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Survey finds more optimism in Canadian festive feelings this year

Canadians who expect the holidays to be fun far outnumber those who expect a stress fest.
Christmas-ArtistGNDphotography-Eplus-Getty
About half of Canadians expect the holidays to be more fun than stressful

As most of the world prepares for the holiday season, the perceptions of Canadians on the elements that give meaning to our lives have not changed dramatically over the past year.

Research Co. and Glacier Media found that majorities of the country’s residents continue to deem “family” (78%, down two points since 2020) and “friends” (54%, unchanged) as “very important” to them on a personal level.

A year ago, 54% of Canadians deemed “country” as a “very important” aspect of their lives. This year, the proportion has fallen to 44%. Strong feelings of patriotism are highest in Atlantic Canada (48%) and lowest in Alberta (38%). And while 59% of Canadians aged 55 and over regard “country” as “very important,” the proportion drops to 38% among those aged 35 to 54 and to 33% among those aged 18 to 34.

Since 2020, we see no change in the prominence that Canadians place on “career” (29%) and “affluence” (11%). There is a two-point drop when we ponder the role of “religion” in our personal existence (22%).

After a year in which Canadians attempted to reconnect with the activities they were forced to forgo because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 49% of the country’s residents describe themselves as “very” or “moderately” spiritual, down three points since 2020. Women are more likely than men to think of themselves as spiritual (52% to 47%).

While spirituality has fallen slightly, there is a more severe drop on the questions related to religion. Half of Canadians (50%) identify as Christian, down six points since 2020. Almost one in five (18%) are atheist or agnostic, with the numbers climbing to 23% in Ontario and 24% in British Columbia.

There is also some movement in what we prefer to hear from people who wish us well. For the fourth consecutive year, the preferred greeting for Canadians is “Merry Christmas” (62%, down six points since 2020). The beneficiary is the seemingly more inclusive “Happy Holidays” (20%, up six points).

Practically half of Canadians (49%) expect the current holiday season to be “more fun than stressful,” while just over one in four (27%) consider that it will be “more stressful than fun.” This is a welcome change from the dreary scenario we outlined last year, when Canadians were more likely to look at December and January as a time of tension and worry (37%) than joy and laughter (30%).

On a lighter note (and I mean cheerful, not low in calories), the tastes of Canadians are not universal when it comes to the traditional culinary delights of the season. More than three in five say they like eating turkey (84%), cranberry sauce (64%) and brussels sprouts (62%).

Some allegedly more controversial offerings are also enjoyed by at least half of the country’s residents, such as fruitcake (56%), egg nog (54%) and mince pies (50%).

The numbers suggest that Canadians are in better spirits than they were last year, when mass vaccinations were not a certainty and gatherings with family and friends – the two most important components of our lives – were substantially different than in years past.

However, Canadians aged 35 to 54 are less likely than their younger and older counterparts to say that they consider themselves spiritual (46%) and more likely to expect a stressful holiday season (31%). Almost half of them (47%) also express a dislike of fruitcake. So please be kind to the members of generation X in your life. You may be adding to their holiday anxiety if you leave a fruitcake on their doorstep. •

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from December 8 to December 10 among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.