At Bits of Australia, we are all about gifts so we make it our business to be considerate of the customs and traditions of other cultures! Whether you are visiting Canada for business or pleasure or receiving Canadian guests, this little guide to the do's and don'ts of Canadian gift giving etiquette will help you choose the ideal gift for every occasion.
Canada's culture has been influenced by European culture and traditions, especially British and French, as well as its own indigenous cultures. America has also influenced Canadian culture because of the proximity between the two nations. All of these different influences have resulted in quite a diverse set of customs and traditions including those related to gift giving.
Business Gift Giving
- Gift-giving does not play a big role in Canadian business culture. If you do choose to give a Canadian business associate a gift, remember that the thought put into the gift is more important than the monetary value of the present.
- It is customary to exchange Christmas and/or New Year's cards, thanking your business associates for their business during the year.
- You are not expected to exchange gifts at social events with colleagues or business partners.
- Gifts which are unique to your home country or region will always be appreciated.
Personal Gift Giving
- Gift giving in Canada is generally fairly restrained. While extravagant presents may be exchanged between some families and friends on birthdays and at Christmas, others may only give small gifts or none at all.
- Weddings are the only occasion on which it is always expected that every guest will take a high quality gift.
- Gifts are normally opened as soon as they are received, and in front of the gift giver.
- If you are invited to a Canadian home for dinner it's a good idea to take a good quality box of chocolates, bottle of wine or a bunch of flowers for the host.
- If you are invited to a friend's home for dinner in Quebec and you want to take flowers for the host, make sure you send flowers the day before the dinner party as this is standard French protocol. If you are giving the host wine in Quebec, it's a good idea to select the highest quality wine you can afford. To learn more about French gift giving etiquette, check out our helpful guide.
- While a lot of Canadians might not go all out when it comes to giving gifts, the tradition of giving greeting cards to friends and family on special occasions is extremely popular. It's a great way to show you haven't forgotten the recipient's important day or milestone.
Gift Giving Holidays
- Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated earlier than it is in the U.S. While the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November, the same holiday is celebrated by Canadians on the second Monday of October. Most people get the day off work and many of them use their three-day weekend to visit family and friends or host big Thanksgiving feasts at their own homes. Thanksgiving is traditionally a chance to give thanks for a good harvest and good fortune over the past year. Gifts are not customarily exchanged at Thanksgiving but if you are invited to someone's house for a meal during the celebrations you should ask the host what to take.
- Christmas is the biggest gift giving holiday in Canada. Many Christian Canadians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on 25th December, exchanging gifts and enjoying festive meals on this day. Popular gifts for children include toys, games and sweets. Ideal Christmas gifts for adults include music, clothes, good quality alcohol, practical items for the home or office, and luxury products.
- Some Canadian people, particularly those in Quebec, exchange gifts on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day or on both days.
- Canada Day, on 1st July, is the national day of Canada. It celebrates the anniversary of July 1, 1867 when Canada became a new federation with its own constitution by signing the Constitution Act. Canada Day is a national public holiday celebrated in all provinces and territories and most businesses are closed on this day. There are parades, outdoor concerts, carnivals and fireworks shows held across the nation. Canadians don't generally exchange gifts on Canada Day.
Gifts to Avoid
- If you are giving flowers, avoid red roses as they have romantic connotations, and white lilies or chrysanthemums as they are associated with funerals.
Here are a few great gift ideas for your Canadian friends, colleagues and relatives:
To browse more of our authentic Australian made gifts and souvenirs head to our exciting online gift shop.