How are Canadians celebrating (or not) Christmas this year?

With COVID-19 cases numbers climbing and the holiday season in full swing and Christmas just around the corner, how will celebrations be impacted this year?

Every year, we ask Canadians how they are planning to celebrate Christmas.

Here’s a summary of what we found:

Canadians are most likely to greet one another with “Merry Christmas” this holiday season (58% – down 4-points from last year) – about a quarter will greet others with “Happy Holidays”. Of those who celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday 59% will greet others with “Merry Christmas”.

Holiday spirit has not been dampened too much by the pandemic, with almost all (82%) Canadians planning to celebrate Christmas this year – down 5-points from last year.

Christmas has shifted over the years from being celebrated primarily as a religious holiday to a secular holiday. Currently, half of Canadians report that they celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday – no change from last year.

Roast turkey is still the most popular choice to be served for Christmas dinner with 56% reporting they plan to serve that on their tables – but is down 8-points since last year and 19-points since 2012. Back in 2012, 75% of Canadians said they would serve turkey on their Christmas dinner table.  Chicken as the main course has increased over the years, along with vegetarian options.

Millennials are continuing to change the course of tradition. They are more likely to choose something other than turkey, like chicken, roast beef, or vegetarian options for their Christmas meal compared to older generations.

With most of us spending much more time at home this holiday season, decorating for the holidays could serve to lift our moods and remind us of the joy the holiday season brings. 3 in 4 plan to decorate their homes for Christmas – no real change from last year.

There is, however, a huge shift in travel plans this holiday season compared with last year – as suggested and encouraged by the Canadian government. 90% say they will NOT be travelling out of town this holiday season – up about 16-points from last year.

With budgets, a bit tighter this holiday season, a third of Canadians expect to spend less on gifts (up 12-points from last year) – although 4 in 10 say they plan to spend about the same as last year.

Online shopping has been a necessary alternative to in-store shopping during the pandemic and of the 72% who say they plan shop for gifts this holiday season, 65% report that they will do more than half of their holiday shopping online this year – up 19-points from last year. Millennials still lead the trend of online shopping, with 76% doing more than 50% to all their of their holiday shopping online this year – 25-points higher than boomers and 6-points higher than GenX.

Our team at Abacus Data also wanted to get to know our holiday traditions and holiday favourites. We asked Canadians to select their holiday preferences out of a pair of options.

Here’s a summary:
• Canadians are split on the type of Christmas tree they prefer: Artificial trees (53%) beats real trees (47%) by a whisker.
• Michael Bublé (54%) is the favourite over Bing Crosby (45%) but a somewhat larger margin.
• Gift wrap options divide the nation: 52% prefer gift bags while 48% prefer wrapping paper.
• Hot chocolate (72%) easily beats eggnog (28%) as a preferred holiday beverage.
• More would prefer to receive cash as a holiday gift (62%) than a gift card (38%).

Finally, almost eight in ten Canadians would prefer to have snow on Christmas than no snow on Christmas (21%).

We also asked respondents to select their favourite holiday foods, indoor and outdoor activities, and others from a list.

Here are the top five for each category.

Favourite Holiday Cookie:

Shortbread – 34%
Chocolate chip – 22%
Gingerbread – 18%
Sugar – 13%
Butter biscuits – 6%

Favourite Holiday Movie:

Home Alone – 26%
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – 15%
Elf – 12%
Miracle on 34th Street – 9%
It’s a Wonderful Life – 9%

Favourite Holiday Side Dish:

Potatoes – 35%
Stuffing – 35%
Vegetables – 13%
Cranberry sauce – 8%
Pigs in a blanket – 5%

Favourite Holiday Song:

Holy Night – 17%
All I Want for Christmas is You – 15%
Jingle Bells – 14%
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – 13%
White Christmas – 12%


Our survey was conducted online with 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and over from December 14 to 18, 2020. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.1%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.


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