Season’s greetings from Canadian Studies! 🎅🏻

A newsletter from a fellow Canadian organization in the Bay Area.

🎄 Canadian Studies Announcements 🎄
In this issue:
  • Happy holidays from Canadian studies!
  • A brief history of the Christmas tree in Canada
  • Holiday recipe: The tourtière, a Québécois holiday pie
  • Support Canadian Studies with an end-of-year gift
Happy Holidays from Canadian Studies!
It’s hard to believe, but 2021 is almost at an end. While the pandemic is once again creating challenges to celebrating our most cherished year-end traditions, we hope that you are able to spend this special time of year with those who matter to you. From Christmas roasts to New Year’s toasts, we hope that whatever you’re doing, the next two weeks are a time of peace, joy, and celebration.
On behalf of all of us at Canadian Studies, we look forward to seeing you in the New Year. Stay safe, stay warm, and be well! ☃️
A Brief History of the Christmas Tree in Canada
While last-minute shoppers across North America are scrambling to get popular items before they sell out, it turns out gifts aren’t the only thing affected. As the CBC reported last month, Canada is currently experiencing a Christmas tree shortage, particularly for highly-prized trees like the Fraser or Balsam fir. But while the Christmas tree may be today a Canadian holiday must-have, it didn’t start out that way. In the classic Canadian tradition, it actually began as a foreign custom that has since been thoroughly integrated into Canadian society.
The modern Christmas tree originated in 16th-century Germany, and is commonly credited to Martin Luther, though it possibly had earlier precedents. The first recorded Christmas tree in all North America appeared in Canada in 1781, at a party hosted by the German baroness Charlotte Riedesel in Sorel, Quebec. However, the custom was not popularized until the reign of Queen Victoria, who established an official royal tree along with her German husband, Prince Albert. Fashionable families rushed to copy the royal couple, and by the end of the century the custom had spread across Canada. And in another first, one of the world’s first electrically-lit Christmas trees was set up in the Westmount suburb of Montreal in 1896.
As the Christmas tree established itself across North America, this new demand brought new opportunities to enterprising farmers. The first dedicated Christmas tree farm was founded in the United States in 1901. Nevertheless, Canadians overwhelmingly used locally-cut wild trees up until around WWII. After this, increasing demand and urbanization made sourcing local trees impractical, and led to the growth of the Christmas tree industry, which today tops over $100 million annually in Canada alone.
So, what’s the future of the industry? Canada today produces up to 6 million Christmas trees annually, almost half of which are exported. The trees form a significant industry in several provinces, with 80% grown in Quebec, Ontario, or Nova Scotia. Demand continues to soar, with sales continue growing almost 15% a year since 2015.
Farmers say current shortages can be partially explained by a drop in trees planted during the last recession. However, the industry also faces several long-term challenges: despite increasing demand, the number of acres under cultivation dropped 15% between 2011 and 2016. Land prices in Ontario incentivize farmers to use land for other, more profitable purposes. And as older farmers retire, they say few young people are interested in continuing the family business. So just as Canadians adopted the Christmas tree one hundred years ago, they may soon find themselves adjusting to a new holiday tradition: the Christmas tree shortage.
Image #1: Engraving of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with their children. Anonymous artist, 1848. Webster Museum.
Image #2: Nova Scotia farmer prunes a balsam fir. Source: Madereugeneandrew on Wikimedia Commons.
Holiday Recipe: The Tourtière, a Québécois Holiday Pie
In the dark days of winter, there’s nothing as satisfying as tucking into a dish of warm comfort food with friends and family. For the people of Quebec, that dish is the savory meat pie called the tourtière. Dating back to the 1600s, this dish has become a staple of French-Canadian Christmas celebrations. Traditionally, it’s eaten as part of the réveillon, a long dinner held on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Regional variations made with various meats or fishes exist across Canada, including a famous version from the Lac-Saint-Jean region.
While the dish requires some preparation, it’s relatively forgiving (for baking) and easily adapted to taste. For simplified take on this holiday classic, visit; experts wanting to try a more traditional recipe can check out this one from the New York Times.
Image source:
🔔 Support Canadian Studies with a Year-End Gift 🔔
As we wrap up 2021, we’d like to remind you that our program depends on your support. 90% of Canadian Studies’ funding comes from friends like you. If you enjoy these newsletters or our monthly colloquium, please consider making a year-end gift. Your donation helps support our public events, graduate student fellows, and original research, and strengthens our community of Friends of Canada in the Bay Area.
Canadian Studies Program
213 Moses Hall #2308
Canadian Studies Program | Univ. of California, Berkeley, 213 Moses Hall #2308, Berkeley, CA 94720

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