Canada is truly a land of immigrants. The cultural fabric from over 200 countries is woven beautifully into a colorful tapestry of the Canadian culture.
During the summer months, Canada comes alive with seemingly endless festivities to celebrate diversity and multiculturalism. Peruse this list of the biggest annual festivals in the country and learn about a new culture.
Edmonton Heritage Festival
The Heritage Festival is considered one of the largest multicultural events in the world. Held annually in William Hawrelak Park, Edmonton, Alberta, it boasts of around 50 outdoor pavilions, representing 60 countries and cultures. Thousands of visitors flock to this festival to sample delicious food, enjoy entertainment, and celebrate Canada’s multiculturalism. Admission is free to view more than 900 cultural dance shows, arts, crafts and historical displays.
Festival-goers who want to experience the vibrant Caribbean heritage, music, and cultures must attend Edmonton’s Cariwest Festival. This festival offers three days of fun for people of all ages every August. It features a Friday Night Costume Extravaganza, Edmonton’s largest daytime summer parade on Saturday and a Caribbean Village through the weekend. The village showcases live cultural entertainment, a Kids Korner, food alley offering Caribbean cuisine and the Caribbean Marketplace.
Calgary’s Expo Latino is considered Western Canada’s largest Latin festival. This family-friendly outdoor event creates unique experiences through the celebration of music, dance, and people. It features world-class performances, exotic foods, unique crafts, and so much more. This three-day festival takes place at night and features six hours of Latin American performers from Canada and other countries.
Surrey Fusion Festival
Established in 2008, the Surrey Fusion Festival has become the largest free multicultural festival in British Columbia and a major event in Canada. This festival features over 50 different cultures from African, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American, European, and North American countries. It also includes an Indigenous Village, a Kids World & Sports Zone and numerous exotic ethnic food vendors. The pavilions offer international foods, artifacts and textile displays, and multiple stages showcasing musical and dance performances.
Caribbean Days Festival
Trinidad & Tobago Cultural Society of BC’s Caribbean Days Festival has become one of the largest cultural events in British Columbia. This event attracts tens of thousands of fun-lovers who enjoy a weekend of parades, carnival, cuisine, music, and dance under the summer sun. This lively festival is free for attendees of all ages to enjoy.
In 1970, Folkroma was inaugurated as a one-time multicultural event to celebrate Manitoba’s Centennial. Due to its tremendous success, it has become an annual event and is now recognized as the world’s biggest and longest-running multicultural festival. Folklorama runs for two weeks every year in Winnipeg, Manitoba and attendees get to sample ethnic dishes and learn about cultural traditions and history.
Icelandic Festival of Manitoba
Manitoba’s Icelandic Festival, the largest and longest running Icelandic Festival in North America, offers the opportunity to be an honorary Icelander for a weekend.
Every August long weekend, visitors from across the world flock to Gimli, Manitoba to celebrate Icelandic culture and heritage. Attendees enjoy Viking re-enactors in battle, learn about the old Norse culture, enjoy Icelandic food, view traditional Icelandic costumes, shop crafts and souvenirs, and enjoy live music and entertainment from Canadian and Icelandic musicians. Attendees can participate in fun contests such as the family scavenger hunt, beach volleyball tournament, and sandcastle contest. They also enjoy an Icelandic fashion show and fireworks.
New Brunswick Highland Games Festival
Established in 1981, the New Brunswick Highland Games is held in Fredericton, New Brunswick to celebrate the Scottish and Celtic culture and heritage. With inclusiveness as its main goal, it spreads knowledge of the culture with visitors of Scottish descent and anyone who wishes to learn about the Scottish heritage.
The festival features piping and drumming contests, athletic competitions, and dance events. It likewise includes entertainment, mini golf, and face painting activities for kids.
Mosaiq Festival started as a lawn party in front of Moncton’s city hall in 2004. Now, it draws more than 10, 000 participants and is the largest multicultural festival in New Brunswick. Every July, this vibrant festival highlights international foods, multicultural vendors, and a beer garden. It also features an exciting line-up of multicultural entertainers from around the world.
NEWFOUNDLLAND AND LABRADO
Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival
Recognized as one of the biggest summer festivals in the province, the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival draws thousands of attendees to Bannerman Park in St. John. During this two-day event, Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique culture is promoted through an interactive workshop where participants can learn a dance, a tune, or a story. It also highlights folk music that are mostly of Scottish or Irish origin.
Nova Multifest is Nova Scotia’s largest multicultural festival. It exhibits the province’s multicultural fabric through dance performances, live music, culinary delights, and unique arts. It aims to bring communities together by supporting diversity, inclusion, tolerance and positivity. This three-day event is held every July in Alderney Landing in Dartmouth, NS. Admission is free but tickets are required to enjoy the children’s bouncy castle.
The African Festival of Arts and Culture or Afrifest celebrates the unique arts and cultural heritage of people of African descent living in Nova Scotia. It aims to promote inclusion and diversity through the works of African artists and performers. Visitors enjoy arts and crafts, stand-up comedy, literature, food and music. This cultural event is held on the Halifax Waterfront and is free for everyone to enjoy.
Toronto Caribbean Festival (Caribana)
Caribana was originally established as a three-day event in 1967. It is now known as the Toronto Caribbean Festival and has grown into a three-week carnival. With more than a million total visitors, it is considered North America’s grandest street festival.
This festival is a celebration of Caribbean music, dance, traditions, costumes, cuisine, and festivity. It follows the Trinidad & Tobago’s Carnival format and is influenced by street dancing on every Caribbean Island. The festival’s ambiance is elevated by the mix of musical styles from the Caribbean including calypso, reggae, and soca. Fun-seeker mustn’t miss this festival!
TD Mosaic Fest – South Asian Festival
With around 70, 000 visitors from across Ontario, the TD Mosaic Fest is billed as the largest, longest running, award-winning festival showcasing South Asian art, culture and cuisine. Held annually at the Celebration Square in Mississauga, it features an impressive lineup of popular South Asian, Canadian and international musicians, singers, and dancers. Presentations include Pakistani folk dances and Bollywood shows. It also features Children’s arts and crafts workshop, food court showcasing delicious South Asian cuisine, face painting, and henna competition.
Taste of Lawrence
Taste of Lawrence is dubbed Scarborough’s largest street festival. It showcases 130 street vendors, rides and amusements, and two live entertainment stages. Locals and tourists enjoy the non-stop entertainment, sample delectable flavors offered by multi-cultural food vendors, and learn about the rich heritage of others. This three-day fun-filled festival is held along Lawrence Avenue and is free to explore.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
DiverseCity Multicultural Festival
In 2007, the DiverseCity Festival was organized to celebrate Canadian Multiculturalism Day. It was initiated to bring newcomers and Islanders together, present their cultures, and share their talents. This annual street festival has become a major summer event in Prince Edward Island. It features cuisines, music, dance, arts, and crafts of around eighty different cultures from recent immigrants, First Nations, and established descendants of earlier Acadian, English, Irish, and Scottish immigrants. More than 20, 000 visitors participate in this meaningful event in Prince Edward Island each year.
With the Clock Tower Quay at the Old Port of Montreal as its backdrop, the Orientalys Festival presents the perfect fusion of Eastern and Western cultures. This fun event allows festival-goers to experience the culture, cuisine and music of Eastern countries, from North Africa to China. It features exciting activities, performances, workshops, animations, and exhibitions for people of all ages. Every August, children and adults get to experience free diverse, unique, and exciting activities in Montreal.
The Italian community has become one of the largest ethno-cultural groups in the province of Quebec. ItalfestMTL was launched in 1994 as a small event in the Montreal-North borough to promote Italian culture through concerts, an opera, a film festival, a fashion show, an art competition, and culinary discovery. The festival has expanded to present a myriad of activities in Montreal neighborhoods, as well as in Laval, every August. As one of the largest multicultural events in Montreal, it welcomes more than 400, 000 visitors and features 250 local and international talents.
Saskatoon Folkfest – Culture Connect
Saskatoon Folkfest is an annual festival that aims to educate people about different cultures, preserve culture, and provide scholarships to deserving students. Some of the best long-time pavilions include Bangladesh, Central America & Mexico, Germany, Hungary, India, Nepal, Philippines, Scotland, and South Sudan.
Adäka Cultural Festival
Launched in 2011, the Adäka Cultural Festival delivers a world-class festival to display, honor, and foster Yukon’s diverse and unique First Nations arts and culture. An art exhibit, cultural presentations, and public workshop are some of the highlights of this interesting event that is held in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Diversity and multiculturalism create a colorful cultural fabric for Canada. Although this is not an exhaustive list of all the festivals in Canada, it’s a great place to start if you would like to experience the beauty of Canadian diversity. Add a few of these festivals to your bucket list in the coming year to experience their beauty.