Barrette recalls joyous sounds of Christmas

Arlette Barrette celebrated Christmas as a child with French-Canadian traditions of her family heritage.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Arlette Barrette cherished the sounds and spirit of Christmas as a child living in a small community just north of Quebec City.
Midnight mass was a joyous event at the Catholic Church she attended with her family. After mass, the church bells would ring and some people honked their horns as they left to return home.
“It was a big joyful community moment,” says Barrette, 72, a resident of Pleasantview Lodge in High Prairie.
“My grandpa would sing a solo in the balcony.”
Not everyone got to go to the special Christmas service.
“First, you had to be old enough to go to midnight mass,” says Barrette, who grew up in Stoneham as the oldest of four children in her family.
“Because I was a quiet child and not disturbing, I got to go to when I was four.”
The Christmas tree was special.
“We didn’t get to see the Christmas tree until after midnight mass,” Barrette says.
“The lights would be on and the tree had shiny ornaments and tinsel.”
She says the tree was also located in the fancy parlour that was used for only special occasions and guests.
Some of the glass ornaments were in the shape of birds.
“It looked like real birds were in the tree,” Barrette says.
Gifts under the tree were opened Christmas morning.
“I always got a colouring book and wax crayons,” Barrette says.
“The book was thick and it would last the whole year.
“When I looked at what I coloured, it would help me remember Christmas; it was Christmas all year.”
But it wasn’t all fun and games.
“Sometimes Mom would make dresses for us girls, something practical we needed,” Barrette says.
More gifts were waiting at the grandparents’ place where the whole family gathered in the afternoon.
“We got practical things, like mittens, toques and scarves,” Barrette says.
Turkey or ham was on the menu for Christmas dinner that would be served for up to 35 people.
Tourtieres and ragout were specialty foods of main course.
“For dessert, we had two kinds of pie and buche de Noel cake, shaped like a log,” Barrette says.
“After the big meal, you had to dance it off.”
Christmas was also celebrated in a big way at her school that was operated by nuns.
The priest was the special guest at the Christmas concert where students performed.
“We got a candy cane, hot cocoa and cookies, sugar cookies,” Barrette says.
“We were sugared up alright.”

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