With this article, we list all of the holidays in Canada. Learn the history and origin of each, when they are celebrated, and how Canadians celebrate each one. Some are federally recognized, and businesses remain closed in observance of them. Some are publicly recognized but everything remains open.
A statutory holiday is also known as a public holiday. They are cultural, nationalistic and religious in nature, and are legislated by the government at federal or provincial/territorial levels. They are recognized across the nation and most businesses stay closed on these days (except convenience stores, for example). Most workers are entitled to take the day off with regular holiday pay. Some employers require employees to work on statutory holidays, but they will be paid 1½ times or twice their regular wage. In the event a statutory holiday falls on a weekend (when most people have the day off), the stat holiday is moved to the next workday (usually Monday). Currently, Alberta and Prince Edward Island have the highest number of legislated holidays, with a total of 12.
There are some holidays not legislated but are recognized largely as part of Canadian culture, including Hallowe’en, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s and Father’s Days. There are some known as bank holidays, such as Remembrance Day, where most businesses are open, but the banks remain closed in observance of the holiday. Federal employees receive many holidays.
We include every holiday recognized in Canada, statutory, provincial and otherwise.
New Year’s Day – January 1st
New Year’s Day celerabtes the first day in the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Back then, it was used to keep the equinoxes and solstices on track, in order to restore Easter to the time of year when it was introduced and celebrated by the early church.
New Year’s Day is recognized across the country as a statutory holiday. Most people have the day off, which comes as a pleasant break as most celebrate New Year’s Eve the night before, and take New Year’s Day to recover and rest. Many people use this day to set personal/financial goals for the year ahead. It also marks the end of the Christmas holiday, and after this holiday, students return to school while employees return to work.
Family Day – third Monday in February (second Monday for British Columbia)
This is a statutory holiday in Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It goes by different names such as Louis Riel Day, Islander Day and Heritage Day, but all take place on the third Monday of February.
Good Friday – somewhere between March 20 and April 23
Many countrywide holidays are rooted in Christianity. Though much of the population does not practice this religion, most still observe the holidays. This day recognizes the crucifixion of Jesus, when according to the gospels, he was arrested, tried and sentenced, and then crucified by the Romans. Good Friday is a statutory holiday.
Easter Monday – Monday after Easter Sunday
Employers are required to give either Good Friday or Easter Monday as a holiday, but most give both days off. Many federal government offices are closed. Schools are closed and students stay home. Banks however, remain open, as they would have been closed for Good Friday and by law cannot close for more than three consecutive days.
Saint George’s Day – April 23rd
This is known as the Feast of Saint George and celebrated by Christian churches and any nations, kingdoms or cities where Saint George is patron saint.
Victoria Day – Monday on or before May 24
This holiday takes place on the Monday closest to May 24, Queen Victoria’s birthday. It is celebrated as a statutory holiday with parades and fireworks. It is also informally recognized as the unofficial start of summer to many Canadians. On may 24th, 1854, on the 35th birthday of Queen Victoria, 5000 residents of Canada gathered in front of the Government House to give cheers to their queen. It became a tradition with a midnight gun salute, picnics, athletic competitions and other events.
National Patriot’s Day – Monday on or before May 24
Celebrated in Quebec, this day commemorates the struggle of the patriots as they fought for recognition of its people, political liberty and obtaining a democratic government.
National Aboriginal Day – June 21
This day recognizes and celebrates the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada, and their cultures and contributions. It coincides with the summer solstice, as this is a day when many Aboriginal groups celebrate their heritage. It has been around since 1945 known as Indian Day, but was renamed to National Aboriginal/National Indigenous Peoples Day in 2017.
Discovery Day – June 24
This day commemorates the discovery of gold in the Yukon in 1896, which started the Klondike Gold Rush. It is also celebrated in Newfoundland and Labrador to recognize the 1497 discovery of Newfoundland.
Canada Day – July 1st
Canada Day is a countrywide statutory holiday celebrating the anniversary of the enactment of the Constitution Act, which united the colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into one country called Canada. Celebrations take place throughout the country including parades and fireworks at sunset.
Orangemen’s Day – July 12
Celebrated in Newfoundland and Labrador, Orangemen’s Day commemorates the 1690 Battle of Boyne. This was a pivotal moment in Ireland’s history, specifically between Protestants and Catholics. It is celebrated by people who follow the Orange Order, a fraternity of Protestants. Orange represents the monarchs of the House of Orange.
Civic Holiday/Heritage Day – first Monday in August
This is a statutory holiday in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario and Saskatchewan. It was established as an annual holiday to celebrate and recognize the varied cultural heritage of Canadians.
Natal Day – first Monday in August
This is the same as the Civic Holiday, but specific to Nova Scotia. It is not a statutory holiday in this province.
Gold Cup Parade Day – third Monday in August
This holiday celebrates the summer in Prince Edward Island, taking place during Old Home Week. Many people travel to the capital, Charlottetown, for the parade and week long activities.
Labour Day – first Monday in September
Labour Day is a countrywide statutory holiday with roots in the labour union movement. The holiday is to celebrate the achievements of workers and the eight hour day movement, which divides the day into eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation and eight hours for rest. It marks the unofficial end of Summer. After a summer of rest, schools resume after Labour Day.
Thanksgiving – Second Monday in October
Thanksgiving is an annual statutory Canadian holiday, established as a celebration of giving thanks for all that one has. It has been a holiday since 1879. It takes place during harvest season, and traditionally was celebrated by spending time with family and community, feasting on the season’s harvested foods, and markated by religious practice. Common imagery surrounding this holiday is cornucopias, pumps and squash, corn, and others. A traditional thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes, autumn vegetables and apple or pumpkin pies for dessert. Of course the food will vary depending on the region; for example, dinner may also include baked ham or butter tarts.
Remembrance Day – November 11th
This is the anniversary of Armistice Day, in World War I, 1918. It is a bank holiday while most other things remain open. It is in place to remember those who died in war for the Commonwealth (Canada is part of the British Commonwealth). It marks the day of the end of hostilities in the first world war, which ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Red poppies are a customary pin worn on the left lapel, as these flowers grew on the battlefields of Flanders in World War I.
Christmas Day – December 25th
Christmas Day is a countrywide statutory holiday. It is observed by Christians and many non-Christians, celebrating the birth of Jesus. It is celebrated religiously by Christians in the form of attending church masses, and celebrated culturally by non-Christians with gift giving, feasting and spending time with family. Christmas Eve, December 24th, is not a statutory holiday, though schools are closed and many businesses close early or entirely. In some places Christmas Eve celebration is more significant than Christmas Day.
This day was marked by the Romans as winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year. However, after this day the days begin to elongate and the sun remains longer in the sky. Jesus was identified with the sun in Old Testament, and is nine months after the conception of Jesus is celebrated.
Decorations and traditions have roots in Christianity and paganism, such as planting gifts beneath a tree, caroling, a special meal, exchanging Christmas cards and gifts, and using decorations like lights, wreaths and holly. The gift-giving has caused the season to be a peak sales period for many retail businesses.
Boxing Day – December 26th
The origin of Boxing Day is unknown, as it has mixed definitions and origins. It is a statutory holiday in Ontario, and a holiday in New Brunswick under the Days of Rest Act. Many employers across the country treat it as a paid day off, but the day is known for clearance sales and discounts, so it has become a central day of shopping where consumers plan to get items at significantly discounted prices, such as clothing or technology.