F (-27 C)
  • Inukjuak, NU: -6 F (-21 C); -27 F (-33 C)
  • Winnipeg, MB: 16 F (-9 C); 0 F (-18 C)
  • Ottawa, ON: 27 F (-3 C); 12 F (-11 C)
  • Toronto, ON: 32 F (0 C); 21 F (-6 C)
  • Montréal, QC: 28 (-2 C); 14 F (-10 C)
  • Halifax, NS: 34 F (1 C); 21 F (-6 C)
  • St. John’s, NF: 36 F (2 C); 25 F (-4 C).

Does It Snow in Canada at Christmas?

Snow in Canada typically begins to fall in October/November and starts to melt in late March.

Cities like Toronto and Ottawa will almost certainly make for a white Christmas. The climate in coastal urban centers like Vancouver, on the other end, is mitigated by the ocean and allows for little or no snow.

The Eastern coast is generally snowier than the West.

What Documents Do You Need to Travel to Canada?

The vast majority of foreigners who wish to visit Canada will need to apply for a Canadian visa before leaving.

The Canadian eTA (electronic travel authorization) is the quickest and easiest way to obtain a travel permit to Canada for eligible citizens. Tourists from over 60 countries can in fact apply for the Canadian eTA entirely online in minutes, from their home or office, no matter where they are in the world.

The electronic travel authorization requirements for Canada are pretty straightforward: all you’ll need is a valid and eligible passport, a current email address to receive your visa once it’s granted, and a debit or credit card to pay for the visa application fee.