Joyeux Noël

If there were traditions to be observed when I was growing up, they were mostly Scandinavian.  Which makes sense as I am roughly 75% Scandinavian.  The other half of my 25% is French Canadian and unfortunately we don’t have much information on that side of the family or keep in touch with cousins as we should (I’m trying to remedy that). Now that we are in the merry season of Yule, I wonder how the French Canadian side of the family celebrated and what kind of traditions they may have had.

La bûche de Noël

A delicious sponge rolled with jam or cream or chocolate filling, decorated to look like a traditional Yule log.  I tried to make one once complete with meringue mushrooms and it did taste good…

Le réveillon

Christmas Eve was the time for the réveillon – a nightlong dinner and dancing party traditionally held after Catholic midnight mass . The word itself comes from the verb réveiller, which means “to wake up”. People would sleep during the day to be fresh and ready to feast and frolic on Christmas Eve. The réveillon usually was the biggest feast of the year – a large banquet where traditional dishes abounded –  tourtière (a uniquely French-Canadian meat pie), ragoût de patte (pig’s feet stew), ragoût de boulettes (meatball stew), turkey, vegetables, pea soup, meat pâté, roasted chestnuts, maple cream pie, etc etc. This is also where la bûche de Noël would be served.  Gifts were opened after the feast and party.

I’m sure there were many small things, like in every family, that my French Canadian side did out of tradition.  I wish I had more pictures of that side, or knew more stories, or had some relics from them.  I guess I could step up my game and try some of this holiday dishes (maybe my second bûche de Noël would be prettier) in order to feel closer to my francophone family.

Parris family
The Joseph Parris family, ca 1890; the only picture in the author’s collection
Cara Jensen is owner of Sherlock Homes historical consulting & genealogy, where she provides expert services on cultural preservation and ancestral discovery. She is a member of the National Genealogical Society, National Council on Public History, and American Association for State and Local History. You can find Cara on Twitter @cjjens
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