In Quebec, the big event for Christmas occurs on Christmas Eve. Traditionally after the Midnight Mass in France, Canada and several Roman Catholic countries, the entire family reunites for the Réveillon.
How it used to be?
I recalled when I was a child I would go to bed around 7 pm the night of the réveillon. My parents awakened me around 10 pm so I can celebrate all night. In our family, this celebration took place from 11-11:30 pm to about 5 am.
It was and it still is a huge thing. What changed for most of us is the number of guests. When I was a child, we were often 60 to 75 persons. I know families that were over a hundred people for the New Year réveillon.
The Midnight Mass was always special. Each year, you discovered a new crèche (manger) often with a real baby and a couple acting as Mary and Joseph. Listening to the sounds of a live choral society singing joyful classical Christmas carols brings me pleasures. Even today, I am still a fan. After all, it is once a year. Unfortunately, the lust of the masses of my childhood has been lost.
What is a réveillon in French-speaking Canada?
Our Christmas réveillon is a family gathering with a late feast followed by the gift exchange.
The appetizers vary a lot. In the 1970’s, coquilles Saint-Jacques, a French scallop recipe, whole fish next to a buffet table were typical. Yesterday, my mother in law served a nice vegetable platter and canapés for the cocktail. Many families have a toast with Champagne before starting the meal. While for the first course, we ate smoked salmon, with red onions, olive oil and capers. Simple yet delicious.
A huge turkey served with a cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and buttered boiled small carrots plus a meat pie called tourtière represent the traditional main course. Every region adds their specialties.
We savored a cheese platter before the dessert. I am betting that many families ate a Lambert’s ice cream log cake last night in Quebec. When I was young, the dessert table was huge. My aunts brought homemade maple fudge, fruit pies, maple pies and other sweets. And you cannot forget several recipes of fruit cakes.
Nowadays, we start earlier like most people. But even if the family members are more spread out we had fun celebrating last night.
By the way, I received a cherry red Le Creuset cheese fondue set for Christmas. I will share my best fondue tips and tricks with you in 2008.
I wish you and your loved ones Merry Christmas if you are Christians. Otherwise, Happy Holidays!