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Christmas on the Islands

Christmas on the Islands

- When are you coming home for the holidays?

It all starts mid-December, gently. The archipelago's population grows back a bit. In the few coffee shops that stay open year-round, at the grocery store and in the shops, the conversations get a bit louder, and new faces show up. It's one of the great joys brought about by December. Some may be waiting for Santa to drop by, but in many families, we also count the days until the return of friends and family and kids studying on the mainland. Living on an island often implies having a few loved ones who don't - and the joy of being together again spreads even to those who weren't expecting anyone.

Among the traditions marking the beginning of the holidays is the arrival of the Yule logs. Making the long journey from the continent by ferry, they land in the thousands before we can even finish hanging the Christmas lights. Many Islanders can't get enough of the cake roll and buy their fair share over the festive season. I remember a day I was waiting in line to pay for mine, next to a lady also holding the same beloved dessert in its box.

- That taste really brings back all the memories, she said with a wink.

Turkey, egg rolls, small stuffed buns, chicken pot pies, seafood pot pie, and all the sweet treats: fruit cakes, date bites, chocolate bites, sweet pies, nut bars, doughnuts, shortbread cookies, jam-filled cookies, molasses cookies, baking powder biscuits, old-fashioned potato candies... the list is long, and the flavours and ancestral recipes vary from one household to the next. But the undisputed king of the Christmas table is our variant of the meat pie, a distant cousin of the Quebecois meat pie, but not as thick and filled with finely grounded pork and beef.

In the larger families, it's to each their own date. The evening of the 24th is spent with one side of the family, the dinner of the 25th happens at someone else's... but the same people often end up celebrating together from one house to the next. All the mismatched chairs in the house are tightly lined around the magically extended table. Once the feast is over, the plates are replaced with board games, a cribbage board, a deck of cards for a game of Hearts, another one for a whole tournament of 150...

A few years back, I was the one hosting on the 24th. And I was, of course, missing an ingredient. I dashed towards the convenience store, probably still covered in flour, and as I opened the dep's door, music filled the air. Packed between the hot dog machine and the chips rack were three guys, a guitar, and the O Holy Night! I made it to the aisle of emergency candles and batteries and tried to give a believable impression of someone intently looking for something for as long as I could. Since that day, every Christmas dinner prep includes a midafternoon escape to the dep.

This year, the memory warms my heart.

Christmas may be different this year, but nothing shall stop us from spreading the cheer and sharing - even while six feet apart - the precious moments that'll become cherished memories.

Photo credit: Nicole Dagenais

Par Suzanne Richard

Suzanne Richard is an author, a speaker and a musician. She published a collection of short stories entitled La mer, trois kilomètres à gauche. Her conference — Les mots et la mer — is about maritime words and expressions commonly used in the French language.

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Les Îles de la Madeleine
Please note that all visitors aged 13 and over must pay a fee of $30 before leaving the archipelago for departures between May 1st and October 14th, 2024. Read more