Alberta is the westernmost of Canada’s three Prairie provinces. It was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and became a province of Canada in 1905. Its population of some 2.3 million people have come from virtually all corners of the world with substantial communities from Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The living cultural traditions of the people of Alberta characteristically consist of several layers. Commonly, one will find the remnants of folk tradition along with a religious tradition which has taken root and been institutionalised in Western Canada. Roman Catholic and Protestant cultural forms have also been at play in communities beyond their cultural boundaries. The national cultural identity of Western Canada consists of a mixture of British and American forms with the occasional traces of French cultural forms and values.

There are a great variety of religious services animating the Christmas season. Some draw on the Gospel narratives of the birth of Jesus telling the story in a dramatic presentation. The children’s procession with the infant Jesus at Saint Joachim& Read More
Alberta is the westernmost of Canada’s three Prairie provinces. It was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and became a province of Canada in 1905. Its population of some 2.3 million people have come from virtually all corners of the world with substantial communities from Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The living cultural traditions of the people of Alberta characteristically consist of several layers. Commonly, one will find the remnants of folk tradition along with a religious tradition which has taken root and been institutionalised in Western Canada. Roman Catholic and Protestant cultural forms have also been at play in communities beyond their cultural boundaries. The national cultural identity of Western Canada consists of a mixture of British and American forms with the occasional traces of French cultural forms and values.

There are a great variety of religious services animating the Christmas season. Some draw on the Gospel narratives of the birth of Jesus telling the story in a dramatic presentation. The children’s procession with the infant Jesus at Saint Joachim’s, Edmonton’s oldest French Catholic parish, sets the drama in motion. At Saint Anthony’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the eve of Christmas begins with a communal Holy Supper and moves to the Vesper service for the Feast of the Incarnation. For many Swedes and Norwegians, the early morning of December 13 is filled with light and the memory of the gifts of the Sun and of the Son of God when the eldest girl dons a crown of candles and becomes Saint Lucia. For the Greeks of Vancouver, the Nativity feast culminates in the Feast of Theophany on January 6th.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Fresco in Saint George's Church

Fresco of the Nativity of Our Lord. From the south transept, St. George the Victory Bearer Ukrainian Catholic Church, Edmonton, Canada. The complete Byzantine iconographic programme is currently being painted in this church by the iconographer Heiko C. Schlieper.

Photo : David J. Goa, 1995. Fresco: Heiko C. Schlieper
Folklife Collections, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


From the first Sunday of Advent until after the Epiphany, parishioners at Saint Joachim Catholic Church come and pray before their crèche. The handpainted plaster figures, or santon, reenact the Nativity each year in an elaborate setting in front of a side altar of the church. For the Midnight Mass celebration, the young child of a parish family is chosen to carry the infant Jesus up the central aisle of the church and place it in the crèche. Joining in this celebration of the wonder of Life, parishioners and choir serenade the procession with traditional French Christmas carols. On this occasion, the plaster baby that normally lies in the crib is replaced with a special wax figure. After Christmas the figures of the Three Wise Men mysteriously journey across the display, each day moving closer to the Nativity as the Epiphany, January 6th, draws near.
From the first Sunday of Advent until after the Epiphany, parishioners at Saint Joachim Catholic Church come and pray before their crèche. The handpainted plaster figures, or santon, reenact the Nativity each year in an elaborate setting in front of a side altar of the church. For the Midnight Mass celebration, the young child of a parish family is chosen to carry the infant Jesus up the central aisle of the church and place it in the crèche. Joining in this celebration of the wonder of Life, parishioners and choir serenade the procession with traditional French Christmas carols. On this occasion, the plaster baby that normally lies in the crib is replaced with a special wax figure. After Christmas the figures of the Three Wise Men mysteriously journey across the display, each day moving closer to the Nativity as the Epiphany, January 6th, draws near.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Crèche at Saint Joachim parish

Made in Holland, This crèche has been used since the early 1900's by the parish of Saint Joachim, a French-Canadian Roman Catholic Church in Edmonton. Shown are Mary, Joseph and the special wax Jesus figure used only for the Midnight Mass procession. The collection consist of a whole compliment of Nativity figures.

Photograph: Harry Korol, 1995
Collection : Collection of the Missionary Oblates, Grandin, Alberta, Canada.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


In Ukrainian homes throughout Canada the eve of the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord is celebrated with the home becoming the stable in Bethlehem where the Christ child is born. To this day straw is often spread throughout the dinning area. The evening begins with the search for the first star. Family and friends gather on the Eve of the Nativity of Christ for a Lenten feast, during which time a search for the gift is organized. Christ’s incarnation restores creation to its original blessedness. The twelve dishes of the meal are drawn from the whole of creation: field, garden, ocean, orchard and wilderness, and they are served in the context of a household liturgy.

On this night of wonders even the animals are feed from the festive table, for, as Slavic folklore says, it is at midnight of Christ’s birth that all creation is given the gift of speech and you wish to insure that the animals speak well of you.

The Eve of Nativity does not stand alone. Rather, for Orthodox Christians throughout Canada the meaning of this night is cultivated throughout the year. The liturgical calendar is structured around the life of the Virgin and the life of Chris Read More
In Ukrainian homes throughout Canada the eve of the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord is celebrated with the home becoming the stable in Bethlehem where the Christ child is born. To this day straw is often spread throughout the dinning area. The evening begins with the search for the first star. Family and friends gather on the Eve of the Nativity of Christ for a Lenten feast, during which time a search for the gift is organized. Christ’s incarnation restores creation to its original blessedness. The twelve dishes of the meal are drawn from the whole of creation: field, garden, ocean, orchard and wilderness, and they are served in the context of a household liturgy.

On this night of wonders even the animals are feed from the festive table, for, as Slavic folklore says, it is at midnight of Christ’s birth that all creation is given the gift of speech and you wish to insure that the animals speak well of you.

The Eve of Nativity does not stand alone. Rather, for Orthodox Christians throughout Canada the meaning of this night is cultivated throughout the year. The liturgical calendar is structured around the life of the Virgin and the life of Christ. Through its various feasts, associated with the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary) and with Christ, the faithful are called to recognize the gift of creation, the incarnation of the divine, and the human created in "the image and likeness of God."

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Romanian Festival Star

This festival star was used by the Willingdon Romanian community in Alberta for mummer's performances and other celebrations. Handmade in 1955 by a member of the community out of metal, wire, foil, paper and wood remnants, the star features an image of the Virgin and Child in the center, surrounded by light bulbs. On Christmas eve the star is strung up on a pole and carried by carolers as they journey from house to house.

Photograph : Harry Korol, 1995
Folklife Collections, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


"Bethlehem" in Hebrew means the "house of bread." Christ is the "bread of life," the one through whom Christians understand the meaning and purpose of life to be restored. This is witnessed most graphically in the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. Christmas Eve is the culmination of "little lent" in the Slavic communities of Alberta. On the eve of the Feast of the Incarnation, each Ukrainian home becomes Bethlehem and each person discovers anew that he or she is created "in the image and likeness of God." Each person is encouraged to identify with the Virgin Mary (the Theotokos), and, like her, give birth to divine love in their daily life.

Just as the Star marked the place of the Nativity of Christ’s birth, so this feast in recognition of Christ’s presence in the life of the faithful begins only with a procession around the home searching for the first star in the night sky. The identification of the Nativity of Christ with the presence of Christ—a restored creation—in the household is initiated in this ritual action.

The family icon, candles and a sheaf of wheat called a didduk are Read More
"Bethlehem" in Hebrew means the "house of bread." Christ is the "bread of life," the one through whom Christians understand the meaning and purpose of life to be restored. This is witnessed most graphically in the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. Christmas Eve is the culmination of "little lent" in the Slavic communities of Alberta. On the eve of the Feast of the Incarnation, each Ukrainian home becomes Bethlehem and each person discovers anew that he or she is created "in the image and likeness of God." Each person is encouraged to identify with the Virgin Mary (the Theotokos), and, like her, give birth to divine love in their daily life.

Just as the Star marked the place of the Nativity of Christ’s birth, so this feast in recognition of Christ’s presence in the life of the faithful begins only with a procession around the home searching for the first star in the night sky. The identification of the Nativity of Christ with the presence of Christ—a restored creation—in the household is initiated in this ritual action.

The family icon, candles and a sheaf of wheat called a didduk are carried in procession around the home, ritually welcomed and placed to preside over the feast. On this night of wonders all life is welcomed. The didduk embodies the family’s ancestors and becomes a focus for prayers of thanksgiving and regard for all those who have entered the sanctuary of the cosmos, having clothed the family in life.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Procession around home

Father and son in procession around the home, searching for the first star.

Photograph : David J. Goa, 1995
Folklife Collections, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Icon, candles and didduk on side table

Icon, candles and didduk on side table.

Photo: David J. Goa, 1995.
Folklife Collections, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


In the iconography of the Christian church this type of image of Mary, the virgin mother, and the Christ child is called the icon of the incarnation. It speaks to the faithful about the meaning and purpose of the birth of Jesus and calls them to identify with the Theotokos ("birth-giver of God"), giving birth to divine love in the world.
In the iconography of the Christian church this type of image of Mary, the virgin mother, and the Christ child is called the icon of the incarnation. It speaks to the faithful about the meaning and purpose of the birth of Jesus and calls them to identify with the Theotokos ("birth-giver of God"), giving birth to divine love in the world.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Theotokos Joy of Canada icon

Theotokos Joy of Canada icon was painted by Slavko Protic for the Monastery of All Saints of North America, Dewdney, British Columbia, Canada in 1986. The maple leaves and "fleur-de-lys" motifs on the garments and the annual Joy of Canada pilgrimage mark the advent of a Canadian Orthodox tradition.

Photograph : David J. Goa, 1995
Folklife Collections, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


O thornless rose of ineffable beauty,
thou didst bud forth on the border of paradise.
For through thine unopened gate, the gate was opened
and through thy sacred icon
thou dost call the Canadian people to enter in,
proclaiming thyself to be their protectress
and defence against the enemy.
Wherefore we cry unto thee: Rejoice joy of Canada.

Rejoice, fragrant blossom of Paradise,
Rejoice, vine that bore the fruit of life,
Rejoice, garden in which God united with the human nature,
Rejoice, gate of Paradise,
Rejoice, ladder from heaven to earth,
Rejoice, restoration of Eve,
Rejoice, mother of the New Adam,
Rejoice, mother of Him Who bruised Satan’s head,
Rejoice, Joy of Canada.
From the Akathist Hymn for the Theotokos, "Joy of Canada" written by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Monastery of All Saints of North America.
O thornless rose of ineffable beauty,
thou didst bud forth on the border of paradise.
For through thine unopened gate, the gate was opened
and through thy sacred icon
thou dost call the Canadian people to enter in,
proclaiming thyself to be their protectress
and defence against the enemy.
Wherefore we cry unto thee: Rejoice joy of Canada.

Rejoice, fragrant blossom of Paradise,
Rejoice, vine that bore the fruit of life,
Rejoice, garden in which God united with the human nature,
Rejoice, gate of Paradise,
Rejoice, ladder from heaven to earth,
Rejoice, restoration of Eve,
Rejoice, mother of the New Adam,
Rejoice, mother of Him Who bruised Satan’s head,
Rejoice, Joy of Canada.

From the Akathist Hymn for the Theotokos, "Joy of Canada" written by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Monastery of All Saints of North America.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Theotokos Joy of Canada Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage with the Theotokos Joy of Canada icon at the Monastery of All Saints of North America, Dewdney, British Columbia, Canada, 6 August 1995. The icon, focusing the attention of the faithful on the meaning of Christ's incarnation for the restoration of human nature, is carried in procession from the gate house of the monastery across a local stream ("the Jordan" river) for the liturgy in a grove of trees.

Photograph : David J. Goa, 1995
Folklife Collections, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


For the Greeks in Vancouver, the Nativity feast culminates in the Feast of Theophany, 6 January. Theophany is the celebration of Christ’s Baptism. The baptismal font, for Orthodox Christians, is understood as a spiritual womb. During the week of Theophany the Priest blesses the homes in the parish and prepares for the arrival of the Bishop for the Sunday liturgy.

Immediately following the Sunday liturgy for the feast of Theophany, Bishop Soterios goes in procession to the Vancouver harbor, boards a boat and proceeds just off shore at Kitsalano Beach. He offers prayers of blessing for the gift of water including the Pacific Ocean. Following the blessing he takes his hand-cross, which is tied with a sprig of basil, and throws it into the water. The entrance of the cross of Christ into the water is a symbol of Christ’s birth and baptism (Theophany) restoring the blessedness of creation. A young man from the local Greek community dives from another boat, swims to the place where the cross entered the ocean, and dives to retrieve the cross and bring it to the Bishop.
For the Greeks in Vancouver, the Nativity feast culminates in the Feast of Theophany, 6 January. Theophany is the celebration of Christ’s Baptism. The baptismal font, for Orthodox Christians, is understood as a spiritual womb. During the week of Theophany the Priest blesses the homes in the parish and prepares for the arrival of the Bishop for the Sunday liturgy.

Immediately following the Sunday liturgy for the feast of Theophany, Bishop Soterios goes in procession to the Vancouver harbor, boards a boat and proceeds just off shore at Kitsalano Beach. He offers prayers of blessing for the gift of water including the Pacific Ocean. Following the blessing he takes his hand-cross, which is tied with a sprig of basil, and throws it into the water. The entrance of the cross of Christ into the water is a symbol of Christ’s birth and baptism (Theophany) restoring the blessedness of creation. A young man from the local Greek community dives from another boat, swims to the place where the cross entered the ocean, and dives to retrieve the cross and bring it to the Bishop.

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

The Theophany Feast or the Great Blessing of Waters

Bishop Soterios off Kitsalano Beach, Vancouver.

Photograph : David J. Goa, 1995
Folklife Collections, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

© 1995, RCIP-Réseau canadien d'information sur le patrimoine. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify how people, events, and ideas of the past shape the present;
  • Describe some Christmas religious traditions in Canada and their historical development;
  • Compare Christian religious traditions, between cultures including Francophone and Ukrainian Canadian, and over time.

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