Statutory holidays aren’t just random dates on a calendar; they’re real opportunities! If you get what they’re all about, you’re already a step ahead in the business game. Holidays give you a peek into the heart and soul of a community, showing what people value, how they shop, and how they celebrate. It’s an eye-opening window into the cultural and social fabric of a country.
As a start-up founder in a new country, being attuned to Ontario’s statutory holidays helps you in many different ways:
- Respect employee rights and sentiment
- Foster deeper connections with your customers
- Optimize marketing strategies
- Anticipate operational requirements and fluctuations
In this blog, we’ve put together a crash course on Ontario’s statutory holidays and their significance to your business.
But first, what’s the difference between Federal and Provincial statutory holidays in Canada?
Jobs in Canada are overseen either by a provincial government or the federal government. If the job falls under federal jurisdiction, the federal holidays apply instead of the provincial holidays. But in reality, only roughly 6% of the Canadian population is employed in sectors governed by federal standards. These are typically your financial institutions, airlines, postal services, and federal administrative jobs.
But, what is important to understand here is that there is a difference between federal and provincial holidays in Canada. While some holidays, such as Christmas and New Year’s Day are universally observed at both the federal and provincial levels, this isn’t always the case.
Let’s take, for instance, Remembrance Day. It’s not commemorated as a holiday in Ontario, but it is a Federal holiday. This means:
Post services are halted on November 11, but educational institutions remain functional.
Conversely, Ontario celebrates Family Day, a holiday not recognized by the federal government. This means:
Academic institutions shut down on the third Monday of February, while postal services operate as usual.
So, if you’re based in Ontario, your company must follow Ontario’s list of statutory holidays, and any other holidays outside of that are left to your discretion.
List of Ontario’s Statutory Holidays and its significance to your business
1. New Year’s Day (January 1)
New Year’s Day is a universal celebration of the beginning of the new calendar year! People generally bring in the new year on the evening of December 31st, with family and friends in their homes or out in bars or clubs. The city of Toronto puts on a massive fireworks show on the waterfront with a DJ and ice skating. Heading out of the city to enjoy ice-fishing or the Northern Lights are also quite popular choices.
Importance of New Year’s Day for your startup
Being a time filled with reflection and new resolutions, startups can use this to launch new products, services, or strategies. It’s a particularly perfect time for fresh marketing campaigns, tapping into people’s aspirations for a fresh start!
2. Family Day (Third Monday in February)
Family Day isn’t recognized as a federal statutory holiday, it is celebrated only in Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. It’s a super special day set aside solely to prioritize family and to celebrate with loved ones! Families generally bundle up and getaway for mini-vacations, go to local attractions like zoos, museums or enjoy outdoor activities like snow biking and snowshoeing.
Importance of Family Day for your startup
This day is a reminder for startups to value work-life balance at their company. Partner up with family related activities and offer passes or coupons to show that you really care. If your business is involved in family-friendly products/services, this is one of the best seasons in Ontario to run a campaign.
3. Victoria Day (Monday preceding May 25)
Victoria Day, often referred to as the “May Two-Four” weekend, celebrates the birthday of Queen Victoria. It’s a federal statutory holiday in Canada. Queen Victoria played a significant role during her reign, especially in the context of Canada’s journey towards confederation. Her birthday, on May 24th, became a day of celebration in Canada long before the country’s confederation in 1867.
Ontarians, like many Canadians, often see Victoria Day as the unofficial start to the summer season. Traditionally, the long weekend is marked by firework displays, barbecues and picnics, parades, country cottage season, and gardening.
Importance of Victoria Day for your startup
As many Ontarians view the Victoria Day weekend as the unofficial onset of summer, startups have a terrific chance to launch summer-themed promotions or sales, capitalizing on this ubiquitous emotion. Additionally, by actively participating in or sponsoring community events like parades or firework displays, brands can elevate their visibility while underlining their commitment to community involvement and engagement.
4. Canada Day (July 1)
Source: Toronto City News
Canada Day, celebrated every July 1st (unless it falls on a Sunday, then it’s July 2nd) is affectionately known as “Canada’s Birthday.” This federal statutory holiday commemorates the day in 1867 when the British North America Act (later renamed the Constitution Act) unified three colonies into the single nation of Canada.
Across Ontario, and typically the whole country, Canada Day is met with vibrant enthusiasm. It’s not just a day off; it’s a day filled with patriotic festivities! Citizens don red and white, flock to community gatherings, and revel under the night’s fireworks. Families gather for barbecues, children participate in parades, and streets come alive with music and laughter!
Importance of Canada Day for your startup
For startups, Canada Day is a prime opportunity to emphasize your startup’s Canadian identity and capture the national spirit. Businesses can introduce uniquely Canadian promotions. Try championing local businesses, and sponsor local events to amplify your brand’s commitment to Canada!
5. Simcoe (Civic) Holiday (First Monday in August)
Civic Holiday is a federal holiday, not a statutory holiday across all the provinces in Canada. Interestingly, the name changes from province to province! Even within Ontario, it is known by different names in different cities – Ottawa calls it Colonel By Day, Hamilton calls it George Hamilton Day, and Toronto calls it Simcoe Day, after Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, the founder of York (later known as Toronto).
Generally a long weekend, the day is supposed to be a midsummer break, an opportunity to enjoy warm weather and outdoor activities. Beaches become populated with sunbathers and swimmers, families venture out for picnics in parks, and many take advantage of the long weekend to explore the province’s scenic spots or retreat to summer cottages.
Importance of Civic Holiday for your startup
With the general mood tilted towards leisure and relaxation, businesses can craft special promotions or events that resonate with the holiday spirit. Employers can encourage their teams to enjoy the outdoors with their friends and family.
6. Labour Day (First Monday in September)
Labour Day is a very important holiday in Ontario. It’s all about giving a nod to workers and the entire labour movement. Originating in the 19th century, it honours the struggles and achievements of workers who fought for better working conditions, fair wages, and reasonable work hours. Across Canada, it stands as a testament to the perseverance and unity of the working class.
In Ontario, Labour Day is a reflection of unity and solidarity. The day is marked by community events, parades championing the spirit of workers, and gatherings with family and friends. As summer winds down, it’s also an opportunity for Ontarians to enjoy the last vestiges of warm weather, often marking the informal end of the summer season.
Importance of Labour Day for your startup
Recognizing the essence of the holiday, businesses can engage in themes of hard work, unity, and community appreciation. Startups can also recognize and reward their own team’s hard work and/or host team appreciation events.
7. Thanksgiving (Second Monday in October)
Thanksgiving is a cherished tradition that revolves around gratitude, harvest, and family. Rooted in Canada’s Indigenous values, it signifies showing gratitude for the bounty of crops and game, celebrated through feasting, prayer, dance, and ceremonies. But in many other ways, the concept of thanksgiving has also been influenced by our American neighbors.
In Ontario and across Canada, Thanksgiving is synonymous with togetherness! It’s an occasion where families and friends convene over sweet butter tarts or syrup-filled pastry shells. Canadians typically finish the meal with a spicy pumpkin pie for dessert. During Thanksgiving in Ontario, you will also find people tuning into football, catching the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Parade, and diving into some Halloween prep and fun.
Importance of Thanksgiving for your startup
Tapping into themes of gratitude and community can be helpful for businesses during this time to connect with customers, and craft meaningful campaigns that echo the essence of the holiday. Teaming up with local charities or setting up food drives can really show the heart behind your brand. It’s all about giving back and being there for the community this season.
8. Christmas (December 25)
Source: Destination Ontario
Christmas in Ontario is a radiant celebration of joy, togetherness, and the spirit of giving. It marks the birth of Jesus and means a lot to Christians, but over time as in many parts of the world, it’s grown into a season for everyone to spread love and cheer!
In Ontario, the festive atmosphere is palpable. Homes and streets are adorned with lights, Christmas trees, and decorations. Carolers might be heard serenading neighbourhoods, while children eagerly await Santa Claus!
Importance of Christmas for your startup
Christmas presents a golden opportunity for startups. The festive spirit means consumers are on the lookout for gifts, special deals, and seasonal products. This is the best time to launch holiday-themed campaigns, and limited-time offers to boost end-of-year sales. Collaborative events with local artisans, charitable endeavours or sponsoring community-based activities like tree lighting ceremonies, can also greatly enhance community rapport.
9. Boxing Day (December 26)
Source: Daily Hive
Boxing Day is mostly followed by nations formerly under British rule, including Canada. It stems from a British tradition where employers would offer boxes of gifts and bonuses to their workers the day after Christmas. But today, it’s one of the biggest shopping events of the year!
Ontarians, along with other Canadians, approach Boxing Day with eager anticipation. It’s a day characterized by bustling shopping centres, sales, and the thrill of finding the best deals. It’s also a day for relaxation, where families might gather to enjoy leftovers from Christmas feasts.
Importance of Boxing Day for your startup
It’s a day when consumer drive is high, offering businesses a prime platform to clear out end-of-year stock or introduce new product lines. Flash sales, online discounts, or special in-store events can attract a flood of customers!
Other Ontario Celebrations and Commemorations to note:
- Sikh Heritage Month
- Vimy Ridge Day (April 9)
- Holocaust Memorial Day, Yom ha-Shoah April/May (determined by the Jewish lunar calendar)
- Asian Heritage Month
- Dutch Heritage Month
- Jewish Heritage Month
- Polish Heritage Month
- South Asian Heritage Month
- South Asian Arrival Day (May 5)
- Ontario Flag Day (May 21)
- Italian Heritage Month
- Portuguese History and Heritage Month
- Portugal Day – (June 10)
- United Empire Loyalists’ Day (June 19)
- Emancipation Day (August 1)
- Remembrance Week – November 5-11
- Holodomor Memorial Day (fourth Saturday in November)
- Albanian Heritage Month
- Hindu Heritage Month
Each of these presents a chance to engage with your audience, highlight your brand’s ethos, and incorporate a touch of Canadian culture into your business operations. Make the most of them!
Starting up in Canada?
We are BHive, a startup incubator located in Brampton, Ontario. We offer international startups the tools, resources, and space to establish – and quickly scale – their businesses in Canada and North America. To apply to our Global Entrepreneur Incubation Program, click here!