Mother of two darlings, Evangeline and Esmée, and soirée stylist, Angela definitely knows how to party! In between two festive events, she kindly agreed to take time to share about Canadian Christmas traditions and those of her own family.
Can you please make us travel to Canada by describing your country’s Christmas?
Canada is a multicultural country where festive traditions from all over the world influence holiday happenings.
Celebratory events in Ontario, Canada include the Santa Claus parade which holds the record as the longest- standing children’s parade that has been ongoing for more than a century. Along with the Winter Festival of lights in Niagara that features remarkable displays with 3 million lights across from the famous Falls.
Another local favourite is the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District which offers outdoor food and shopping cabins, village displays and music along with a Christmas tree lighting ceremony to kick-off the season.
Another magical destination to visit in Canada during the month of December is Old Quebec City. It is truly a scene straight from a storybook with its 17th century buildings, cobblestone streets and picture perfect twinkling lights.
Canadian traditions include decorating a Christmas tree (or two, or four), exchanging gifts, giving to charities, along with plenty of food and drink.
Turkey or ham is the traditional Christmas meal. Other popular seasonal foods include mince pies, plum pudding and Christmas fruit cake. Most families still participate in the tradition of Christmas crackers that include a joke, trinket and a silly paper crown.
Can you describe your typical Christmas?
Ever since I can remember Christmas has always been my favourite holiday. To this day, we maintain most of my childhood traditions. While family members come and go, the traditions remain.
Kicking off the season
We kick off the holiday season early (end of November) on the birthday of the original merrymaker - my Mom. Over the years, we have participated in wreath making classes, Christmas urn workshops, Victorian Christmas, Casa Loma Castle Christmas tours; and most recently since our girls were born, an evening spent creating gingerbread houses.
It is also at this time we start our Christmas decorating. When I was a child, my Mom and Dad made the best Christmas team. My Mom taking care of the interior decorating almost every room in the house and and setting an impressive festive banister upon our entry, while my Dad was tasked with the outdoor light show, and I do mean SHOW. Most likely if you stood still for long enough, he would probably dress you with a string or two. My parents still maintain these impressive displays and I’m so pleased for our daughters to witness the magic of Christmas.
At our home we decorate with three trees (and counting) all in different themes. Our sitting room tree is the most elegant of all featuring blush and gold and is adorned with twelve 24K gold hand blown glass ornaments. These ornaments are sentimental to me as my Mom gifted me one each Christmas growing up, so that I would have ornaments for my own tree. One day, I plan to split the set and give 6 to each of our daughters.
Another tree we have is a more traditional red and green tree that features wooden ornaments including hedgehogs (we started decorating this tree when our first daughter was born and her nickname was hedgie as her hair stuck straight out like a hedgehog). This tree also is so close to my heart as I was fortunate enough to receive a set of hand sewn ornaments my Mom made when she was pregnant with my brother 40 years ago, as she didn’t want breakable ornaments with a new baby. It's the tree figured in the photo with the Christmas crackers!
Last year, Evangeline was convinced we needed rainbow lights outside like our neighbours, so this little rainbow tree was our compromise. Which truthfully wasn’t a difficult choice at all, as I’d be happy to have a Christmas tree in every room of the house!
Giving and sharing
Alongside the beauty of the season we put a big focus on charity and giving back at this time. I think it is important for our girls to realize at this over indulgent time of the year there are others that are struggling to meet their basic needs. Since our eldest turned one, we have filled shoeboxes filled with essential items and fun ones too, to send to children across the world. We also participate in food drives and help provide items for local shelters.
Christmas baking is another way we spread joy during the season. Growing up, I spent so many fond years in the kitchen with my Mom and Grandmother. While my Mom used to make an impressive 20+ recipes that she shared with friends, schools and work colleagues, the girls and I will make a few of our family favourites and share them with our elderly neighbours.
While I unfortunately can’t share the origin of this recipe, this recipe has been made in my Dad’s family for more than 70 years and the recipe has been passed along to each generation to keep the tradition alive.
Butterscotch Cream Pie
1 baked pie shell
4 tbsp butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups of hot cream (10 %)
5 1/3 tbsp flour (all purpose)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold cream (10%)
*2 eggs (for meringue topping)
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- Cook the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the hot cream and simmer until the sugar dissolves.
- Mix together the flour, salt and cold cream. Try to eliminate any lumps.
- Add gradually to a hot mixture. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Adjust the heat so the mixture won’t stick and scorch.
- Beat the two eggs to blend and pour slowly into the hot mixture. Stir briskly and cook for 2-3 minutes over low heat.
- When thickened, pour into baked pie shell and cool.
* NOTE: In place of 2 eggs, use 3 egg yolks and make meringue from the 3 egg whites. Whip the egg whites with 4-5 tbsp. white sugar and cream of tartar until stiff. Pile on hot pie filling and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned.
Leading up to Christmas we love to take the girls around to see all the Christmas light displays. A favourite neighbourhood to do so is a quaint little area with all Tudor style houses that look straight out of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol village.
On Christmas Eve, we have fish and pasta. Pre-pandemic we would attend Mass. We enjoy a festive drink and watch/listen to holiday movies/music. In the last 5 years, I’ve created a photo book of the year and given it to my parents to enjoy memories of their grandchildren.
December 25th has always been the big day where all the extended family comes to visit and has a meal together. Our traditional meal includes turkey, potatoes, vegetables and all the trimmings. The dessert being an act on its own.
Desserts always included my Mom’s 20+ recipes. Family favourites were always double brownies, fudge, a Canadian favourite- Nanaimo bars, midnight mints, shortbread cookies, fruited drop cookies, etc. Along with pies that included lemon meringue, butterscotch, traditional Christmas pudding and bûche de Noël. There was surely never a shortage.
Following all the food, we would gather to sing Christmas carols around the table. Our favourite closing was always everyone singing their part to the 12-days of Christmas. Each family member would have a dessert plate representing each of the 12 days.
A more recent tradition we’ve started with our daughters is tobogganing with mine and my brother's old sleds. Followed by a cup of cheer (hot chocolate for the girls, wine for myself and Grandma).
As if the season isn’t exciting and exhausting enough, we get to do it all again come January when we celebrate Ukrainian orthodox Christmas with my husband’s family.
Christmas will forever be my favourite time of the year and I feel so fortunate to share these traditions with our daughters. My hope is that that they will have as much of an appreciation for the season and family memories as I do.
Follow Angela and her sweet family on Instagram : @simply.just.so
Picture credits :
*The first family photo is by the lifestyle photographer Nicole Lewis
*The light festival photo is from flickr by Elpadawn
*The third picture of Old Quebec is by Francois Giguere
*The last picture is by Lisa Vigliotta
All the other photos are by Angela.