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Christmas Around the World – Quebec

Our family photo from last year, we “hijacked” Santa’s place at the mall ;)

Quebec is the largest province of Canada by area and second most populated. It also is the only fully Francophone province and with that has a lot of its own traditions that differ from the rest of the country. The two main cities are Montreal and Quebec City, both on the banks of the St-Lawrence River, whose history goes back hundreds of years and is still strongly influenced by European traditions. Montreal is, among other things, known for its multitude of festivals during summer (arts, music and more and many of them free) as well as its strong food scene, while Quebec City is the only fortified city in North America and one of the oldest cities of the continent.

Many families decorate their houses and trees as early as mid-November, often changing themes throughout the years. Many involve their children in either choosing decorations or making them themselves. Traditional decorations often include natural objects, such as dried fruit, pine cones or fir branches, things made out of felt or linen or garlands made out of dried fruit, popcorn. Many families also decorate porches, trees and bushes in front of their houses with Christmas lights and many sing old Christmas songs in front of the lit up Christmas tree.

Other than making their own Christmas decorations, a common Christmas-related craft in Quebec is to take Christmas related shapes (such as a wreath or Santa or an elf) and use crumpled up tissue paper and stick it onto the shape to colour it, many families also make their own Christmas cards this way.

And Christmas also is the time, where people dance the Rigodon or Gigue, which is related to the square dance and where the instructions for the dance are given as you go, with the fiddle playing an important role.

Picture source:

Towns throughout Quebec also have Christmas markets, often on the streets, which gives them a European flair, with mostly local vendors and artisans selling food, decorations and other articles. The best known ones are the Marché de Noël in the old train station of Sherbrooke, the Marché de Noël & des Traditions de Longueuil and the Marché de Noël of Quebec City. Another North American tradition that has taken root in Quebec as well is the traditional photo with Santa, mostly at the mall, but some of the Christmas markets also have Santas in a centralized location.

Photo source:

Unlike many other places, the creche de Noel (Christmas Nativity scene) still is fairly common in Quebec today. In earlier times a real life scene was assembled before the midnight mass, with the children of the village playing the parts and the youngest newborn being the baby Jesus. Every year there also is an exposition of up to 250 different Nativity scenes from all around the world at the Oratoire St-Joseph in Montreal, attracting visitors and pilgrims from all over North America.

Traditionally Quebecers attend the messe de minuit (midnight mass), where the choir sings religious hymns that have been part of the tradition for generations. After the mass the families come together for the reveillon (midnight meal), with traditional Quebecois dishes. Nowadays the mass can take place as early as 10 pm and the Christmas meal can happen before the mass or even on Christmas Day. The Père Noël (Father Christmas = Santa Claus) visits the house to leave gifts while the family attends the mass and it is a tradition in many families to open the gifts on Christmas Eve, before going to bed.

Nowadays it is usually Christmas Day when families and families gather for get-togethers, playing cards (for example rummy) or board games, playing games such as sandbag toss, musical chair, limbo or going out to play some hockey in the neighbourhood rink or their own backyard.

1 Pineapple Ham, 2 Cheese Whiz Sandwich Bread, 3 Yule Ice Cream Log, 4 Tourtiere

Picture sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

A lot of Quebecois traditions at any time of the year involve food. The most traditional Christmas dinner contains a turkey, tourtières (meat pies) and the buche (yule log, we prefer the ice cream version, it is lighter than the original) as main dishes, but many families have their own traditions with appetizers and snacks such as deviled eggs, bonbons au patate (potato candy) or the sandwich (Cut a sandwich loaf length wise, filling it with egg salad and cold cuts, each layer different. Then mix cream cheese and cheese whiz and coat the whole loaf before cutting it into slices). Another popular main dish is pineapple ham (take a ham with the bone in, put pineapple slices around and on top, a cherry in middle of the pineapple, sprinkle it with brown sugar, and baste it with the juice of the pineapples. You can optionally put cloves into the ham, you can score it in a grid pattern to put cloves into some cross sections. And then with the bone and rest you can make yellow pea soup the next day). And of course there also are plenty of desserts, such as cherry pie (or other fruit pies), ice cream, sucre à la creme…

Thanks Alex for doing research and writing memories of stories I heard while I was just “throwing them at you and making it legible up there”. Now on to the days before and the day of Christmas.

Here is what we did last year: we baked some goodies for the firemen the night of the 23rd and the morning of the 24th to bring to the firemen before their lunch. They were pretty happy and thought it was very nice, no one ever did that for them :)
So to continue our 24th of December, after lunch (the one year joke now traditional pizza was lunch), nap time and dinner (bûche for dessert). We all got our pajamas on and we exchanged the presents from us to Nico and vice versa, Santa’s gifts would come in the morning.

Dec 24
1) Opening gifts for him from us.
2) Giving others their gift and helping to open them.
3) Traditional show your Christmas pajama photo in front of the tree

On the 25th in the morning he came down to Santa’s gifts and we lazied around in pajamas all morning and played a lot with everything :) We don’t really have friends or family to visit so it’s pretty relaxed and casual, which I don’t think is bad :)
Dec 25
1) Playing with Santa’s gifts
2) Playing in the snow
3) Trying to nap with Santa’s big gift (shopping cart)

This year the plan is the same but Alex’ parents will come over from Germany from the 19th to the 29th of December, so it should bring a few different elements and traditions (Alex has posted about German traditions) that should be interesting since Nico is into everything new a lot!

With our post we are joining an amazing group of bloggers in a 32 day series about Christmas called “Christmas Around the World”! Bloggers from all around the world showcase Christmas traditions, recipes, crafts and more from all corners of the planet!  Make sure to check the linky at the end of the main post, since every day a new country will be added to take you on a journey around the world and put you in the Christmas spirit! :)


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