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Customs and Traditions Wall

Tell us about your customs and traditions:

In the Canadian Immigration Hall at our Museum, the exhibition is divided into four important themes: journey, arrival, belonging and impact. My favorite place to take visitors is the impact section. Here, we tell the amazing story of the contributions that immigrants have made to Canada – from architecture to science, from dance to hockey. In this section, I always get to thinking about the changes to Canadian culture when new people arrive to our country. What are some of the changes that aren’t as physically obvious as the Young and Bloor line in Toronto, or the Canadian Pacific Railway?

There is one part of the impact section that is my absolute favorite: the customs and traditions wall. Here, we ask visitors to share these more subtle contributions to the Canadian way-of-life by asking them to share their customs and traditions. This is a pretty open question, and we get all kinds of answers. Of the 1,416 we have recorded so far, keeping in mind that most answers fall under several categories, this is how people have answered.

A colored graph showing the percentage of customs and traditions in different categories like food, family etc.

Often, people write a single word in a language I don’t understand. I google the term only to find the most mouth-watering pastries, pastas and curries. I get very hungry while recording these answers!

Here are a few of my favorite answers:

At Easter the men write a poem for the ladies and sprinkle them with scented flowers.
Proud Scottish descendant with a hand drawing of a person dancing, a logo and a Scottish drum.
At mid-summer’s eve, we dance around the mid-summer pole, eat herring and sing songs together.

I think that it is these kinds of contributions that shape what being “Canadian” is all about. The different cultures and traditions that immigrants bring with them to Canada often last for generations and can have an impact on many people. My mother still makes Bobalki (Slovak buns with honey and poppy seeds) every Christmas – and my family have been in Canada for four generations!

What are some of your family’s customs and traditions? Do you participate in them? Will you pass them down to the next generation?