The Sweetest Ways to Celebrate Maple Season in Canada

What first comes to mind when you think of Canadian culture? Chances are, maple syrup ranks high on the list, perhaps accompanied by hockey, snow, and a confirmational “eh?”. That sweet, sticky liquid that seeps from our forests, garnishes our pancakes, and whose leaf is even featured on our country’s flag has earned its rank as a prominent fixture of Canadian culture. In fact, Canada produces about 75% of the global maple syrup supply. 

There’s a reason Canada is uniquely positioned as a maple haven. Sugar maple trees need cold winters in order to get their sap flowing as the weather begins to warm. It is during those sunny late February, early March days – the ones that tease the thought of springtime and tempt patio lovers everywhere – that maple season is in full swing. 

Maple roots run deep in Canada. Indigenous communities including the Anishinaabe, Abenaki, Haudenosaunee, and Mi’kmaq have practiced tapping maple trees in the deciduous forests stretching from the midwestern U.S. and across Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada for generations. The Maple Moon – the 3rd full moon of the year – is so named because it marks the period of time when temperatures begin to rise above freezing and the annual collection of sap can begin. 

This yearly ritual has given rise to many traditions and celebrations around the collection, production, and consumption of maple syrup. Here are some of the sweetest ways to celebrate the season: 

Visit a sugar shack (cabane à sucre)

Sugar shacks, or les cabanes à sucre as they’re known in Quebec, are small cabins where sap from maple trees is collected and boiled into maple syrup. A sugar shack meal is an epic feast guaranteed to satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth. Going beyond your typical pancake breakfast, you’re likely to encounter indulgent menu items featuring maple as a central character. Expect to try treats like savoury maple-baked ham dishes, maple-baked beans, and a myriad of maple-flavoured desserts. 

Try a sugar shack meal for yourself at Cabane la Martine in Saint-Romain, Quebec, Domaine de L’ange-Gardien in L’Ange-Gardien, Quebec, or Dumfries Maples in Dumfries, New Brunswick. 

Cabane du Pic Bois, Brigham, QC

Attend a maple festival

Many maple producing communities throughout Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes hold festivals during maple season, during which family-owned and commercial sugar shacks alike host celebrations, events, and pancake breakfasts. They’re a great way to get out in the community, learn more about the traditions of the land where you live, engage in fun activities with the kids, and experience it all while enjoying a plethora of sweet treats! 

You can often tour the sugar bush and see firsthand how trees are tapped to collect sap as well as the boiling process to produce that sweet maple syrup we all know and love. Wagon rides are frequently a feature, and there’s no shortage of opportunities to hike through the sugar bush trails. Many sugar shacks will host classic pancake breakfasts where you can socialize with your community while stuffing your face with fluffy pancakes drowning in pure maple syrup alongside maple-flavoured breakfast sausages. And before you leave, don’t forget to stock up on the many maple sweet treats on offer like butter tarts, maple sugar candy, maple hot chocolate, and of course, maple syrup.

The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival in Elmira, Ontario holds a Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Single Day Maple Syrup Festival. Cabane à Sucre Paquette in Sainte-Anne des Plaines, Quebec features pony and sleigh rides, farm animals, maple taffy, and much more! PEC March Maple Madness features a long list of sugar bushes, wineries and breweries, and restaurants that band together to highlight local maple flavours every weekend in March.

Photo credit: Terry Culbert via Visit the County

Make maple taffy

A fun and delicious activity for all ages, making maple taffy should be a Canadian rite of passage. Boiled and reduced maple syrup is poured onto fresh, clean snow in rows and left to set for a few seconds before being rolled onto a wooden stick to be enjoyed like a maple candy lollipop. Try it out at one of the sugar shacks or maple syrup festivals listed above, or get crafty with the kids and try making them yourself at home! 

Photo credit: Terry Culbert via Visit the County