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Customs and Traditions: Holiday Edition!

In the Canadian Immigration Hall, we have a great interactive element where we ask visitors to share with us their family traditions and customs. The point of this activity is to get people to think about where these traditions come from and the intangible culture that immigrants bring with them when they come to Canada. These are the aspects of culture that people don’t pack in their suitcases, but bring with them in their hearts and minds. Intangible culture can be things like language, religion, notions of politeness, and special holidays and traditions.

Since we started this activity in the summer of 2015, we have had thousands of contributions (3227 to be exact) from our visitors. One thing the team and I have noticed when imputing the entries into our database is that many of them have to do with traditions around the winter holiday season. Some are religious, some are secular and many have a food component to them. But it became very clear to us that for many of our visitors, this time of year is very important.

We therefore decided to bring this part of the activity out into our Hall of Tribute, and to ask our visitors to contribute their special traditions from this time of year.

Two chairs and a round table close to the board logo sign of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

In reading the entries of our visitors, I can’t help but think about my own family traditions and customs around this time of year - especially now, since I have my own young family. What traditions do I keep, what traditions do we forget? What traditions does my husband bring to our family? Is there enough room for our own new traditions? There are some that I know we have to keep (a REAL Christmas tree, a full turkey dinner – including my grandma’s Jell-O salad recipe that my husband hates so much). My husband’s family didn’t have a big Christmas celebration, but focused more on New Year’s – which was the custom for many folks in the former Yugoslavia. So we do that now, too.

Here are only a few of my favorite contributions from our visitors:

Making and eating latkes on Hannukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, and lighting the menorah each night for eight days
Me and my family throw money and coins at midnight. It’s something we’ve always done and it brings the family together.
White paper hung with red ribbon.
Tortiere after midnight on Christmas Eve and open one present!
A message about Christmas written with multi-color markers.
On this tag they said they have a lot of fun between Christmas & New Year.

What are some of your favorite family traditions from around this time of year? Where did the tradition come from?

Happy Holidays!