Canadians are known for their love of hockey, maple syrup and friendliness, but the last trait was most in evidence in the days before Christmas when one drive-through customer generously offered to foot the coffee bill for the one behind him in line. That customer set off a chain of events that soon made headlines on both sides of the border.

On Dec. 21, a Tim Hortons donut shop in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was in the midst of a full-scale domino effect, with the second customer paying for the coffee and donuts of the third and so on. The chain of generosity continued for three hours and a total of 228 orders, enough to inspire patrons who were ordering inside to start their own pay-it-forward chain.

"They were calling out the numbers, 'We're at 162,' and they made a really big deal of it," store manager Troy Thompson told the CBC. "I think that's what helped keep it going because nobody wanted to be the one who broke that streak."

The chain reaction finally ended when one Grinch refused to pay for the three coffees that were ordered by the person behind him, even though his order of four coffees was taken up by the car before him. Still, that wasn’t enough to discourage the Tim Hortons staff and the entire community around the Beaverhill Boulevard location.

“It isn't uncommon for Tim Hortons customers to pay for the next person in line, but this was a real gift," said company spokeswoman Michelle Robichaud. "It was a boost of goodness, especially with everything happening in the world. It's what Winnipeg needed.

"We don't know who started it, but that's the beauty of this act of generosity," she added. "It was the start of something wonderful."

The unexpected generosity came in the midst of the Random Cups of Kindness week, a promotional event in which Tim Hortons would give random customers their order for free until Dec. 22. More than 3,000 locations participated.