07/01/2013 14:07 EDT | Updated 08/31/2013 05:12 EDT

Montrealers celebrate Canada's 146th birthday

Twenty new Canadians were sworn in as Canadian citizens early on Monday, kicking off a day’s worth of Canada Day events at Montreal's Old Port.

Couple Nelson and Luzinete Santos came from Brazil five years ago and became Canadians today.

“It’s an important step for us today. We’re very happy,” Nelson said, adding that his favourite thing about Canada was the winter.

For Kouyaté Djelifatoma of the Ivory Coast, the event was bittersweet. Her husband died before becoming a Canadian citizen.

“I have mixed emotions. I’m happy because our dreams have come true, but sad… because my husband isn’t here. It was our dream with our children,” she said.

“It came true for us even if he isn’t here, so we’re happy. I’m happy for my children. They have their whole futures ahead of them.”

A giant red and white cake was rolled out and served to honour the new Canadians.

Rita Zhang watched as her four-year-old triplet sons devoured their cake. She said Canada is very different from her native China.

“You have your freedom to express what you want to express. I like it,” she said.

"Freedom" was a recurring word to describe Canada.

Anand Sharma comes to the Old Port every year to celebrate Canada Day. The woman from India said she is happy her kids were born in Canada.

“The people, they live together,” she said. “They accept the culture, and they respect all the people [living] here.”

Events in the Old Port

The swearing-in ceremony was just the beginning of a day packed with events to mark Canada’s 146th birthday.

Some of the thousands of people lining the cobblestone streets are draped in Canadian flags, while others are checking out the kid-friendly activities including an inflatable games village, race and obstacle courses, a giant dance floor, a picnicking area and more.

This evening will be marked by musical performances by Maïa Leïa and Dominique Hudson starting at 8:15 p.m. ET, capping off with singers and dancers performing the biggest disco hits.

The night’s festivities will culminate with fireworks over the St. Lawrence at 10:15 p.m. ET.