Holidays: Canada vs NZ

Posted by Patrick Lam on Saturday, May 15, 2021

Table Of Contents

I meant to write this post two weeks ago but got sidetracked into writing about NZ vs Canadian seasons. Holidays mark the passage of time and let us know where we are in a year. I know what’s when in Canada, but things are completely different here, in part due to being on the other side of the equator, and in part due to being a different country, far away. Let’s try to figure it out.

First of all, nomenclature. I’m used to the term “statutory holiday” but it looks like that’s now only a Quebec term, translated from jour ferié. Ontario and New Zealand government webpages both refer to public holidays.

Counts

NZ Ontario Québec
Vacation 4 weeks 2 weeks (3 after 5yrs) 2 weeks (3 after 3yrs)
Holidays 11 (12 in 2022) 9 (+ Civic Holiday = 10) 8
Parental 52 weeks, 26 paid + 2 partner 50 weeks at 55%, cap $29k more than Ontario

NZ has at least four weeks of “paid annual holidays”, also known here as annual leave, in addition to “up to 11 public holidays each year”, with a new one, Matariki, to be added in 2022. (Parental leave, which is not at all a holiday: the birth parent/primary carer has up to 52 weeks of leave, of which 26 are paid; the partner has 2 weeks, although other weeks out of the 26 can be shared.)

Ontario has 9 public holidays (plus Civic Holiday, a municipal holiday which everyone seems to have off), while Quebec has 8. In Ontario, minimum vacation time is 2 weeks until 5 years' employment, at which point it goes to 3 weeks. Quebec is similar except that 3 weeks' entitlement starts in the 3rd year. (The birth mother gets 15 weeks, and both parents can split 35 more weeks, at 55% of normal pay, capped at $29k for just short of one year of leave; or, the 35 weeks of pay can be taken over 18 months of leave. Quebec has 5 weeks for the father at 70% or 3 weeks at 75%, and 4 additional weeks if each parent uses at least 8 weeks of parental leave, plus more time at 70% rather than 55%. In general, the guarantee of one’s job being held during maternity leave seems to be stronger in Canada.)

The “up to” covers an omission in New Zealand, though. If one is not scheduled to work on Mondays, one is not guaranteed to get a replacement holiday. Three of the 11 public holidays are defined to be Mondays. Ontario and Quebec have somewhat complicated rules about that.

Correspondence

We can look at this in two ways: by what’s being celebrated, and by the time of year (the season).

By what’s being celebrated

New Zealand Ontario Québec
New Year’s (Jan) New Year’s (Jan) Jour de l’an (Jan)
Family Day (Feb)
Easter (Apr) Easter (Apr) Pâques (Apr)
Queen’s Birthday (Jun) Victoria Day (May)
Journée des Patriotes (May)
Waitangi Day (6 Feb) Canada Day (1 Jul) Fête nationale (24 Jun)
Fête du Canada (1 Jul)
Regional Anniversary Day Civic Holiday (Aug)
Labour Day (Oct) Labour Day (Sep) Fête du travail (Sep)
Thanksgiving (Oct) Action-de-Grâce (Oct)
Anzac Day (Apr) Remembrance Day (Nov) Jour du Souvenir (Nov)
Christmas (Dec) Christmas (Dec) Noël (Dec)

Remembrance Day is not a statutory holiday; Civic Holiday is municipal in Ontario.

By seasons

New Zealand Ontario Québec
New Year’s (Jan) New Year’s (Jan)
Family Day (Feb)
Labour Day (Oct) Good Friday (Apr) Good Friday or Easter Monday (Apr)
Victoria Day (May) Journée des Patriotes (May)
Christmas (Dec) Fête nationale (Jun)
Boxing Day (Dec)
New Year’s (Jan) Canada Day (Jul) Canada Day (Jul)
Day after New Year’s (Jan)
Waitangi Day (Feb) Civic Holiday (Aug)
Good Friday (Apr)
Easter Monday (Apr) Labour Day (Sep) Labour Day (Sep)
Anzac Day (Apr) Thanksgiving (Oct) Thanksgiving (Oct)
Queen’s Birthday (Jun)
Matariki (Jul) Christmas (Dec) Christmas (Dec)

Plus Regional Anniversay Day in NZ, which varies.

Holidays in common

New Year’s

New Year’s is New Year’s, when the calendar rolls over. By the seasons, though, January 1 is the same time of year as Canada Day (which we’ll discuss below).

Day after New Year’s

Also, the day after New Year’s Day is a public holiday in New Zealand. Can be a “Saturday or Monday” holiday, unlike others which are always scheduled for Mondays.

New Year's Day at Red Rocks (NV); biking to work in January in Waterloo; arriving at Wellington Airport on January 1, 2020; Dunedin, January 1, 2021.

Good Friday/Easter Monday

Like New Year’s, this is at the same time in NZ and Canada, unless one is Orthodox Christian. In Ontario it is Good Friday; in Quebec it is Good Friday or Easter Holiday at the employer’s choice; and in New Zealand it is both Good Friday and Easter Monday. Bonus fact: no alcohol sales in NZ on Easter Sunday, as well as Christmas and half of Anzac Day.

Seasonally, Easter is a beginning-of-spring holiday in the Northern Hemisphere and more like end-of-summer in New Zealand, like Canadian Labour Day.

  • In terms of being a 4-day weekend in the fall, it would be closest to US Thanksgiving, but it’s not like Thanksgiving at all in the sense of mass travels and family events, as far as I can tell.
  • The end-of-summer facet of NZ Easter is somewhat analogous to Canadian Labour Day (and Canadian Easter is analogous to NZ Labour Day?). We found that hotel and flight availability was quite low around Easter this year, even with closed borders. We have only experienced real NZ Easter this year; last year we were still in lockdown lite, aka Alert Level 3.
Easter on the Vallée Blanche (Chamonix); at Smith Rocks (OR); at the Wellington Botanical Garden; at the Wellington Harbourside Market.
Sechseläuten, or exploding snowman festival, in spring in Zurich (typically a few weeks after Easter).

Waitangi Day / Canada Day / Fête nationale (June 24, Québec)

Per Wikipedia, and consistent with my recollections, Waitangi Day in NZ has “no mass parades or firework displays, nor truly widespread commemorations”. There is a ceremony at dawn at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

There is a large Canada Day celebration in Ottawa and there used to be a large one on campus in Waterloo (indeed, we wondered where everyone was in Uptown Waterloo on Canada Day one year). Québec Fête nationale celebrations are quite boisterous. In both cases we see lots of Canadian or Quebec flags. I don’t see a lot of NZ flags any time. (They also failed to reach consensus on changing their flag recently.)

Te Whare Runanga Waitangi meeting house; spending Canada Day in Selçuk, Turkey; Fête nationale bonfire celebrated on the Koroc.

By the seasons, Waitangi Day is like Ontario’s Civic Holiday, in the middle of summer. As mentioned above, Canada Day is NZ New Year’s Day.

Labour Day

In terms of the motivation for the holiday, NZ Labour Day (which is in October, i.e. spring, corresponding to the traditional May Day/International Workers' Day celebration) and Canadian Labour Day (fall) spring from the same international trade union movement.

Canada’s Labour Day, by the calendar, signifies the end of summer, in sync with the US. (“No white after Labour Day!") As discussed above, that’s kind of like NZ Easter. On the other hand, NZ Labour Day is kind of like Canadian Easter.

Anzac Day / Remembrance Day

The clear analogy is between Remembrance Day in Canada and Anzac Day in New Zealand. The NZ Returned and Services' Association (≈ Royal Canadian Legion) sell poppies, but they’re like the UK poppies, not the Canadian ones. Found out about that difference here. I also don’t think all public figures have to wear poppies around Anzac Day here in NZ.

Canadian and NZ poppies. Credit hobvias sudoneighm - Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link and Moriori, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The Canadian High Commission contributed a wreath to the NZ Anzac Day ceremony. Also here are what I think are some actual poppies in Wellington.

All of these holidays are in the fall, although Remembrance Day is a few weeks later in the fall than Anzac Day.

Christmas

Christmas is everywhere of course, although the weather is quite different. NZ Christmas weather is more like Canada Day weather. Canadian Christmas is like Matariki, although NZ isn’t actually cold.

Pohutukawa in Wellington; Christmas tree in Queenstown; snow-covered trees in Vermont.

There are 5–6 weeks of NZ school holidays after term 4, including Christmas, which is as close as NZ gets to North American summer holidays for schoolchidlren.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day is also a holiday in NZ and Ontario but not Quebec. Of course Quebecers still go to Boxing Day sales. I saw some Boxing Day sales in NZ but I don’t think it’s quite as big a thing as in Canada. Retailers in Canada have recently tried to import Black Friday.

From a Canadian perspective

Family Day (Ontario)

No equivalent in Quebec, nor in New Zealand.

Victoria Day/Journée nationale des patriotes

When I grew up in Quebec this was the Fête de Dollard, but trying to subdue First Nations became less socially acceptable, so the holiday was renamed. In the rest of Canada the holiday is Victoria Day or May 24, marking the unofficial beginning of summer, and usually the week before US Memorial Day.

I haven’t noticed a late spring/beginning-of-summer holiday in NZ, although there are school holidays after NZ term 3 (first half of October).

Spout Path (NL); Yamnuska (AB); bunny, mother goose and goslings in Waterloo; Kamouraska (QC).

Canada Day (as marked in Québec)

There is a parade in Montréal, and lots of people move (leases often end on July 1). You would see some Canadian flags at the parade.

Civic Holiday (Ontario)

Maybe the analogy is to the NZ Regional Anniversary Days, since Civic Holiday is recognized municipally in Ontario and not provincially. In terms of the time of the year, probably closest to Waitangi Day. In terms of being a late-summer holiday, I got nothing. I also don’t know this holiday that well, not having grown up with it.

Thanksgiving

We’re now into the start of the fall. Indian summer is still to come. I don’t know of any harvest holiday in New Zealand. Also, seasons are less distinct in New Zealand, but probably Anzac Day (late April) by the seasonal metric. Corresponds to the end of term 1 school holidays in New Zealand (second half of April) I guess. Not aware of any family gathering holidays analogous to Thanksgiving (of course there’s Christmas too).

Wild turkey with chicks spotted at Ruapekapeka Pā. Dezadeash Lake in the fall, Kluane.

From a NZ perspective

I don’t have much insight into these holidays.

Queen’s Birthday

Somewhat analogous to Victoria Day in terms of the reason for it. Canada fixes the name of monarch whose birthday we are supposedly celebrating, although Victoria Day is actually supposed to be the official birthday of Canada’s sovereign. Not analogous in terms of the time of year; two weeks before the winter solstice. Late fall, close to US Thanksgiving.

Matariki

This new holiday has been celebrated by Maori, and is comparable to the Yuletide holiday solstice that so many traditions have, which the Christians co-opted into Christmas.

Happens to be the same day as Québec’s Fête nationale in 2022, though will float. NZ Term 2 school holidays are two weeks after this.

By NASA, PJ_1004 - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/Pleiades_large.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Regional Anniversary Day (NZ)

Varies through the country. Maybe closest to Ontario’s Civic Holiday in some ways. I was surprised that Civic Holiday isn’t an official Ontario public holiday.