11/08/2016 16:13 EST | Updated 11/09/2017 00:12 EST

Canadians gather for season finale of the US election reality TV show

TORONTO — People across Canada and around the world gathered Tuesday in front of television and computer screens to watch the season finale of the ultimate political reality TV show: the U.S. presidential election.

For hours, they held their collective breaths as the tallies from the nail-biting race came in, with Democrat Hillary Clinton winning some states, and her bitter rival, Republican Donald Trump, winning others.

In Halifax, at a north-end pub where live results were projected on big screens inside and outside, Laura Neals said she wanted to get together with friends to take in an evening she called "historic." 

Neals said she was especially excited at the possibility Hillary Clinton could become the first female president in the U.S., which would become the 60th country — including Canada — to have had a woman in charge.

"It's a moment that is important for America but I think it's important for every woman in the world," Neals, 29, said as she sipped on a beer. "It feels like a new frontier and I'm excited to see it in real life, in real time."

One Toronto hotel, which dubbed the election campaign "braggattrocious," was already packed as the first polling stations south of the border closed and a large television set screened the incoming numbers.

On hand was Elizabeth Littlejohn, a communications and new media professor, who had two sets of Kleenex with her:

"This little one is for if Hillary wins, and this big one is for if Trump wins," Littlejohn said.

Nearby, another crammed hotel pub selling $10-themed cocktails — Locker Room Talk and My Own Private Emails — was scrambling to accommodate everyone looking to watch.

Anne Leathers, a New Yorker in Toronto for work, said it blew her mind how many people were talking about the election in Canada.

"It's a bit like a reality TV show for everyone outside of America," Leathers said. "I work for a British company and it's very much like that for them."

Heather Bennett, 40, was among dozens of Americans and Australians at an Irish pub in Canberra, Australia, where she said the distance gave her a different view of U.S.

"In the U.S., you feel like you're in your own little bubble," Bennett said.

Attendees at a bash thrown by Democrats Abroad in Calgary, cheered each time there was good news for Clinton, while one man wore a "no more gun-free zones" T-shirt and a "Make America great again" cap.

No matter who wins, said Maria Rajanayagam with the American Chamber of Commerce in Vancouver, the vote was worth celebrating as history in the making.

"This is such a momentous occasion of either having the first woman president elected or having a very independent person elected," said Rajanayagam, who planned to join a few hundred Canadians and Americans at a downtown hotel to watch.

A more sedate affair was a semi-closed event at an east-end Toronto venue hosted by the U.S. Consulate itself, where Consulate General Juan Alsace and a handful of officials were watching along with guests — many outfitted in red white and blue hats —  who passed security screening to get in.

"This is less of a 'drink and yell at the big screen viewing' party and more a 'sit down and watch' with a politics-loving crowd," the consulate said.

In the African country of Senegal, more than 100 people posed next to life-size cutouts of the two main candidates and mingled, holding glasses of ginger, bissap and baobab juice in the gardens of the U.S. ambassador's residence in Dakar.

"Never did we think a black man would become the head of the United States, and now, we have the same hopes for a woman," said journalist Matel Bocoum, 37. "If a woman becomes the head of the United States, it's a beautiful lesson for women all over."

— With files from Aly Thomson in Halifax, Nicole Thompson in Toronto, Bill Graveland in Calgary and The Associated Press