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12/24/2018 16:11 EST | Updated 01/02/2019 12:19 EST

8 Cool Canadians Share Their Favourite Christmas Holiday Traditions

From the Nutcracker to callaloo to Justin Bieber to the Grinch.

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Clockwise from top left: Kardinal Offishall, Penny Oleksiak, Esi Edugyan, and Elaine Lui.

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, the end of December is a time best spent at home with family, eating cookies and arguing over whether anyone should bother covering Mariah Carey's classic, "All I Want For Christmas Is You." (The answer, of course, is no.)

We asked a few well-known Canadians what their favourite holiday traditions were. Below, the answers, from some of the country's favourite artists, athletes, writers and musicians.

Courtesy of North Strategic
Kardinal Offishall at the tree lighting at Toronto's Eaton Centre.

Kardinal Offishall, musician

How did your Jamaican heritage influence the way your family celebrated Christmas?

Back in Jamaica, the Christmas traditions are different. They're still really big on carolling — they go door-to-door carolling. But, for the most part, here it's the same. Same kind of foundation: it's all about family, it's all about food, spending time, and if you're blessed, being able to provide gifts for the young ones.

What's your favourite Christmas food?

Jamaican Christmases in Canada are relatively the same — it's just the food that's different. Instead of turkey and ham, we're having curry goat, curry chicken, rice and peas. Callaloo.

We used to go to my aunt's house every Christmas. We would go to my grandmother's — we'd kind of house-hop. We would end up in Scarborough at one aunt's house in particular. Everyone would gather there and eat literally, every type of food that you could think of, Jamaican, Canadian and otherwise.

Hands-down, she had the best cheesecake. I was looking forward to the cheesecake. Also, she had this Caribbean drink, this pineapple, ginger, frozen drink that she would make. Every single year, that's what I would look forward to on Christmas day.

Does your family still do that now?

We still house-hop and get together. We travel with Tupperware, margarine dishes, everything, just for the leftovers. That has not changed.

Chris Hyde via Getty Images
Penny Oleksiak poses during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at Somerset College on March 29, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.

Penny Oleksiak, Olympian

What's your favourite part of Christmas?

As a kid, definitely all the presents. But now it's just getting my family together, because we're always so separated with sports and school and everything. It's so nice to have everyone together.

Do you have a favourite Christmas movie?

Probably "The Grinch" — the original. I haven't seen the [new] one, so that could upstage it, I guess.

Favourite Christmas song?

The whole Justin Bieber Christmas album from a few years ago, for sure.

Favourite food?

Stuffing. I can eat stuffing like no one else.

David Levenson via Getty Images
Esi Edugyan, author of "Washington Black" and "Half-Blood Blues," at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on October 14, 2018.

Esi Edugyan, this year's Giller Award-winning novelist

What's your favourite Christmas movie?

Does "Auntie Mame" count? It's got at least one Christmas scene, right? It's that perfect amount of camp and sentiment.

What's your favourite Christmas song? What's your least favourite?

My favourite Christmas song used to be my least favourite — "The Christmas Waltz." An episode of "Mad Men "built around the time changed my mind entirely.

What's the one holiday tradition you never skip?

My family attends the (sometimes Winnipeg, sometimes Alberta) Royal Ballet performance of The Nutcracker every year.

What's your favourite Christmas food?

A Danish butter cake called Smorkage. It's that heavenly combination of pastry and almond paste. Christmas isn't Christmas without it.

Isaiah Trickey via Getty Images
Elaine Lui at the 2018 iHeartRADIO MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto.

Elaine Lui, founder of Lainey Gossip and reporter on "eTalk" and "The Social"

What's your favourite Christmas song?

"Little Drummer Boy," as performed by Bing Crosby and David Bowie.

Do you have a favourite holiday food?

I have a least favourite holiday food: turkey. Turkey sucks. Which means my favourite holiday food is any meal that isn't turkey.

What's a holiday tradition you never skip?

Board games. Must get competitive during the holidays. Must get together with friends and family and do battle over Trivial Pursuit, Cranium, Codenames, and my new favourite, Heads Up.

What's your favourite Christmas movie?

"Die Hard." Because I love arguing over whether or not it's a Christmas movie, which it totally is. Also, Alan Rickman is in it, and he's the best. And I'll never get tired of Bruce Willis yelling over the radio at Paul Gleason. John McClane was one of my first swearing teachers. No one swears in frustration like he does.

George Pimentel via Getty Images
Anthony Carone, Max Kerman and Mike DeAngelis of the Arkells arrive at the 2018 iHeartRADIO MuchMusic Video Awards on August 26, 2018 in Toronto,

Max Kerman of Arkells, Hamilton, Ont.-based band

What's your favourite Christmas movie? Why do you love it?

I don't really think about Christmas movies too much. We know "Love Actually" is a big fave, which is why we tackled it for a holiday promo parody. More than movies, I do love the NBA Christmas games. They're on all day, and I love sneaking away from my family and watching them.

Do you have a favourite holiday food?

I like it all. The traditional Christmas food — turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing. Any freshly baked dessert I'll devour.

What's your favourite Christmas song?

I recently had to perform some Christmas songs for my nephews grade 3 class. I was quite bad at it, but if I had to choose one, I'd say I like "We Three Kings." That chorus rocks.

Lucas Oleniuk via Getty Images
Playwright Hannah Moscovitch photographed Toronto.

Hannah Moscovitch, Governor General's Award-nominated playwright

How did you blend holiday traditions, growing up with one Jewish and one Christian parent?

My dad is Jewish and my mom's Christian but they're not religious people, so we did a whole lot at holiday time, in all directions, but none of it with much conviction. Sometimes there were dreidels hanging on the xmas tree, but aside from that, not a ton of actual blending.

What's your favourite Christmas movie?

Anne of Green Gables. We watched it every year at Christmas when I was growing up, and cried when Matthew Cuthbert died.

What's a holiday tradition you never skip?

I've never skipped being with my family — I find a way to be with them no matter what, and now that I have a kid who is genuinely filled with joy over dreidels and Christmas lights, it's so much more fun. For a few years there, it was just a bunch of adults handing each other ironic gifts.

What's your favourite Christmas song? What's the Christmas song you find most annoying?

I have one song that's both. It's "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" because it's written by a Jew, Irving Berlin, so it's right for my half-Jewishness. I associate that vintage Bing Crosby sound with the best parts of winter holidays. And it's also annoying because you can't play that song without my dad telling me a Jew wrote it, and now I do it too, automatically! I blurt it out every fucking time it comes on!

Maya Fuhr
Leandra Earl, far right, with the other members of The Beaches.

Leandra Earl of Toronto-based band The Beaches

What's your favourite Christmas song?

I seriously love every Christmas song, and my band finds that annoying. I'll make us listen to Christmas songs on the road in the middle of April and if it's my turn at the wheel, NO ONE CAN STOP ME.

The Christmas songs that have been getting me amped lately are "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Pentatonix and "O Holy Night" by Il Divo.

What's the one holiday tradition you never skip?

The countdown on Christmas Eve. Right before midnight, all of my cousins get together and scream when the clock strikes midnight. Our youngest cousin, Joseph, always gets thrown across the room at this point, and then a giant brawl ensues. It wouldn't be Christmas without my cousins.

What's your favourite Christmas movie? Why do you love it?

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." All of my favourite quotes that I share with my dad are from this movie — we've probably seen it 100 times. We only wish we had a Cousin Eddie in our family.

Do you have a favourite holiday food and/or dessert?

Granny's Swedish meatballs. Granny has been blessing us with her meatballs ever since we were kids, and since the recipe is so simple, it's also the singular one thing I can cook. (But I still let her cook them. THANKS GRANNY.)

Fred Thornhill / Reuters
Heather O'Neill arrives at The Scotiabank Giller Prize gala event in Toronto, November 10, 2015.

Heather O'Neill, author of "The Lonely Hearts Hotel" and "Lullabies for Little Criminals"

Is there a holiday tradition that is, or was, really important to you?

I liked setting up the crèche underneath the tree. I didn't understand why I couldn't play with it all year. But it was tucked away in a large cookie tin in the basement until the middle of December when it would miraculously come out, along with a Rossy's bag of recycled gold tinsel and Christmas balls.

I was always adding my own toys to the mix. There was a giraffe fawning over the baby Jesus. And Papa Smurf stood with the three kings. I was obsessed with Smurfs, so I would put them in the nativity scene. My dad would notice them and yell for me to get them out.

What's your favourite Christmas song? Do you have a least favourite?

I always liked the John Lennon song "Happy Christmas". As a teenager I thought Christmas songs were by definition uncool. But anything John Lennon did was so low-key and he was always able to subvert cheesiness. So he made a Christmas song acceptable to me.

I don't like "Silent Night." I got one of the lines wrong in choir when I was nine years old. I sang it really loud and all the other children started laughing so hard, our music teacher had to stand up from her piano and yell at everyone to knock it off. When I hear that song, I still cringe.

Is there a food that's an important part of holiday celebrations for you?

I like Christmas ice cream logs. I like the way they are decorated. My daughter and I buy them at an ice cream store that opens a few days during the holiday season only to sell Christmas logs. The most ornate and ridiculous the better. I like to see mushrooms sprouting out of the side, and chipmunk heads poking out of holes in the log.

What's your favourite book set at Christmas?

"A Christmas Carol," hands down. It was one of the first Dickens novels I read when I was eight years old. I remember copying down the first pages of the book because I wanted to have written it so much. One day before holidays, everyone in my elementary school filed down to the gym. They had set up a large movie screen there. We all sat down and they projected the movie over our heads. Even though I knew the ending, I was squirming with excitement. I loved that he had another chance. It was so lovely and perfect. It was all about how easy it is to give other people joy and happiness.

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