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COVID-19 & Canadian's Christmas Celebrations

More than half (56%) of Canadians have changed their Christmas plans because of COVID-19. Only 16% plan any travel (same day or longer) this Christmas.

For a snapshot, check our infographic summary.

For US results, check out our American summary.


Most Canadians are Staying Home

Over half (56%) of Canadians have decided to celebrate with only their immediate family over Christmas. However, ⅓ of households in Ontario and the Prairies (Manitoba/Saskatchewan) plan to still host outside family members (albeit a smaller number of people than usual).

The biggest impact is on travel: while more than half (53%) of Canadians typically travel for Christmas, only 16% plan to do so in 2020. Those living in the Prairies (26%) and Ontario (21%) are most likely to still plan travel (same day travel most commonly).


Messaging Clear - in most provinces

Unlike at Thanksgiving, where only 17% of Canadians had heard messaging about hosting a safer celebration, ⅔ of Canadians have heard messaging about safer Christmas gatherings.  Messaging has the highest penetration in Quebec (73%) and is lower in the Prairies (53%).  

However, only 46% of people in Ontario believe that they have been mandated by the government not to spend time with people outside their household.

“Messaging in most provinces has been clear - gatherings with people outside your household are banned. But in Ontario, despite much of the province being in Red or Grey Zones, less than half of Ontarians feel that they have been clearly directed not to have Christmas gatherings”, says Lori Reiser, Principal Consultant at Advanis, who conducted the survey of Canadians.

Expecting things to get worse before they get better

79% of Canadians expect COVID-19 cases to rise after Christmas (only 64% in the Prairies). Country-wide, there is support for bans on large gatherings (53% strongly agree, 71% strongly/somewhat). Much as they expected cases to rise after Thanksgiving (see, Canadians expect cases to rise after Christmas - and the majority support closures of school and non-essential businesses to reduce spread (64% and 57% respectively). 65% (up from 43% during Thanksgiving) plan to keep their families isolated for a few days after the holiday. 

“Despite government interventions in many regions, Canadians expect an increase in COVID-19 cases after Christmas”, says Reiser.


While Canadians worry about older relatives, Canadians 60+ are less worried about themselves - they plan more precautions, and will vaccinate when available

Although 73% of people under 60 are worried about potentially impacting their older family members, only 44% of older people are concerned about their own health during a Christmas family visit. Older Canadians are more likely to be taking precautions such as mask wearing, distant seating, or forgoing physical greetings, but are as likely as younger Canadians to be attending a celebration (37%). Older Canadians are more likely than younger Canadians to be vaccinated - 81% of those aged 60+ plan to be vaccinated when available, compared to 65% of those under age 60.  


Spending Less

Half (54%) of Canadians plan to spend less on gifts, decorations, and food this Christmas season, with those negatively impacted financially by COVID-19 most likely to be spending less (61%). 52% of Canadians are very (20%) or somewhat (32%) pessimistic about the economy. Only 38% expect that 2021 will see a return to normalcy. Negative financial effects are more likely to be felt by Canadian households earning lower incomes prior to the start of the pandemic. 


Key Regional Differences

Alberta has changed its tune

  • In our Thanksgiving survey, Albertans were most resistant to changes in their holiday plans (88% of Albertans planned to attend Thanksgiving gatherings, for example, and only 31% made any changes to make their gatherings safer).

  • This has changed dramatically in just two months. Only 28% plan on attending a gathering (the lowest proportion in the country), and 60% have made at least one change to their Christmas plans.

  • However, compared to 70% nationally, only 61% of Albertans plan to be vaccinated. 


Prairies are now the most lackadaisical 

  • 46% (vs. 37% nationally) of people in the Prairies plan to attend a Christmas gathering. Only 26% are concerned about safety (vs. 35% nationally), and 35% have made no changes at all to their gatherings to make them more safe (vs. 22% nationally). 

  • While 79% of Canadians expect COVID-19 cases to rise after Christmas, only 64% in the Prairies feel this way.

  • Compared to 70% nationally, only 56% of Prairie residents plan to be vaccinated. 


Ontario is a mixed bag

  • Only 46% of people in Ontario believe that they have been mandated by the government not to spend time with people outside their household.

  • 21% of Ontarians are still planning to travel, with the majority being same day travel. 

  • Rather than forgoing extended family visits (which half of Ontarians are doing, lower than other parts of Canada), one-third have reduced the number of family members joining them in celebration. They are instead relying on masking, distancing, and lack of physical greetings to keep family safe. 



  • 95% of Quebec residents typically attend or host a Christmas celebration. 94% have modifed celebrations thoughout 2020 (e.g., virtual or outdoor only).
  • 68% say they will celebrate Christmas with their household members only. 73% of Quebec residents have seen messaging about how to have a safer celebration (highest in Canada). 
  • The outdoors will be a haven for many, with 52% of Quebec residents planning to spend more time outdoors, and 25% planning on taking up a new winter activity (significantly higher than the rest of Canada). 
  • With the highest (58%) proportion of people able to work at home, 72% plan to keep their family home and isolated after Christmas. 2/3 think that non-essential businesses should also be closed for a short period to prevent COVID-19 spread. 



  • More than half of Atlantic Canadians will celebrate with extended family or friends this Christmas season (though 38% plan not to attend any gatherings).
  • This is not surprising, as only 35% live in an area with mandatory bans on gatherings.
  • Like other Canadians, Atlantic Canadians are (78%) expecting more COVID-19 cases after Christmas. 
  • 79% of Atlantic Canadians disagree with the statement "The COVID-19 outbreak is not as serious as the media is making it out to be."


Survey Methodology

An online survey of 1,121 Canadian adults and 1,030 American (U.S.) Adults was conducted by Advanis from December 9-13th, 2020. Details are available upon request. 

Canadian data was weighted by age, gender, and region (Atlantic region, Quebec & Nunavut, Ontario, Prairie region, Alberta & Territories, BC). Canadian participants were recruited using our General Population Random Sample by SMS, and completed the survey online. National results accurate to within +/- 3.0%, 19 times out of 20. Margin of error is wider among subsets of the population.

For other recent survey publications:

Advanis is a member of the Canadian Research Insights Council (CRIC) and confirms that this research fully complies with all CRIC Standards including the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements.

Contact Information

Lori Reiser, Principal Consultant (

888-944-9212 x4125

Follow Advanis on social media:

@AdvanisInsights on Twitter

Advanis on LinkedIn


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