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Tonight’s 2014 Bye-Bye Celebration (#132)

This will be a quick post…  (Lots to get ready for New Years tonight!  Just drove back 5 hours from Banff and Calgary, things to arrange here in Vegreville, then off to Edmonton in a few hours for New Years, taking buddies to the airport tomorrow morning, then I fly back to Toronto on the 2nd… Phew!   The next post may not be for a couple more days).

It has become a huge tradition in Québec to watch the annual Bye-Bye comedy celebration on Radio-Canada.  It’s a comedy show which people watch in the hour running up to midnight.  When people are celebrating New Years at home with family and friends on New Years Eve, it’s almost a guarantee that the Bye-Bye will be playing on the TV screen (if not taking centre-stage in the room, it will at least in the background).  Everything comes to a full-stop the seconds before midnight for the final countdown as everyone turns their heads to the TV and raises their glasses of bubbly (just as many people in the US watch the apple drop in on TV in New York, or others in Anglophone Canada watch the major fireworks live on various stations).

In 2013, almost 4,000,000 people in Québec (and elsewhere in Canada) watched it (with over 5,300,000 overall viewers, including later re-broadcasts on the web, etc.).   That makes it one of the most watched annual television programs in Canada.

It’s in French, of course.  If you’re a learner of French, the style of speaking might be a little quick, and a little bit “slangy”, with fair doses of Joual.  But even if you’re a beginner learning French, give it a shot… the comedic scenes which you can watch sometimes carry the punch-lines in and of themselves.

There are going to be some major cast changes in this year’s Bye-Bye.  Louis Morissette and Véronique Cloutier will not be part of the cast, but Morissette will nonetheless be a producer of the show (so it’s guaranteed to be funny).

Here are some links to articles with info on tonight’s show:

The last link above has Radio-Canada’s entire New Years Eve line up (I’m providing the Radio-Canada line-up since it’s watched more on New Years Eve than the TVA line-up… plus everyone in Canada, regardless if you live on any of the three coasts, all gets Radio-Canada and the Bye-Bye).   Check out the last link… there are a number of New Years specials you can watch all evening.

  • The Bye-Bye starts tonight at 11:00pm in your own time zone (regardless of which of Canada’s five time zones you live in).
  • There are re-runs on January 1st at 9:00pm on Radio-Canada.  
  • If you’re not in Canada or are not in front of the TV, you can watch the Bye-Bye live online at the official website (Canada’s Ontario/Québec Eastern Standard Time zone, same time as US Eastern Standard Time, ie: New York).

The official Bye-Bye website is:  http://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/bye-bye/2014/

I’m unfortunately not going to be able to catch it tonight (I have four different house parties in Edmonton tonight), but hopefully you’ll have the chance to check it out.   If it’s you’re first Bye-Bye, you’ll be in for something very special and quite unique.   Enjoy it!  It has become a BIG part of Québec’s and Canada’s culture — and thus yours’ too!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Will see you in 2015!

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Des nuances entre le “Boxing week” au Québec et le reste du Canada (#131)

Not much time lately for new posts, so re-posting the last post, but in French for Francophone readers of this blog.   Off to Calgary and Banff tomorrow.  May be a few days until the next full post.

Joyeux « Boxing Week » (semaine de soldes d’Après-Noël)!   Cette semaine, d’un bout à l’autre du pays, on célèbre le « Boxing Week », mais c’est toujours le « Boxing Day » (jour de soldes d’Après-Noël) qui met en branle la semaine.

D’abord, avant d’aller plus loin, je mentionnerai pour nos lecteurs anglophones qu’il n’y a pas vraiment de traduction parfaite du Boxing Day ou du Boxing Week en français.  On s’en sert plutôt du nom anglais pour y faire référence.  L’Office Québécois de la langue française privilégie toutefois « les soldes du lendemain de Noël », ou les « soldes d’Après-Noël ».   Mais à part des annonces officielles, personne ne les appelle ainsi (qu’il suffise de vous dire que l’OQLF nous offre parfois des suggéstions assez… « gesteux » disons – et j’en doute que l’OQLF donnerait son aval même au mot « gesteux », un mot qui signifie « hoity-toity » en bon français des Prairies). 😉

Le but de ce billet est de souligner quelques différences dans la manière dont le Boxing Day et Boxing Week se passent au Québec par rapport au reste du Canada.

Pour les lecteurs aux É-U et ailleurs, le Boxing Day et le Boxing Week au Canada sont une sorte de Black Friday.   Pourtant, le Black Friday est tout nouveau au Canada depuis seulement quelques années, et le Black Friday n’a pas du tout l’importance au Canada qu’il a aux É-U.   Durant le Black Friday au Canada, il y a des soldes sur certains produits sélectionnés, mais en général, ils ne sont pas aussi profonds au Canada qu’ils le sont aux É-U (avec des rabais moyennant peut-être de 15% à 20% au Canada).   Cependant, au Canada les grands soldes sont réservés pour le Boxing Day, « la » journée des grands soldes, qui peuvent aller de 20% jusqu’à 80% — avec des escomptes moyens de 40% à 60%.  Il a toujours lieu le 26 décembre.  Puisqu’il est toujours le lendemain de Noël, on reçoit souvent de l’argent comptant pour Noël à la place des cadeaux, avec l’expectation entendue qu’on envahisse les centres d’achat, tout en se joignant aux foules déchaînées à la recherche des aubaines de l’année.

Ce qui est relativement nouveau, c’est que le Boxing Day est devenu, avec le temps, un phénomène qui dure toute la semaine suivant Noël – le Boxing Week comme on l’appelle.  Le grand jour de lancement a toujours lieu le 26 décembre (le jour avec les soldes les plus importants), mais il y a d’autres soldes qui continuent pendant toute la semaine.

Le 26, j’ai pris la peine d’aller aux centres d’achat d’Edmonton avec des amis pour voir comment allaient les choses (et pour dépenser un peu de mon argent de Noël reçu en cadeau).   Bon sang, que les corridors étaient noir du monde!   Les nouvelles disaient même qu’il y avait de 150,000 à 170,000 personnes en tout temps dans le Centre d’achat de l’ouest d’Edmonton (le plus grand centre d’achat en Amérique du nord… et ce sont des chiffres que je pourrais bien croire car il m’a pris 45 minutes juste pour trouver un stationnement libre).

Lorsque je vivais à Gatineau il y a beaucoup d’années, j’ai fait du magasinage durant la semaine du Boxing Week, mais je n’ai jamais vu autant du monde sortie faire du magasinage au Québec durant cette période que je voyais ailleurs au Canada.  Cela étant dit, je me rappelle d’un reportage aux nouvelles du matin de Montréal il y a plusieurs années qui disait que le monde faisait la queue en dehors d’un Best Buy le matin du 26 à Laval, et que tout le monde se fonçait dedans en mouvement de foule dès l’ouverture.   Mais depuis ce temps-là, je n’ai jamais vu un tel reportage du genre provenant du Québec (du moins avec le même ampleur).

La fièvre du Boxing Day et du Boxing Week semble plutôt être un phénomène du Canada anglophone (mais il y a bien sur des soldes durant la même période au Québec).

Hier, j’ai lu un article publié par la Presse canadienne qui lui aussi disait autant.   L’article pourrait être lu ici :  Le «Boxing Day» est nettement moins populaire au Québec qu’ailleurs au Canada.

Au fond, l’article dit que seulement 12% des québécois s’en profite de la semaine du Boxing Week pour acheter des produits en solde.   Le raisonnement se dit que les québécois sont plus aptes à planifier leurs achats d’avance et, en ce sens ils sont des consommateurs moins impulsifs que les Anglophones (si c’est vrai ou pas, ça c’est une autre histoire).

Je me demande si les heures d’ouverture des magasins pourraient jouer un rôle dedans : ailleurs au Canada, le 26 décembre ils s’ouvrent entre 07h00 à 10h00 (dépendant la province), tandis qu’au Québec, souvent le 26 décembre ils ne s’ouvrent qu’à 12h00.   Encore, pourrait-il jouer un facteur?

Peu importe, durant cette semaine du Boxing Week, je souhaite à tout le monde du bon magasinage et bonne chasse aux aubaines!

Boxing Day and Boxing Week in Québec versus the rest of Canada (#130)

Happy Boxing Week!  This week is Boxing week across Canada, with yesterday (Boxing Day) as the huge kick-off.

I’ll let you know about some differences between how Boxing Day and Boxing Week unfolds in Québec versus the rest of Canada.

For readers from the US and elsewhere, Boxing Day and Boxing Week are kind of the equivalent of Black Friday in the US.  Black Friday just started taking place in Canada in the last few years, but it is not nearly the size of event that it is in the US.  Canadian Black Friday may see some sales on some items, but the sales in Canada are not as deep as the sales in the US (perhaps Canadian sales are 15% on average and only on select items).   However, Canada has always had “Boxing Day”, which is the big sales day with items marked down anywhere from 20% to 80%, averaging around 40% to 60% mark-downs.  It is always held on December 26th.  Because it is the day after Christmas, people in Canada often receive money for Christmas, in lieu of gifts, with the expectation that they’ll hit the malls and stores the next day to get what they really want, at a huge discount.

What’s relatively new about Boxing Day is that it’s being extended more and more to cover the whole week after Christmas – now known as “Boxing Week”, with “Boxing Week sales”.  The big kick-off day continues to be December 26th (when the biggest sales can be found), but sales continue throughout the week.

Yesterday I hit the malls in Edmonton with friends to take a look at how things were shaping up (and to spend some of my Christmas money).  Man were the malls packed!!  Shoulder-to-shoulder, wall-to-wall people (in French we say the malls were noir du monde, which means the same thing).   The news reported that at any given moment yesterday, in West Edmonton Mall, there were 150,000 to 170,000 people! (West Edmonton Mall is North America’s largest shopping mall – and it took me 45 minutes just to find a parking spot).

wem1

Both levels of West Edmonton Mall jammed pack with people… you can seem them all in the background.

wem2

More people…

wem3

… and more and more people!

I’ve done Boxing Week shopping in Québec before (I used to live in Gatineau, Québec when I worked for the  government way back when).   But I have never seen these sorts of crowds in Québec shopping malls on Boxing Day as what exists elsewhere in Canada (but cross the river into Ottawa or elsewhere in Ontario or New Brunswick – and look out!  The shopping crowds will run you down).   I do remember once, many years ago, watching a morning news program from Montréal on December 26th, interviewing line-ups of people outside of Best Buy at 6am just prior to the store opening, and then watching the stampede charge in a few minutes later.  But I’ve never quite seen the same thing on the Québec news ever since.   The Boxing Day and Boxing Week madness seems much more to be an Anglophone Canada thing (although the sales do exist in Québec too).

Yesterday, the Canadian Press (La Presse canadienne) came out with an article pretty much saying the same thing.   The article can be read by clicking here:  Le «Boxing Day» est nettement moins populaire au Québec qu’ailleurs au Canada.

In the article, they basically say that only 12% of Québécois plan to take advantage of Boxing Day sales, likely owing to the fact that people in Québec tend to plan their shopping a little bit more in advance (ie: Québécois are less impulsive in their shopping habits).

Something else worth noting in the same vein… in other places in Canada, Boxing Day shopping kicks off at 7am, 8am, 9am, or 10am, depending on the province and provincial holiday regulations.  But in Québec, stores didn’t open until 1pm on Boxing Day (hmmm… that could take a bit of bite out of the day).

Regardless, in the week run-up to New Years, I wish everyone a happy Boxing Week, and hopefully you find the deals you’re looking for!

Simon Durivage (#129)

Simon Durivage just received the Order of Canada.

He’s a very famous, longtime anchor — with a television anchoring career dating back to 1968.  Actually, he’s one of Canada’s and Québec’s most respected Editor-in-Chiefs and Chief Station Anchors.  He continues to be a television host, and in this respect, he is among a very small group of Québécois anchors who could be considered the Québec version of a living/ongoing Nolton Nash & Lloyd Robertson (in English Canada) or a Dan Rather, Mike Wallace, or Barbara Walters (in the US).

Durivage started his career with Radio-Canada, and for many many years, he hosted several of R-C’s pillar programs including:

  • Enjeux (a W5 / 5th Estate / 60 minutes type program)
  • Le Point (the 30 minute analysis / special reporting section which used to follow the 30 minute news segment of the daily evening news on R-C)
  • Montréal ce soir (the Montréal evening news).

He had also anchored programs on Radio-Québec (today’s Télé-Québec) at the tail end of the 1970s, and he also hosted a show on TV5 (“the” international French television station) for a short period.

Durivage then moved to Québecor’s TVA network in 1997 in prominent Chief Anchor roles, hosting his own programs.

He moved back to Radio-Canada in 2003 as a Chief input anchor on R-C’s 24-hour network RDI.  Today, we see him on air everyday as the host of his own opinion-maker / commentary show, Le Club des ex.

Le Club des Ex is daily a program which sees Durivage as the moderator and interviewer of a 3-personal panelist of “ex”-politicians (hence the title of the show, “The Club of Ex’s”).  The three panelists are paid by Radio-Canada on a year-to-year contract, and are given full-salary by R-C (the salaries have been the topic of media attention over the last few months, and Gilles Duceppe even declined a panelist position because he would lose his former MP Federal pension if he were to derive a salary from a Federal agency, including Radio-Canada).  Each of the current panelists were former Members of Québec’s National Assembly, and they provide commentaries based on their personal experience, views, and political opinions.

Actually, it’s quite fitting I mentioned Simon Durivage’s current role on Le Club des ex, as it ties into some political commentary posts I’ve written in the past.  You may have read my previous post “Québec’s Network of Opinion Makers”.   In that post, I listed some of Québec’s most high profile and well-known opinion makers and opinion maker programs. Among that list, I mentioned Le Club des ex.  I mentioned in that post that some of Québec’s opinion-makers and opinion-marker programs often slant and lean their media-expressed commentaries and views towards sovereignty (although I do not believe “Le Club des Ex” has any political agenda).  In the past post entitled Le Plateau I gave some of the main reasons why this may be, despite a strong majority of Québec’s population not being in favour of sovereignty (although I discussed in the post Maurais Live that, although a majority of people do not support sovereignty outright, there is still an important segment of the population who could be considered “soft sovereignists”).  If you read these few posts together and take them as one continuous series, you’ll get a fairly good insight into how the ideology of sovereignty and the media-world meet (and for a further dose of insight of this sovereignty-meets-media phenomena, you might want to read the continuously running post No way, Le Figaro).

But unlike some other opinion-makers, Simon Durivage, as the host of Le Club des ex, does an  commendable job of maintaining political neutrality – with a sincere attempt to objectively get to the bottom of matters, regardless of the political topic being discussed.  I have absolutely no idea what Durivage’s personal political views are, and I frankly don’t care because he can be trusted to deliver a non-partisan point of view and to take everyone to task equally… always seeking to see and report the bigger picture. As such, Simon Durivage is one of the Canadian journalists who I trust the most (be they Anglophone or Francophone). Add to that a career dating from 1968 (46 years), and all the experience that entails, there truly is almost nobody in Canada’s media who can deliver topics quite like Simon Durivage.

He truly is the one of best that Canada’s media has to offer – and he deserves all the accolades he receives.

ADDENDUM: 2015-06-19

Today is Simon Durivage’s last day as host of Le Club des ex.   He is retiring, but he says the public will continue to see him in media projects dear to his heart.

I sent him a note earlier today, and I wish him the best.

Bonne semi-retraite Simon!  Profitez-en du temps libre avec vos proches.  Vous le méritez.   B.

A few Christmas traditions in Québec (#128)

Merry Christmas!

Has been a super busy few days.   Picked up friends at Edmonton airport yesterday who flew in from Toronto to spend an Alberta Christmas with my family for a few days.   Looks like the Saskatchewan travel plans to see the grandparents, aunts & uncles will have to take a back seat for a different trip later this winter.   Last minute change in plans – I’ll be driving down to Calgary in a couple days with my Toronto buddies to see more friends, and then we’ll likely head to the Rocky Mountains for some R&R.

The nextt posts will be a little slow coming.

A couple of days ago I mentioned a little about the ragoût de boulettes eaten by Franco-albertains, Québécois and other Francophones around Canada for Christmas.

If you’re an Anglophone Canadian, chances are you main Christmas meal will be this evening.

But for Francophone Candians, the traditional Christmas supper was last night (Christmas Eve).  There will still be a Christmas meal this evening, but it’s not considered the main holiday meal (the meal on the 25th is more an “echo” of the big meal on the 24th than anything else).

I’ve seen MAJOR changes in my own lifetime in the way Christmas is celebrated for Francophones across Canada, including in Québec.  Even as recently as 30 years ago, a huge chunk of the population would go attend a midnignt mass (often more symbolic of out of tradition than anything else, considering how Québec and Canadian society in general has become quite secular over the last 40 to 50 years).  Often it was one of the only times of year people would still step foot in a church for a liturgical function.   But with an even greater degree of secularization, and influx of immigrants and sharing of customs from around the world, fewer and fewer people now attend the midnight mass on Christmas Eve (it generally is the older generations who now attend, ie 60+).

In the past, when I was a small child, people would still often hold their major meal after the midnight mass, it with the disappearance of this tradition, the meal is now held much earlier on the 24th, such as late evening or around 10pm.  There are even a good number of Francophone families who have moved their main Christmas meal to Christmas Day itself, must like for Anglophone families.  In this sense, there are no longer hard-and-fast rules and things can vary from family to family.

When to give and open Christmas gifts is also a mish-mash of traditions, varying from family to family.  Traditionally it was done after the midnight mass, but it’s has been moved to Christmas Day morning for most families (although some families still may open gifts, or at least some gifts on the 24th – but all people who I know now open gifts the morning of the 25th).

Food is still something where there is a major difference between Anglohone and Francophone families – particularly in Québec, Acadia and Francophone Ontario (and to a certain extent in Francophone families in Western Canada).

I already mentioned that ragoût de boulettes(meatball stew) is served, but so are three or four other dishes, which all together constitute the four or five main dishes (makes for quite a diverse plate to say the least).

Apart from ragoût de boulettes, the other main dishes include:

  • Tourtière (pork meat pie):  most families have their own recipes, but the recipes from the Lac-St-Jean region of Québec are the most famous, and their made a little different and are considered to be the most delicious (I love’em!  Many Northern Alberta Francophones came from Lac-St-Jean, and so it’s a style of Tourtière people can readily find in Northern Alberta Christmas markets).
  • Turkey:  In the Thanksgiving post a few weeks ago, I mentioned that Turkey is not a particularly major holiday meal in Québec (at least not in the Anglophone sense) –  but yes, it is still served as one of the main dishes in many Québécois family meals.   That being said, I do know some Québécois families who do not serve Turkey at Christmas, so it very much is a preference that depends on the family (however the Montréal area would likely see it served on most tables).
  • Ragoût de pattes de cochon (pig hocks stew):  this may or may not be on the Christmas table.  It’s hit and miss, and is more popular in some regions than others.

Like in Anglophone families, side dishes can quite varied.  Mashed or creamed potatoes is a sure bet, often a pâté de viande (a meat pâté) may be served.  Various salads can also be served.

Deserts are also a mix.  Tarte à sucre / à l’érable / à la crême are traditional (Sugar / maple / maple cream pies), but each family seems to have their own favorite desert and traditional deserts are not necessarily the rule anymore (just like in Anglophone families).   Le bûche de Noël (a Christmas log) seems to still be a staple desert, but I also know Anglophone families who order it also (more often it’s bought than made at home – like many things)… And I see them being sold in supermarkets across Québec, as well as in other provinces.

Christmas markets (almost like Christmas themed farmers markets and arts and crafts markets) are still big in Québec and in rural regions across Canada.  It’s a tradition that’s dying out in the larger cities, but I think they’ll still be alive and well across Quebec for some time yet.

Wherever you are in Canada, I wish you a very merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you are celebrating at his time of year.   Have a wonderful day with friends and family today, and I’ll see you again soon. 🙂