Get to Know Canadian Traditions and Activities

When you’re studying at UAlberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, you’ll experience some holidays and traditions that will be completely new to you. We’ve listed some helpful information about Canadian traditions, so you’ll be prepared to have fun at every Canadian celebration!


Public Holidays


Canada Day

This holiday is exactly what it sounds like - a celebration of Canada! Every year on July 1, we celebrate the day Canada became a nation. A lot of activities happen on this day (such as street performers, live musicians and outdoor games) and many of them are free. The best part of every Canada Day, however, is the large fireworks display in Edmonton’s river valley once the sun goes down!


Victoria Day (May Long Weekend)

This is a nationwide public holiday celebrated in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. This holiday is sometimes referred to as “May-Long” or “May two-four”, because it is held on the last Monday before May 25th.

This holiday also ceremonially, and unofficially, marks the beginning of summer for many Canadians. People will take part in outdoor summer activities, like camping, swimming and barbecuing (cooking food over fire) on this weekend in celebration of the holiday.


Labour Day or September Long Weekend

This long weekend usually marks the end of summer, because it happens on the first weekend of September. Many people take the chance to have one last trip to the mountains or outdoor adventures before going back to school! Also, Edmonton plays host to the outdoor Sonic Boom Music Festival over this weekend every year, which features many contemporary famous musicians!



This holiday is celebrated on the second Monday of October every year. It’s a similar version to what other countries call a “harvest festival” and usually involves eating a lot of food, especially turkey, potatoes and pumpkin pie! People will commonly start off their Thanksgiving feast by telling each other what they are thankful for.





Past Times and Traditions


Hay Rides or Sleigh Rides

In the winter time, Edmonton hosts many outdoor festivals and a lot of them include “hay rides”. These are wagons, pulled around by horses, which are filled with rectangular bales of hay for you to sit on. It’s a perfect way to enjoy a nice winter day and take in some scenery, especially if you have a hot chocolate or cider to drink while on the ride!



Halloween is a yearly celebration held on the night of October 31. Young children will go out “trick-or-treating”, which means they walk around the area they live in dressed in costume, collecting candy from their neighbours.  The important thing to know about Halloween is that is a lot of fun! Activities normally done on this holiday include pumpkin carving, watching scary movies, eating candy and having costume parties.




A lot of Canadians like to go camping. Camping means setting up, and sleeping in, a shelter outdoors, such as a tent, caravan or motorhome. Alberta has beautiful parks all over the province that have great spots to camp in. Canadians usually enjoy roasting food over a fire, while enjoying the clear skies and fresh air of Alberta’s mountain ranges. If camping isn’t for you, then we also recommend staying at a hotel in Jasper or Banff - which is just as much fun!



Watching hockey or playing hockey

Hockey is Canada’s national winter sport and a lot of Canadians love watching and playing this game! While you’re studying at UAlberta, you can watch a game on television with friends or even get tickets to see the Edmonton Oilers play live. If you’re an active person, it can also be a lot of fun to learn how to play. You might hear people call it “Shinny”, which means an informal, outdoor game of hockey, normally played between groups of friends. There are many public ice rinks close to UAlberta, as well, so you can get outside in the winter time and have fun!


Image credits: Canada Day fireworks image courtesy of the Edmonton Journal. Pumpkin pie image from Laloosh. Banff image courtesy of Trip Advisor. Trick or Treating image by Ryan McVay. Pond hockey image by Jeff Hazelden. Hay ride image courtesy of Fort Emdonton Park. 

Written by Alyssa Ott


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