New Year’s Customs in Canada

Every country has its own special New Year’s customs. In Japan, people take a week to plan Oshogatsu – New Year’s Day. They clean their houses and decorate from doors with natural elements including bamboo, seaweed, ferns and pine branches. The decorations are said to bring good luck and long lives. Also, on New Year’s Eve, bells are rung 108 times, to chase away 108 troubles.  In Greece, New Year’s Day coincided with the festival of St. Basil,  one of the Greek Orthodox Church Founders. To celebrate, the Greek like to bake almond cake with a hidden silver or gold coin inside. Brazil has one of the world’s largest New Year’s Eve celebration that rivals the Time Square shindig in the U.S. Nearly 2.5 million people come out to parti at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. In Germany, there’s the Bleigießen tradition of dropping molten lead into cold water as a way to read fortunes dictated by the shape the lead forms.

Every country’s traditions are unique, and Canada is no exception. If you’re a newcomer, you may feel nostalgic for your homeland festivities, but don’t let that stop you from getting involved in New Year’s Customs in Canada. To make the celebration even more magical, why not combine the customs of your home country with those of your new home!

New Year’s Eve in big cities

New Year’s customs in Canada vary by region, and depending on whether you’re partying in a city or the country . In big cities, like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton, people come together to usher in the new year with late-night parties that stretch  into the wee hours of the morning. They take place in bars, discotheques and clubs, or in smaller private house parties. Friends, neighbors, families and even total strangers all celebrate together. You’ll find plenty of dancing, singing, delicious food, delicious drinks and a whole lot of festive cheer.

New Year’s Eve is also the evening where you can see some of the best fireworks displays of the entire year.  If you are living in Montreal and Ottawa, for example, massive fireworks displays shoot off as soon as the clock strikes midnight. People come from all over to watch these extravagant visual displays, and they are often accompanied by live music (dancing is encouraged!). In some cities, public festivities could include magic shows, and winter sports events like snowboarding and skating.  Don’t be surprised if total strangers great you with a hug and a “Happy New Year!”  It’s also time people reflect on the year and pray for a happy and prosperous new year.  As an added bonus, cities offer free public transportation so everyone has fun and gets home safety (so don’t worry about partying too hard!).

Rural celebrations

If you find yourself nestled in the picturesque beauty of rural Canada when the New Year is ushered in, there’s still plenty of festivities and cheer. New Year’s customs in Canada extend away from the cities, and while they may be smaller gatherings, households still invite their friends and families over to celebrate the night away over good food, drink and entertainment.

You may find yourself playing games until midnight, or singing popular Canadian songs.  We also celebrate traditional winter activities on this evening. If there’s a pond nearby, it’s customary for some (especially in Quebec) to spend the evening ice fishing with friends. And don’t think that fireworks displays are only for the city slickers. You’ll get a spectacular show in some rural communities as well. Come New Year’s Day, people tend to either sleep off the festivities of the night before, or plan leisurely winter picnics and outings.

In Quebec, it’s a francophone tradition to gather around the TV and watch Bye Bye a massively popular Québécois New Year’s sketch comedy performance hosted by Radio-Canada. The hilarious performance satirizes the past year’s biggest events and ends with a countdown to the new Year.

Traditions, traditions

According to, many of the ways Canadians celebrate the New Year today have long histories. Some of the more common traditional New Year’s customs in Canada include:

  • Kissing! To wish each other a happy New Year and show goodwill towards friends and neighbors, kisses are as common as confetti.
  • Making lots of noise. You don’t have to be startled by loud displays of clapping and roaring erupts all around you at your New Year’s Day celebration. This behavior is supposed to fend off negativity and mean-spiritedness from the old year, so it doesn’t follow into the new one!
  • Taking a freezing plunge. Ever heard of the polar bear plunge? This is the frrrreeeezing tradition of taking a dip in a cold winter lake pond or ocean in order to cleanse and start fresh for the next 365 days.


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(Photos: Lima PixWilson Hui, Jean-David and Anne-Laure, Margarita Banting)


About Yaolin

It wasn’t easy for my parents to relocate from China to Canada. But they worked hard and made their new country into a real home for us. Thanks to their groundwork, my siblings and I received a great education and lots of opportunity. As an adult, I have been able to open up a real estate agency, raise a loving family, and help others tackle their own relocations so they could comfortably settle into their surroundings. Here at, our goal is share our knowledge and understanding of the relocation process so you can realize your dreams, just like I did. // La relocalisation de la Chine au Canada n’a pas été facile pour mes parents. Mais ils ont travaillé dur et ont vraiment fait de leur nouveau pays notre maison. Grâce à leur travail, mes frères et soeurs et moi avons reçu une bonne éducation et beaucoup d’opportunités. A l’âge adulte, j’ai pu ouvrir ma propre agence immobilière, élever une adorable famille et maintenant je suis heureux de pouvoir aider les autres dans leur propre relocalisation. Chez, notre objectif est de partager nos connaissances, notre compréhension du processus de relocalisation afin que vous puissiez aussi réaliser vos rêves comme je l’ai fait.