For the most part, our ancestors lived in the countryside and had a strong sense of mutual support and celebration. They also observed many traditions and customs, most of which have since disappeared.

The charivari was a custom in which people had a good time making fun of others. For example, if a man and woman of very different ages got married, or if a widow or widower remarried a little too soon, neighbours were quick to express their disapproval. On the night of the wedding, people would gather outside the home of the newlyweds and make as much noise as possible. They would party, sing and dance while clanging pots, rattles and bells until the wee hours of the morning. Talk about unromantic!

Video narration available in French at http://primaire.recitus.qc.ca/sujets/9/vie-quotidienne/3741

Between Epiphany and Lent, people celebrated Mardi Gras. On Mardi Gras night there would be a carnival. Carnival-goers would have a field day! They would dress up in old patched clothes and travel by sleigh from house to house to drink, eat and dance. These carnival-goers would collect victuals for poor families at the same time.

There was also the tradition of Mid-Lent. The purpose of this celebration was to break the 40 days of deprivation and fasting leading up to Easter. During this celebration, people would dress up and go from house to house to play tricks on their neighbours.

No memorable evening ever ended without a story or legend by the fire. A good storyteller would have his own repertory that had been passed down from generation to generation. He knew how to set a scary or funny mood. Tales often involved strange beings such as devils, imps, ghosts and werewolves. Many of these stories have even been passed down all the way to us.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social

See also – Traces of the past: