Christmas in Canada #2: New Brunswick – St. Andrew’s-by-the-Sea and beyond

I wonder if the ubiquitous Harlan Miller was thinking specifically about New Brunswick when he quipped, “I wish we could put some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it ever month.”

That’s how I feel about Maritime hospitality in general and I get the sense that the trademark warmth and welcome extended by New Brunswickers is only magnified at holiday time. Whenever I’ve travelled Down East, I’ve found myself wanting to stuff some of that deep-rooted down-home friendliness into my back pocket. What better souvenir could you ask for?

Much has been written about New Brunswick’s tourist offerings in spring and summer. In fact, one of our colleagues penned a piece for this very web site, Discover Canada: New Brunswick. But what about the winter season – particularly Christmas?

So I checked in with Alison Aiton of Tourism New Brunswick to get a handle on the Yuletide offerings at this time of year.

St. Andrews by-the-Sea Lights Up!

St. Andrews by-the-Sea Winter Festival: The whole town is ablaze in colourful lights

St. Andrews by-the-Sea Winter Festival (Courtesy Tourism New Brunswick)

The quaint, historic town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, perched on Passamaquoddy Bay, New Brunswick, is typically a jumping off-spot during summer tourist season for tide-watching and whale sightings in nearby Bay of Fundy. But from mid-November to early January, the town hosts the annual month-long festival St. Andrews by-the-Sea: A Season of Light and Wonder. Highlights include the Firemen’s Candelight Parade, tree-lighting ceremonies, and lively concerts in all kinds of venues (big and small). Stroll down the main street, sample the mulled wine, and a great afternoon break from shopping is a visit to the historic Fairmont Algonquin Hotel.

The entire main street of St. Andrews by-the-Sea gets into the Yuletide Spirit

The entire main street of St. Andrews by-the-Sea gets into the Yuletide Spirit

For a true Christmas-y experience, take in one of the carol service in one of the local churches – there are seven churches in St. Andrews to choose from. And there’s a good mix of shops to browse through. Don’t miss The Whale Store on Water Street. Originally Boutique La Baleine, the 30-year-old shop is the best place in town to purchase that Greek sailor’s cap!
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Spend a wintry afternoon in Tide Head

Snow-capped trees and beautiful vistas in Tide Head, New Brunswick

Snow-capped trees and beautiful vistas in Tide Head, New Brunswick

Grab your camera (or snow shoes or skis…) and head out into the countryside for some outdoor exercise. One recommended stop is Tide Head, also known as the “Fiddlehead capital of the world.” It’s a good spot to strap on your snow shoes.

Get Out Into the Snow

Snow kiteboarding in Laméque: Thrill or Spill!

Snow kiteboarding in Laméque: Thrill or Spill!

There’s no shortage of outdoor activities in small-town New Brunswick, whether it’s a pre-Christmas energy-burning kiteboarding outing on the outskirts of the picturesque village of Laméque, or a Boxing Day spent snowshoeing, skiing or snowboarding in Sugar Loaf Provincial Park in Atholville. If time and energy allow for more outdoor fun, try to squeeze in a road trip to Crabbe Mountain in Milleville, just a short drive from Fredericton.

Hit the Trails in Fundy National Park

Family fun in Fundy National Park

Family fun in Fundy National Park

Anyone who’s ever travelled to Fundy National Park will tell you it’s a must-see vacation stop, and locals tell me that it’s even more magical in winter. For the low-down on snowmobiling options and trail conditions in Fundy National Park and elsewhere in New Brunswick, visit New Brunswick Federation of Snowmobile Clubs 

For more holiday and winter time event information for New Brunswick, visit the province’s online events calendar.

And if you have your own picture-perfect memories of holiday fun across Canada, we invite you to post your pics here – we may even send you a free Canadian Living cookbook!

Happy holidays!