Happy 150th Birthday, Canada! The true, north, strong and free marks a century and a half this week with #Canada150, and it’s not just Canada that’s celebrating. The whole world – and especially the rest of North America – owes Canada a debt of gratitude for its strong yet kind example: Canada cares for its citizens, welcomes refugees, expands human rights and learns from its mistakes. Although I’m an American, I’ve always been proud of my Canadian ancestry (my grandmother’s family was in Quebec since the 1500s) and have been grateful to live near the border of such a fantastic neighbo(u)r. If you love Canada too, maybe you’d like to celebrate Canada on its sesquicentennial anniversary … or get a jump start on your Canada Day planning. Like our American-Themed Party, these ideas aren’t intended to replicate a “typical” Canadian party. Instead, they’re some fun ways to boost Canadian pride, celebrate a beautiful country, and maybe even learn a bit of trivia.
Polite Water Balloon Relay
This is basically a normal balloon relay. Each team forms two lines and players toss a water balloon back and forth to each other to reach the end of the line. If you break a water balloon, you have to start back at the beginning. The first team to send three water balloons successfully down the line wins.
Here’s the twist: each team member needs to say thank you before passing the balloon off. Each player must also say sorry if they drop the balloon AND if the person before or after them drops it, even if it’s not your fault. If a player forgets to say thank you or sorry, you have to start over (sorry).
Duck Duck Canada Goose
Here’s one for the kiddos. This is just like Duck Duck Goose, but when a player is chosen as “Canada Goose” it either goes apeshit or stands directly in the pathway of whoever is trying to catch them without moving. If you really wanted to be accurate, the Canada Goose would also drop improbably large poops absolutely everywhere, but let’s not. The Canada Goose is the one Canadian export I could do without.
To really recreate the life of the millions of Canadians who live near the U.S. border, bring a piggy bank of Canadian coins and mix them up in everyone’s wallet (riddle me this: if Canada got rid of pennies in 2013, why do I have SO MANY CANADIAN PENNIES in my wallet always?).
The real games happens after the party when you find out which machines will and won’t accept your currency.
Cottage Invite Blitz
Please correct me if I’m wrong – and maybe this is totally just my experience – but I feel like everyone I’ve met from Ontario has a cottage, has a friend with a cottage, or just generally loves cottages. But what to do if you haven’t nailed down a summer cottage invite?
In Cottage Invite Blitz, half of the players have a card that says I Have A Cottage and half say I Need A Cottage. The card is on your forehead and there is no peeking to see what you got. By talking to each other, players have to pair up – one player who has a cottage with one who needs one. The tricky part is rather than explicitly telling another player that they have a cottage or need one, you have to sort of indirectly work out the invitation in a friendly and polite way. Is the other player being nice to you because you have a cottage, or are they being nice to you because they are Canadian?
Canadian Or Not Canadian
You can either make a set of flashcards or use photos on your phone. Players must guess whether the celebrity pictured is Canadian or Not Canadian. A lot of modern celebrities may prove challenging: Ryans Reynolds and Gosling, Keanu Reeves, Seth Rogan, Joshua Jackson, Michael Cera… it’s a very, VERY long list, but you can make the game tricky by including Americans who seem kind of Canadian.
Canadian Spelling/ Vocab Bee
Canadian spelling: not really British, not really American. Have a fun spelling bee with the following words:
grey, travelling, colour, honour, neighbour, axe, lincence, moustache, eh, anything with a ‘z’ in it because you’re out if you say zee instead of zed.
Or, have players provide the definitions to the following words in a vocab bee:
toque, chesterfield, loonie, toonie, poutine, double-double, and eh again (because it can mean so many things!)
Fill In Map Of Canada
Inspired by our map game in the American-themed party, have guests fill in the names of the provinces and territories on a blank map of Canada.
I thought I had it on lock because there are only 13, but I swear nobody ever told me there was a thing just called Northwest Territories. Sorry, Northwest Territories. Sorry that I called you The North Place.
Can You Say That In French?
In this elimination game, you make conversation as normal – but you have to repeat everything you say in French. The last person standing wins.
Dans ce jeu d’élimination, vous parlez normalement – sauf que vous devez répéter tout en français. La dernière personne qui reste gagne.
[I CLEARLY would not be the last person remaining. My apologies to the French language for that.]
Winter Wear Bonanza
In this pairs relay, the first player must run to the station, put on a selection of winter outerwear (scarf, hat, gloves, coat, earmuffs, etc), then run back to their partner, change out of the winter clothes and have their partner put them on. The partner then runs to the station and back. First team to finish wins.
On The Screen
My first thought was to just play all of the Anne Of Green Gables movies – and while I liked the new series, you know I mean the Megan Follows ones. Then I realized I was remiss in excluding Canadian fav Degrassi, both the O.G. ’80s series and the reboot staring Drake.
It’s also never wrong to air a hockey game, particularly a Hockey Night In Canada broadcast.
Particularly if you don’t speak French, it could be fun to play a soap opera from Quebec and fill in the dialogue yourself, a la that classic scene from Friends with the telenovela.
You can’t beat Canadian comedy, and if that’s more your speed you can tune in to The Kids In The Hall, SCTV (the Catherine O’Hara era is my personal favorite), The Red Green Show or Trailer Park Boys.
Finally, for a bit of childhood nostalgia, try The Elephant Show or You Can’t Do That On Television.
(You could also watch nothing because that is what is available on Canadian Netflix, and Hulu blocks your IP address on half of everything.)
In The Speakers
Just play The Tragically Hip the whole time.
Okay, fine. If you’d like to expand further you still may want to stick with a mix of musicians who are typically associated with Canada – even though there are excellent Canadian musicians of every genre. This means Drake, Alanis Morrissette, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Celine Dion, the Barenaked Ladies, Justin Bieber, Bryan Adams, Gordon Lightfoot, Sarah McLachlan and Crash Test Dummies. Please include at least one play of Let’s Go To The Mall from How I Met Your Mother, as it is the only time the phrase “rock your body ’til Canada day” has appeared in music thus far.
Canadians don’t really eat wacky maple-flavored treats, but in keeping with the theme you can serve maple candy or some refreshing maple ice cream. You can even find maple mustard dip and maple jerky.
It’s true: these are very hard, if not impossible to find in the U.S.A. If you live near Canada, swing up and grab a few bags for your bash. If you live IN Canada, can we get married so I can have health care? I’ll pay for the chips.
Cheese. Gravy. Fries. Good.
Assuming you live someplace where there’s Tim Hortons, provide guests with an array of all the finest Timbits and a big box of hot coffee, with sugar and cream for the classic double-double. It’s probably not a Classic Canadian Icon but the iced cap is also legit.
Yes, it’s the same as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, but you have to call it Kraft Dinner.
… I guess. Does anybody like these?
Nanaimo Bars, Beaver Tails and Butter Tarts
If you’re a good baker or can get to a Canadian bakery or cafe, these Canadian treats are must-haves, particularly if your guests haven’t had a chance to try them before.
This might be a great time to try some delicious Canadian craft beer, but to keep your budget low and your party Canadian, maybe you should provide a standby like Molson or Labatt.
Canadian Mixed Drinks
I’ll defer to this MentalFloss piece, as well as my own memories of going across the border to drink as a 19-year-old. For liability reasons I should tell you that Canadian drinking ages only apply in Canada.
Screech is a real only-in-Canada rum, and of course I have to recommend anything using Canadian whisky.
I’m still never trying a Bloody Caesar, though. Blech.
If you run with more of a wine crowd, Niagara wines from Ontario are always a great bet. There are also some good selections from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Try an ice wine if you haven’t already.
I have no idea. Canada Dry and Canadian Club?
It’s kind of a no-brainer, but a lot of Canadian flags and maple leaf insignia would be a good way to go. You can also include hockey posters and memorabilia or tack up pictures of Canadian wildlife (a moose and a beaver, at least).
In our American-Themed party post, we suggested hanging up pictures of great Americans and having guests name as many as they can. That would work well for great Canadians as well. You can include everyone from Justin Trudeau to Wayne Gretzky, Margaret Atwood to Lucy Maud Montgomery.
If you don’t play the Fill In The Map game, you could hang up a large, blank map of Canada (oh Canada…) and have guests fill in the names of the provinces and territories, major cities, places they’ve been, or just draw snowflakes and moose and those goddamn geese everywhere.
Canadians just dress like regular humans, but you can have some fun here. Clothes in Canadian colors or with the Canadian flag on it would be great – Roots even has a Canada 150 line. You could also dress as an inoffensive Canadian stereotype, which is probably just a person with warm clothing.
If you really want to go for it, I’d have each guest dress as a Canadian, past or present. You can have everything from Anne of Green Gables to Robin Sparkles. Guests can be a hockey player or a Tim Hortons cashier if they want to go more generic. For an ’80s vibe, you could dress as a classic Degrassi character, and more modern TV fans can reuse their Orphan Black cosplay from Halloween. Deep cut references include the girl in the Steal My Sunshine video from the 90s or a group costume as Sharon, Lois and Bram.
If full costumes are too much to ask, name tags can add a bit of Canadian fun – everyone can pick a Canadian name like Jim Carrey, Megan Follows, Don Cherry, or Gordon. Any Gordon.