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British Columbians among the most generous holiday gift-givers, says poll

West Coast residents much more willing to spend $500 or more on gifts this year than other Canadians, according to Research Co. survey
Almost half of British Columbians (49 per cent) say their holiday expenditures will go over the $500 mark, says new polling.

For many Canadians, few holiday seasons will rival the anxiety of 2020, when we had to rely on “social distancing” and virtual get-togethers as we waited for a global pandemic to assuage.

Faced with concerns about the present and future of COVID-19, only 37 per cent of Canadians told Research Co. and Glacier Media in December 2020 that they expected the holiday season to be “more fun than stressful.”

This year, 56 per cent of Canadians (up four points since 2022) foresee the season to be “more fun than stressful”, while just over one in four (27 per cent, down two points) predict it will be “more stressful than fun.”

The proportion of Canadians who foresee an enjoyable time in the next few weeks is the highest in six years of tracking.

Expectations of a stressful holiday season are highest in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (32 per cent), followed by Ontario (29 per cent), Alberta (27 per cent), Atlantic Canada (26 per cent), British Columbia (25 per cent) and Quebec (24 per cent).

Financial concerns can make the holidays problematic. In late June, confidence in the Canadian economy reached 41 per cent, six points higher than at the start of the year.

We will see how Canadians are feeling at the start of the 2024, but almost half are trying to maintain a prudent budget right now.

When we asked Canadians how much money they think they will personally allocate to gifts, food and decorations during this holiday season, six per cent told us that they would not spend a dime.

For 47 per cent, expenditures will top at $500, while 27 per cent expect to devote anywhere from $501 to $1,000 to season-related activities.

When it comes to frugality, Alberta is the leader, with 60 per cent of residents saying they will not go over $500 on gifts, food and decorations.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba are next (50 per cent), followed by Ontario and Quebec (47 per cent each).

This is a stark contrast to what we observe on two coasts.

Almost half of British Columbians (49 per cent) say their holiday expenditures will go over the $500 mark. In Atlantic Canada, the proportion rises markedly to 58 per cent.

More than three in five Canadians (63 per cent) say their holiday budget is about the same as it was last year. For almost one in four (23 per cent), it is lower than in 2022 — a group that includes 27 per cent of women, 26 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 and 29 per cent of Atlantic Canadians.

Only 13 per cent of Canadians — and 20 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 — say they will be spending more on gifts, food and decorations this year.

Our annual look at holiday fare sees the staples of the season holding steady, with majorities of Canadians saying they like turkey (83 per cent, down one point), cranberry sauce (65 per cent, up one point) and Brussels sprouts (60 per cent, unchanged).

At least half of Canadians are also looking forward to egg nog (56 per cent, up one point), fruit cake (58 per cent, up three points) and mince pies (50 per cent, up two points).

The big drop in 2023 is for plum pudding, which went from 52 per cent in 2022 to 47 per cent in 2023. Mulled wine is appealing to 37 per cent of Canadians (up one point).

Residents of the Prairies are not immense fans of dried fruits. Only 45 per cent of Albertans like fruit cake, and just 34 per cent of residents of Saskatchewan and Manitoba enjoy plum pudding.

On egg nog, Albertans are in a league of their own, with 67 per cent saying they like this holiday beverage. British Columbia (65 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (61 per cent) are next on the list, followed by Saskatchewan and Manitoba (56 per cent) and Ontario (56 per cent).

In Quebec, only 41 per cent of residents like egg nog. It is tough to tell how much translation (loosely “milk of hen”) plays a role in these low numbers.

Finally, we look at the complex issue of greetings.

“Merry Christmas” maintains its dominance over “Happy Holidays” across the country (61 per cent to 21 per cent). However, this year’s results represent the lowest proportion of nationwide “Merry Christmas” responses.

A generational shift is partly responsible for these changes. Canadians aged 18 to 34 are fonder of “Happy Holidays” (28 per cent) than their counterparts aged 35 to 54 (22 per cent) and aged 55 and over (13 per cent).

Since 2018, “Happy Holidays” has gained seven points nationally, while “Merry Christmas” has lost 13 points.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online survey conducted from December 1 to December 3, 2023, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.