US and Canadian English Schools during the Festive Season


Our English school's in the US and Canada during the festive season

We explore what’s in a name and what makes the festive season so special for different countries around the world. This article explores the party loving schools in the US and also those students at our English schools in Canada, whom definitely know how to put on a show!

The US celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas towards the end of the year with the turkeys usually dreading the winter months in more ways than one! There is also Kwanzaa, which has now become integrated alongside Christmas and New Year.

Thanksgiving (Fourth Thursday in November)

A celebration on the forth Thursday in November for the US, the day has held much mystery and debate over its origins. This originated from a way to give thanks for the Pilgrims of Plymouth surviving their first brutal winter. The thanksgiving feast lasted for 3 days with enough food for 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. Nowadays, this is emulated through large quantities of harvest food – with the traditional turkey as the main course with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweetcorn and other fall vegetables as well as pumpkin pie.

Hanukkah (25th Kislev – Autumn month between Nov- Dec)

Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is a celebration over 8 days that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt.

It is celebrated by lighting the nine branched Menorah – a very special candelabrum. Each subsequent branch is lit each night. An extra light called the Shamash is also lit each night in order to light the others.

Typical Hanukkah foods include potato pancakes, jam filled doughnuts and fritters.

The US has a history of recognising and celebrating Hanukkah, starting from 1951 when the White House received a Menorah from the Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Public Hanukkah candle lighting ceremonies started from 1979. There is also Green Hanukkah, which is observed in North America and Israel, where the emphasis of reflection is on energy reservation and renewal!

Christmas (25th December)

Christmas at our English schools in the US is a great time commercially and seasonally, sharing many of its traditions with the UK and the rest of Europe. Post-war traditions in America saw the adult generations lavishing their children with an experience they never had with delicious food and great gifts. Toy manufacture boomed with such popular items as the Hula Hoop, Barbie and Etch-a-Sketch, all of which are still widely played with today.

Santa Claus AKA Saint Nick is known to keep an eye on children’s behaviour with his list of who’s naughty or nice – coming down the chimney to leave gifts in stockings. Christmas day traditionally begins with cinnamon rolls and coffee cake, turkey with all the trimmings for the main meal and later on there is usually ham for dinner.

Kwanzaa (26th December – 1st January)

Kwanzaa, literally translated as “First Fruits”, is celebrated in the United States from the 26th December to the 1st of January of every year. Honoring African culture, it identifies and celebrates 7 principles – Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (Co-operative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith).

It’s a time for people to run riot with colour, decorating their houses with colourful fruits and African cloth called Kente. They also light candles in a traditional holder called the Kinara. More recently, Kwanzaa is also honoured by non African Americans and is often celebrated alongside the Christmas and New Year’s festivities.

Did you know?

An advert from Sears Toyshop in 1955 gave children the chance to call Santa Claus, only that they had printed the wrong phone number – directing them to Colorado Spring's Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center! When they were swamped with calls from children on Christmas Eve asking for his whereabouts, they provided a “Santa Tracker” service that informed children of where he was at different points of time around the world. It still exists today under the changed name of North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), becoming the NORAD Tracks Santa service.


Christmas (25th December)

Most places in Canada share similar traditions to America, apart from Quebec and other French speaking places in Canada, which hold the Réveillon on the eves of Christmas and New Year (réveillon literally meaning the word “waking”). Participation usually involves staying up past Midnight and consuming some pretty quality dishes such as lobster and foie gras for appetisers! In Quebec, a standard dish is the tourtière - a mixture of minced pork, veal or beef.

Boxing Day (26th December)

It is a recognised public holiday, although listed in the Canada Labour code as an optional work day. Varying from region to region, it’s usually a shopping holiday ripe with Boxing Day sales. However, retailers in some parts of Northern Ontario and Atlantic Canada are prohibited by law from operating on the day and have to open on the 27th instead.

Quebec Winter Festival (28th January - 13th February)

Originating as a time to eat, drink and be merry before Lent, the Quebec Winter Festival is now the largest winter festival in the world. Some of the many activities offered include sleigh rides, sculpture building, the zip line and the night parades. Be prepared to wrap up warm though, as every aspect of the festival embraces the cold!

Did you know?

At the Winterlude festival, the Snowball Lounge is made entirely of ice! The Snowflake Kingdom in Ottawa offers horse drawn sleigh rides, a snow maze and tobogganing.

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