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Across Canada, December is the month for celebrations. Many people decorate their homes with glistening lights, spend time enjoying home-cooked meals with loved ones, drinking hot cocoa, setting up Christmas trees or lighting menorahs on each night of Hanukkah.

However, for some, the holidays are spent observing more unique traditions. Here’s a look at a few funny rituals across Canada.

Growing up on the southern shore of Newfoundland, Lynn McShane was introduced to mummering as a child by her family.

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Now the executive director of Mummers Festival Inc., McShane is carrying on the custom of dressing in disguise and visiting others during the holidays as an adult. And she is not alone.

Mummering in Newfoundland has existed for more than 300 years, according to McShane. Those who partake in the tradition have come to be known as mummers.

Mummers dressed up in disguise.

Adam Coish/Mummers Festival Inc.

“Mummers get regaled in literally anything they can find in a closet or a trunk,” McShane told Global News. “The more outlandish, the better.”

“At its heart, it’s a disguising game,” she said.

After getting into disguise, friends and families of mummers will be met with a knock at their door and will be left to try and figure out who is under the costume.

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“You change your body shape. You cover your face and disguise your hands,” said McShane. “It’s very unique.”

“It’s a very old tradition that came across from England and Ireland as settlers moved over,” she said. “People really enjoyed it during the Christmas season.”

As mummering began to die out over the years, the Mummers Festival was created in 2009 to rekindle the tradition, according to McShane. Now in its 14th year, nearly 20 schools across Newfoundland participate in mummering activities during the season.

Each year, the tradition also includes a parade and a “Scoff ‘n Scuff” where thousands of mummers enjoy snacks and live music together, according to McShane.

Mummers Festival parade in Newfoundland.

Greg Locke/Mummers Festival Inc.

“There are long dark days during the month of December and so who doesn’t like a bit of fun and foolishness during those evenings,” McShane said.

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When people think of Christmas trees, most picture them decorated with twinkling lights and festive baubles.

But for the last three years, a certain Ontario store, like many other retailers, has been selling shiny green pickle ornaments for customers to stow away in the branches of their trees.

This season, TJ’s Treasures & Custom Creations in Oro Medonte, has already had to restock the product twice.

Pickle ornament.

TJ’s Treasures

“It’s just one of those fun little traditions,” Tanya Grenkie, store owner told Global News, noting customers specifically come in looking for the novelty ornament.

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This tradition involves hiding the pickle in the tree and when Christmas morning arrives, the first person to find it gets to unwrap the first present, according to Grenkie.

Some also allow the one who finds the pickle to have an extra gift, Grenkie said, noting her own family has participated in the custom for nearly a decade.

“We do it at our house,” she said. “It’s just something different at Christmas.”

There are many theories about where the tradition came from. A common thought is that the Christmas pickle has German origins though it is widely unknown there as pointed out in a 2016 survey from YouGov, an international data and analytics group.

According to the survey, 91 per cent of more than 2,050 German respondents said they didn’t know of the tradition.

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In this file photo, ornaments hang on the Popcorn, Peanut, Pretzel and Pickle Tree on display at the Jimtown Store in Healdsburg, Calif.

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

“I honestly don’t know where it started,” said Grenkie.

There’s another theory that it has to do with a certain Civil War soldier who ate pickles to save himself from starvation. “There are so many different little stories that go with it,” she added.

Chicken bones — are not what you think

During the festive season, chicken bones abound, but they’re not what most may think. These are spicy cinnamon-flavoured candies in shiny pink-coated shells filled with chocolate that many in New Brunswick enjoy during the holiday season.

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The treat was invented by Frank Sparhawk, a Ganong Bros. Ltd candymaker in 1885. Ganong is Canada’s oldest family-owned and operated chocolate company based in St. Stephen, New Brunswick.

The candy has become a holiday tradition in the province — it’s almost a Christmas staple for New Brunswickers. The candy is so popular that a local distillery has even created a chicken bones liqueur.

“They’re unique,” said Jeremiah Clark, who grew up in New Brunswick. “It’s really an Atlantic Canada holiday treat.”

A bottle of Chicken Bones Liqueur is shown in this handout image. For generations, a hard candy known as chicken bones has been a Christmas tradition in the Maritimes, but now a new drink that mixes the candy with liquor is in big demand during the holiday season.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Moonshine Creek Distillery

Clark, the CEO of Moonshine Creek Distillery created the “adult-oriented” version of the candy tradition so people in New Brunswick can enjoy it in every form.

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“It’s a very popular product that people seek out, especially this time of year,” said Clark, noting the local craft distillery sold around 10,000 bottles in 2021. “It became part of the more adult-oriented evolution of the tradition of the candy.”

Though the distillery is not affiliated with the candy creator Ganong, the spicy alcoholic drink that comes in a dark chocolate colour is a hit during the holidays — the only time it’s available for sale in New Brunswick liquor stores.

“We get referred to as the chicken guys,” Clark said.

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Krampusnacht evolved from a tradition known as Perchtenlaufen, according to Ross Harty, bard at Krampusnacht Edmonton. It has strong origins in Austria, he said.

The tradition, which became more widely known around the 1940s, originally involved adults dressing up as Krampus, an evil companion of Santa Claus, to scare naughty children before Christmas.

Now in Alberta, the tradition includes a Krampus walk at the start of December as partakers cruise Whyte Street in Edmonton to show off their costumes. A typical costume involves leather boots with pointed toes and studded embellishments, a furry long-haired suit and a mask with two horns, a tongue and a “grotesque” nose, according to Harty.

Krampusnaucht Edmonton, 2022.

Sean Gordon

“In the 1940s, people would turn their coats inside out to be more beastly,” he said.

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The first Krampusnacht Edmonton walk took place in 2012 with only ten people. This year, around 35 people participated in the tradition while hundreds lined the street to cheer the Krampus’ on.

“The roar of the crowd is always rewarding,” said Harty, who joined in 2013.

Krampusnaucht Edmonton.

Sean Gordon

“It’s a dark time of year, it’s a nice time to see a dark character that you know will be gone by morning.”

From dressing up to pickle hunts — Canadians enjoy these funny customs during holidays – National |

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