One of the hardest things about being Canadian is the American influence. We grow up on American television, American food, and American news. It can be difficult to distinguish our identity from our abundant neighbors. I am not complaining, American media is way better than our one major television channel and our C-grade (C is for Canada) productions. But, we are Canadian and we do like to remember that. I don’t like watching hockey on anything but CBC. Tim Hortons over Starbucks any day, and every day. And, a dedication to read at least a few books by a Canadian author every year. For young children it can be harder to distinguish these differences.
With the major American influences our children grow up knowing more about America than they do their own homes. They learn more American cities, more American celebrities, and more about our neighbors in general. Sure, our schools focus on Canada, and teach as much about our home and native land as they can. Despite that, most of what they see and hear carries a heavy south of the border theme. Even many of our home grown heroes have left for the bigger audience (looking at you Gretzky, come home already). Teaching children about our sovereignty has become more and more difficult, and even more valuable.
How do we combat the red, white and blue dominance and bring focus and love back to the maple leaf? Corny, over-the-top, proud-and-loud, nationally distinct media. And, hook them early with the cheesiest of Canadian children’s books. You better bet we do it. Heck, when your baby comes home from the hospital, you get your package to apply for birth certificates, SIN cards, and all that, along with a present from the government. A board book titled, Canada 123. Which is what it sounds like, 1 beaver, 2 bags of poutine, 3 kids playing pond hockey, 4 bottles of maple syrup, and so on. It’s corny and its awesome! We like to step up that game for the holidays, too.
The holiday season makes it harder to distinguish our differences. It cant be that different, right? Oh, no our holidays have many differences. First off, there’s Thanksgiving. We have our Thanksgiving during harvest, when food is plentiful. By November the ground is frozen and it’s 30 below (Celsius). Black Friday is not a thing, well at least we didn’t want it to be, the Americans love pushing that consumerism on us. We don’t go about boasting that Santa probably lives on Canadian soil. We’re too busy, because this time of year is all aboot hockey. We are out playing hockey on our neighborhood rink. We are watching hockey, talking hockey, living hockey, and then Christmas just kinda happens. And, it’s more a community thing. We love getting together with all of our friends, family and neighbors in the coldest weather possible and slamming back some Timmy’s coffee… for some hockey.
To combat the extreme consumerist pressuring, we have to push on our children the more humble ideals. One of the best things Canada does for Christmas is the Santa letters. Kids can write a letter to the North Pole, and loads and loads of volunteers will write sweet adorable letters back, ‘from Santa’. Then we go back to those corny books, our favourite. There is…
Gadzooks: The Christmas Goose by Jennifer McGarth Kent and Ivan Murphy
A family comes together to nurture an injured Canadian goose back to health on Christmas morning. Despite Grampa wanting to cook the goose for a scrumptious Christmas dinner.
A Moose in a Maple Tree by Troy Townsin and Jennifer Harrington
A heavily Canadian influenced reimagining of the 12 days of Christmas. Ending with a maple tree full of lovable Canadian animals.
A Newfoundland Christmas by Dawn Baker
Two children are disappointed to be spending Christmas in Newfoundland, rightly so, (just kidding, my east coast brethren) until they see what they have to offer. Including sleigh rides and chopping down their own Christmas tree.
The Night Before a Canadian Christmas by Troy Townsin and Jennifer Harrington
Kind of how it sounds. It’s the Night Before Christmas, but with an abundant amount of Canadian references. Plus, there is a video of Canadian icon, Don Cherry reading this book.
A Porcupine in a Pine Tree by Helaine Becker and Werner Zimmerman
Yes, another Canadian 12 Days of Christmas story. What makes this one different? … nothing really, they changed the order of things. But, who cares!
Dashing Through the Snow by Helaine Becker and Werner Zimmerman
The return of Porcupine from that pine tree, in a Jingle Bells themed book including all of our favourite Canadian wildlife like a muskox and Sasquatch.
A Very Hockey Christmas by Gilles Tibo
Nicholas is having that Christmas every Canadian boy had at one point, where all he wants under the tree is everything hockey! In the end he gets what he wants but not what he expected.
So, you know what I meant when I said “corny, over-the-top, proud-and-loud, nationally distinct” children’s books. But, they are all great books. One’s that every Canadian child should read. I have read them to my kids, and I would give them as presents. And, we can teach them one more Christmas moral, is okay to be Canadian and proud.
Thanks booknerds, happy holidays, eh.