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A few Christmas traditions in Québec (#128)

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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. 🙂

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