Tuesday, 13 December 2011

How French-Canadians celebrated Christmas back in the day

In Québec, Canada where I am originally from we celebrate Christmas on December, 24th. Traditionally it's a religious and social occasion and it's a perfect time for large family to get together and celebrate. People would start preparing foods and presents weeks in advance. Back then, when the only transportation was horses, they would pack their sleigh with bunch of children from the whole neighborhood and whoever else wants to hop in the sleigh for a ride are welcomed, too - more the merrier! It was like a pilgrimage - they would ride through the whole rural area and the village to finally arrive to church by 11pm-12am for the mass (All the people would be dressed in their best garments including fur coats. Back in those days most people were poor, so this celebration was a very big deal for them). After they arrive they greet each other and by midnight the mass starts. It will not end before 1:30am.

After the mass everybody goes to different houses to have a huge celebration, which is called the "réveillon". It usually went on all night, so the actual Christmas Day was spent sleeping. Christmas marked the beginning of "le Temps de Fêtes", a holiday period of visiting and celebrating that ended on January 6 with "la Fête des Rois" (Epiphany). In large French-Canadian families, as many as 60 to 70 people might sit down to enjoy the food at the "le réveillon". Traditional foods would include "tourtière" (meat pie of pork and beef), "cipâte" (game meat and vegetable casserole), roast goose, and desserts such as "bûche de Noël" (traditional dessert served near Christmas) or "tarte au sucre" (sugar pie). I must mention here that it all goes with lots and lots of different kind of alcohol to make the celebration more exciting!
As one person would know how to play violin, the other - to sing, and the rest - to dance, you can imagine that it was a blast of fun and laughter.

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