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Christmas in Québec

Christmas in Quebec

We are excited to be part of a great new blog hop named “Christmas in Different Lands”, hosted by Multicultural Kid Blogs :)

Quebec is the oldest province of Canada and one with many traditions, a lot of them different from the rest of Canada as well.

Many families start decorating their houses and trees as early as mid-November and they often change up the themes throughout the years. Often the children also are involved either in choosing the decorations or making them themselves. Many of the traditional decorations contain natural things, such as dried fruit, pine cones or fir branches, decorations made out of felt or linen or garlands made out of popcorn and dried fruit. 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. Many households also decorate their porches, trees and bushes in the front with Christmas lights and many sing old Christmas songs in front of the lit up Christmas tree.

Construction paper chain garland
Back in the early 1900s other than the kids playing outside, having a meal as a family (with extended family sometimes) and going to the Mass, that was pretty much it. So we’ll have to fast forward to the 1960s to get any kind of crafts or books. For crafts the only thing my mother remembers making was coloring an angel that they would stick on a cardboard as a wall or door decoration and the paper-chain garland that they used to color white paper, since they did not have construction paper yet. I remember doing the chain garland with construction paper in school almost every year to decorate the class, but I can’t recall any other craft myself.

31 Contes Et Chansons de Decembre – Line Boulanger
No traditional book really exists, since not a lot of people knew to read back then (the 1900s), in the 1960s my mother doesn’t recall any book either. So here’s a book that we bought Nico that was published in Quebec, so the stories could be from there.

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

Picture source:

Many towns throughout Quebec also have their own Christmas markets, often on the streets, which gives them a European flair, with a lot of local vendors and artisans selling food, decorations and other stuff. Best known 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. The traditional photo with Santa is another North American tradition that has taken root in Quebec, mostly at the mall, but some of the Christmas markets also have Santas in a central location.

Photo source:

Unlike many other places, the crèche de Noël (Christmas Nativity scene) still is fairly common in Quebec today. In past times a real life scene was put together before the midnight mass, with the village’s children playing the parts and the youngest newborn being the baby Jesus. Every year you can also find 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 traditional religious hymns that have not changed for generations. After the mass 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.

The recipe I was told was very common was a Ragout de Boulettes, back then, though, they did not have all the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and clove) and herbs that are in this recipe. They also used water instead of chicken stock, since that was more common. Instead of grilling the flour in the oven they would grill it in the pan. Onion was optional, since not everybody could buy vegetables, but the rest is pretty much the same and it is still made today, as you can see, with a few more ingredients that are easy to get and affordable these days.

The main dessert was the Bûche de Noel (Yule Log), this seems like a pretty traditional way to do it, I am not sure, if they used to whisk the egg whites separate, but this is as close as we can get to it today. They used jam in the center, compared to the store-bought now that has icing and there was no icing or just very little on the outside, since sugar was an expensive item for the kitchen, jam was easier to make. Those two recipes are still served at Christmas today.

1 Pineapple Ham, 2 Cheese Whiz Sandwich Loaf, 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 (not surprising since most people talk mostly about food). The most traditional Christmas dinner contains a turkey, tourtières (meat pies) and the Bûche (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, chicken salad and ham salad, 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

Nowadays it is usually Christmas Day when families and friends 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.

If you would like to know more recipes and traditions, please go here :)

If you do this, we’d LOVE to see a photo of it. Email it to us or post it on our Facebook page. Don’t forget to also follow us on Pinterest and our “Around the World in 12 Dishes” series also has its own Pinterest boards for each country. We’d love to do a Facebook album, a Pinterest board and a page of your creations :)


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