Halls decked with boughs of holly, blazing yule logs, and…masked carolers going door-to-door demanding you guess who you are? Every place that celebrates the season has its share of strange Christmas traditions, but few can hold a candle to the weird Christmas traditions found in communities across Canada. From mummering in Newfoundland to belsknickeling in Nova Scotia, here are our picks for the strangest Canadian Christmas traditions. 

Strange Christmas Traditions: The Mummers of Newfoundland

While masked revelers going door to door in search of tricks and treats might evoke a very different holiday, mummering is a much beloved Canadian Christmas tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador. Originally practiced on the British Isles long ago, mummering or janneying is a unique variation of caroling where performers don makeshift masks and costumes to go door-to-door singing and dancing while their hosts attempt to guess who they are.

Though the tradition nearly died out in the 19th century after the practice was illegalized, mummering has enjoyed a resurgence since the release of The Mummer’s Song by popular Newfoundland folk music duo Simani in 1982 introduced a whole new generation of islanders to the custom. 

The renewed interest in mummering even led to the establishment of the annual Mummers Festival in St. John’s, in which mummers across the province come from far and wide to join a Mummers Parade through the streets of the city. The festival also includes workshops and presentations on the art of mummering, as well as how to build your very own hobby horse.

While traditional mummering costumes look like something out of a folk horror movie – and there has been at least one horror movie made about mummers – modern celebrations of this quirky Canadian Christmas tradition are nothing to be afraid of.

Strange Christmas Traditions: Le Fete de Roi 

Among lesser-known French Canadian Christmas traditions, Le Fete de Roi is a special celebration that marks the end of the holiday season in French-speaking territories across the world. Meant to mark the Catholic feast day of Epiphany in early January, Quebeckers celebrate the occasion with pastries called galettes des rois or cakes of the king. These round, crusty pastries are a common sight in supermarkets and bakeries in Quebec during the holiday season, often topped with paper crowns of gold.

More than just a delicious Christmas treat, each galette des rois contains a small token called la fève that marks whoever discovers it in their slice as the king or queen for the day and given permission to wear the paper crown. To prevent accusations of trickery, in some households the youngest child is tasked with calling out the order in which each person receives a slice and the final slice is always reserved in case another visitor arrives, so that everyone has a chance to become king.

While la fève traditionally took the form of a fava bean, these days bakers usually use plastic crown tokens or figurines of popular characters instead, not unlike a Kinder Surprise egg or Happy Meal toy. Some people even make it their mission to collect as many of these royal tokens as possible during Le Fete de Roi.

Strange Christmas Traditions: Belsnickeling in Nova Scotia

A close cousin of mummering, belsnickeling is one of the strangest Nova Scotia Christmas traditions, in which practitioners dress up as the bedraggled Christmas ogre Belsnickel and go house to house demanding people guess who they are. Originally a German custom, belsnickeling was brought to North America by 18th century immigrants and while the practice has largely died out, it is celebrated to this day on Nova Scotia’s South Shore and Pennsylvania. 

In German folklore, Belsnickel is a Santa Claus-esq figure dressed in furs and rags who rewards good boys and girls with gifts of nuts and candies while punishing naughty children with his hazel switch. A more ominous figure than jolly old Saint Nick, poor Belsnickel would be all but forgotten if it wasn’t for this obscure Nova Scotia Christmas tradition, as well as that one episode of The Office.

In fact, belsnickeling is so obscure that a 2018 Porter Airlines article on the practice caused an uproar as Nova Scotians on Twitter insisted they’d never heard of it before. However, it does remain celebrated in small villages and parts of the South Shore.

Strange Christmas Traditions: St. Catherine’s Taffy

Another unique (and delicious) French Canadian Christmas tradition, Quebec traditionally celebrates the Feast of St. Catharine on Nov. 25 with a sweet concoction called St. Catharine’s Taffy. The tradition of Taffy Day is credited to French nun Marguerite Bourgeoys, a famed clergywoman who founded Notre Dame de Montreal who was named Canada’s first female saint in 1982.

Bourgeoys and her sisters were instrumental in educating poor young women in the fledgeling colony and helped settle les filles du roi and match them with male suitors. It is said that Bourgeoys first started making her famous taffy to reward her charges, who later baked their own to gift to men they were interested in, turning St. Catharine’s Feast into an early Valentine’s Day (St. Catharine being the saint of unwed women.)

While that element of the tradition hasn’t lived on to modern days, St. Catharine’s Taffy is still a popular treat in Quebec in the early days of the holiday season.

Choice Hotels in Canada