Erik Nitsche: Christmas -- Pear Tree Boughs
English Canada and French Canada celebrate Christmas in somewhat different ways due to their diverse European heritages. British settlers arriving in Canada brought from England the tradition of marking Christmas Day with a huge dinner featuring such old English dishes as plum pudding, mince pie, roasted fowl and beef. Houses were decorated with wintergreen and cranberry branches when holly and mistletoe were not found. Christmas Eve was the day for social visits and drinking, and Christmas Day brought family reunions, exchanging gifts and sleigh rides. However, French Canadians, particularly those whose homeland was Normandy, maintained more religious customs for Christmas. After celebrating messe de minuit (Midnight Mass), the reveillon de Noël was held. Like the British settlers, the celebration included a family feast followed by dancing and party games until daybreak. Exchanging gifts was reserved for Jour de l'An (New Year's Day) when children learned about Pere Noël who brought presents from the Christ Child. But, after the nineteenth century, a change in Christmas celebrations occurred in Canada. The origins of many of the present-day customs can be traced back to Germany, where delightful traditions were popularized in England by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Continuing this unique blend of Christmas traditions, Canadians today enjoy feasting, gift-giving and decorating with greenery much the same as their colonial counterparts.
This painting was originally published on the Fleetwood® First Day Cover for the Canada 68¢ Christmas stamp issued October 23, 1985.
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