Still Standing

From Noëlville to Christmas Island: 6 Canadian small towns with festive names.

In these towns, it's Christmas all year 'round

In these towns, it's Christmas all year 'round

The post office on Christmas Island, N.S. receives letters and packages from all over the world in the lead up to Christmas. (Screenshot/CBC Nova Scotia)

The cold air has set in, days are getting shorter and the holiday season is in full swing. During our travels from coast to coast to coast, we've noticed that there's no shortage of town names that convey the bright lights and warmth of the season. Here are six that caught our eye.

Christmas Island, N.S.

Fun fact: both Canada and Australia have a place called Christmas Island. Our Christmas Island is in Cape Breton, N.S. The village of fewer than 300 people buzzes with activity during the holiday season. Every year, the post office is flooded with greeting cards and packages from as far away as Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tahiti. Between November and January, 10,000 to 14,000 cards flood in. People send them here to be stamped with their special Christmas Island postmark before being sent on to their final destination. This unique stopover has been going on for over 25 years. 

How did this scenic stretch of Nova Scotia get the name Christmas Island? No one knows for sure, but there are a few theories. One is that it's named after a Mi'kmaq chief called Noël – the French word for Christmas. Another theory is that when surveyors first mapped out the village on Christmas Eve, they named the spot accordingly.

Snowball, Ont.

Less than a one hour's drive north of Toronto is Snowball, a tiny community of roughly 190 people in King Township. Early on the community was called Coates' Corners after a local blacksmith. When a church was built here in the 1850s, its joints were wedged with so much snow that construction had to stop until the snow melted. The church was nicknamed "Snowball," and the surrounding community eventually took on the name, too. These days, Snowball remains an active community in the heart of King Township.

Winterland, N.L.

Winterland’s town logo tells a story of its history. (Courtesy Mayor of Winterland, Ches Kenway)

Winterland, population 390, is located on Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula. (The peninsula is known around the province as "the boot" due to its shape.) While many small Newfoundland towns started as fishing villages, Winterland was created in 1939 as part of a project to help jumpstart farming on the island to offset high unemployment. The name "Winterland" doesn't refer to the season, but instead to land surveyor Thomas Winter. The town's logo shows the farming history, as well as the community's airport. 

Star City, Sask.

Star City, Saskatchewan welcomes its visitors. (Courtesy Town of Star City, Sask. )

Two hours northeast of Saskatoon is a town that calls itself "The brightest little city in the West!"  Star City, now home to roughly 400 people was named after Walter Starkey, an English immigrant who was the postmaster of the community in the early 1900s. More than 100 years later, this small town lives up to its festive name. During the holidays, Star City hosts a "Come Skate with Santa!" event, where jolly old Saint Nick is the star of the ice rink. 

Noëlville, Ont.

The 2019 Noëlville Family Hockey Tournament. (Courtesy Noëlville Family Hockey Tournament)

Despite its festive sounding name, the Northern Ontario community of Noëlville wasn't named after the holiday. Initially, the community was called Cosby, but people kept getting it confused with another small Ontario community, Crosby.  In 1911, the name was changed to Noëlville, in honour of the community's first merchant Noël Desmarais. These days, Noëlville is one of several communities that make up the Municipality of French River. Like many towns in the region, Noëlville is passionate about hockey. For over 40 years, the community has been coming together to lace up their skates for the Noëlville Family Hockey Tournament. 

Cranberry Portage, Man.

Many of us remember homemade cranberry garlands adorning our Christmas trees. Cranberry Portage is a community of roughly 750 people, north of The Pas, Man. Its name has two parts: the "cranberry" part comes from the bright red, low bush berries that early explorers took notice of. The "portage" part comes from the fact that it was the site of a portage route used by Indigenous people and early European settlers. The three kilometre portage linked the Saskatchewan and Grass River watersheds. Today, the town is home to the annual Cranberry Portage Trout Challenge, shown above.