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Online Guide for Newcomers to Prince Edward Island - Canada

Holidays and Special Days

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In Canada we follow the Gregorian calendar which has 365 days in the year, divided into 52 weeks and 12 months. During the calendar year there are numerous holidays and other special days that are celebrated in Canada and PEI.

Statutory Holidays in PEI
January 1 New Year's Day*
Third Monday in February Islander Day*
Friday before Easter Sunday Good Friday*
Monday after Easter Sunday Easter Monday
Monday preceding May 25th Victoria Day
July 1 Canada Day*
First Monday in August Natal Day
First Monday of September Labour Day*
Second Monday in October Thanksgiving Day
November 11 Remembrance Day*
December 25 Christmas Day*
December 26 Boxing Day
* Mandatory holidays with pay for most employees

Statutory Holidays

Some statutory holidays are observed in all of Canada, and some are on provincial level, celebrated only in a specific province or territory.

On statutory holidays schools, government offices, banks, post offices, liquor stores, and most other businesses are closed in PEI. However, many tourist attractions, restaurants, and small convenience stores stay open.

There are seven mandatory holidays in PEI, when all employees should have a day off, or get extra pay if they have to work on those days.

Some organizations and businesses take collective vacation between Christmas and New Year.

New Year

Celebration of the arrival of the new calendar year is not as big in PEI as in some other parts of the world. Still, countdown parties are organized in homes, community centres, bars and hotels on New Year's Eve, December 31.

On New Year's Day, January 1, some people attend events called levées. A levée is a type of reception unique to Canada, held by the governor general, the lieutenant governors of the provinces, the military and others, to mark the start of another year and to provide an opportunity for the public to pay their respects. On the Island, many community centres and bars are open on January 1, offering 'moose milk' (eggnog and rum) from early morning until late at night.

Some events celebrating New Year's will take place on another date before or after the actual holiday.

Islander Day

This holiday was first introduced in 2009, and it does not mark any special event -- it just gives Island residents the chance to have a day off to relax and have a short winter break.

Easter

Easter is a Christian religious celebration. It falls at different time each year, at the end of March or beginning of April. Most Christians attend special church services from the Thursday before Easter Sunday until Easter Sunday. The Friday before Easter is called Good Friday and is a statutory holiday. In addition, all levels of government and many businesses and organizations also have a holiday on Easter Monday.

A popular modern celebration of Easter involves the Easter Bunny and the giving of chocolate and other candy in the form of eggs, bunnies, chickens and hens. Families get together to have fun and share meals, and it is a tradition that children wake up in the morning of Easter Sunday and search for chocolate eggs that the Easter Bunny has hidden for them.

Victoria Day

This is a holiday to celebrate both Queen Victoria's birthday and the current reigning Canadian sovereign's official birthday. It is sometimes unofficially considered the beginning of the tourist season in PEI. Victoria Day is not a mandatory holiday in PEI, and most businesses will stay open that day.

Canada Day

This day is Canada's birthday -- a celebration of the formation of the country of Canada. Many communities in Canada celebrate this day with musical events, fireworks, and food.

In PEI, families and friends get together for barbecue, and festivities are organized across the Island. The biggest Canada Day celebration takes place on Charlottetown waterfront. It is usually part of the Charlottetown summer festival. The celebration culminates with fireworks in the evening of July 1st.

Thanksgiving meal

Natal Day

This is a civic holiday to celebrate the 'birthdays' of the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island as provinces, and it falls on the first Monday in August. In PEI people sometimes call it 'Federal Government Holiday' -- federal government offices and services like Canada Post and Service Canada are closed on this day.

Labour Day

This is a holiday to pay tribute to working men and women. It is celebrated on the first Monday of September and also marks the last weekend before school starts, on the Wednesday after Labour Day.

Thanksgiving Day

In Canada Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on second Monday in October, at the end of the harvest season. This is a day when Canadians give thanks for things and people in their lives. Many Islanders celebrate it by having a special meal with family and friends. The meal usually includes turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables and pumpkin pie.

Remembrance Day

This day Canadians remember and honour veterans and members of armed forces. It is observed on November 11, to commemorate the official end date of World War I in 1918.

Christmas

Did you know?

The PEI ANC's Community Connections Program organizes Holiday Host activity each year -- volunteers from the community invite newcomers to their homes to share holiday meals and make them feel welcome. If you would like to participate, contact the Community Connections Program team. [See Related Resources]

Christmas is a Christian religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. Its central message is 'peace on Earth'. However, in modern day it has also become a celebration of giving and receiving gifts among family and friends. For many Canadians, it is the most exciting holiday of the year.

Many businesses and organizations organize office parties and open houses to share food and have fun around Christmas time.

In preparation for the holiday, Island families put up a Christmas tree in their homes and decorate it with lights and ornaments. Decorations are placed outside as well, with colourful lights and seasonal figures on houses and in front yards.

Children believe that Santa Claus brings them gifts on Christmas Eve if they have behaved well through the year. They write letters to Santa, who is believed to live on the North Pole, asking him to bring them gifts. On Christmas morning the family gathers around the Christmas tree and opens presents.

Boxing Day is the day after Christmas, where people traditionally rested after Christmas Day celebrations or visited family and friends. However, it is becoming known as a shopping holiday where many retail stores drop prices drastically to increase sales. The stores in PEI are usually closed on December 26. The big sales start the day after, and last until New Year's Day.

Note
  • If you have to work for an employer on a public holiday, you should either get paid extra for working that day, or you should get a paid day off on another day.
  • Some employers will allow one or more vacation days a year for employees who observe holidays that are not officially observed in Canada, which they can take on a day of their choice.
  • Some holidays, holiday gifts, cards and decorations have been popularized by companies to maximize profit. Do not feel obligated to participate and buy things you normally wouldn't.

Other Holidays and Special Days

Valentine's Day - February 14

This day celebrates love and affection. Couples express love to each other, and give each other cards and gifts -- usually flowers, heart-shaped candy or chocolate boxes and keepsakes -- and go out on dates. Children often exchange Valentine's Day cards at school.

Saint Patrick's Day - March 17

Originally, this day was in honour of the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. However, over time St. Patrick's Day has become a social day to celebrate Irish culture. On St. Patrick's Day, many people wear green clothing, shamrocks and Irish hats. Beware of people drinking excessively and leprechauns (mischievous characters from Irish folklore) on this day.

Mother's Day - Second Sunday in May

This is a celebration and recognition of mothers. People honour mothers in their family with cards and gifts. It has also become a tradition to treat the mom in the family with breakfast in bed, or a special brunch (late breakfast or early lunch) in a restaurant.

Father's Day - Third Sunday in June

This day is a celebration in honour of fathers. It complements Mother's Day.

July and August Special Days

There are a number of parade days in various communities across PEI in the summer months. Some businesses close for part of the day during the parade in their particular town or city. Provincial government offices also may be closed during that time.

Children 'trick or treating' on Halloween

Halloween - October 31

This day is based on a Celtic pagan tradition as a time of ghosts, goblins, and witches. However, it has become just a fun day for children to dress up in costumes and walk from door to door in their neighbourhoods, saying 'trick or treat' to get candy. Houses are decorated with colourful fall foliage, carved pumpkins, and sometimes scary, but often humorous creatures.

Youth and adults also enjoy Halloween by organizing and attending costumed parties on days leading to October 31.