For the people living in Acadia and New France, agrarian and religious calendars dictated most of their celebrations and inspired their customs. These primarily rural ancestors also followed a way of life based on interaction between Europeans and Amerindians. Over the years, some of their traditions have survived, even as a progressively urban society has gradually allowed others to fall into disuse.

New Year’s Day New Year’s Day
Almost every civilization has developed special rituals and celebrations to mark the transition from one year to the next. French Canadians and Acadians feast with their families and observe both pagan and religious customs.


Epiphany (Twelfth Night or Feast of the Kings) Epiphany (Twelfth Night or Feast of the Kings)
Epiphany is the feast in the Catholic liturgical calendar that commemorates the Magi’s arrival in Bethlehem to give presents to the Baby Jesus and worship Him.


Mardi gras Mardi gras
Mardi Gras used to be the culmination of the carnival that preceded the period of abstinence Christians still refer to as Lent.


Candlemas (La Chandeleur) Candlemas (La Chandeleur)
The word “Candlemas” comes from the Latin festa candelarum, which means “festival of candles.” Candlemas celebrations are associated with light and purification.


Valentine’s Day Valentine’s Day
For many people, Valentine’s Day evokes three things: chocolate, love, and cupid.


The Mi-Carême (Mid-Lent) The Mi-Carême (Mid-Lent)
After the excesses of Mardi Gras, it was time to tighten belts until Easter. Lent is a 40-day period of penitence and fasting. In the olden days, everyone except the very young and the very old adhered to this custom.


Easter Easter
Nowadays, many young children become aware that Easter is approaching when shopping centres in major cities set up their miniature farms in which young rabbits and chicks hope for nothing more than being petted!


April Fool's Day (Poisson d’avril) April Fool's Day (Poisson d’avril)
Having a mischievous disposition is the best way to appreciate the first day of April, known among francophones as poisson d’avril (literally, April fish).


Corn Husking Party Corn Husking Party
You have to experience the sensation of biting into a freshly cooked cob of corn, dripping with melted butter and sprinkled with salt, to understand why the ritual of husking corn is in no danger of disappearing.


Sugaring Off Sugaring Off
In March and April, when warm days follow cold nights, the season to tap maple trees for their sap and turn it into syrup has arrived.


Church auction (La criée des âmes) Church auction (La criée des âmes)
The criée des âmes was basically an auction to raise money for the local parish—most likely preceded by a communal meal and sometimes a glass or two of something! Profits from the auction would be used either to finance masses for souls in purgatory or to pay for church maintenance.


The Feast of Saint Catherine The Feast of Saint Catherine
In 12th-century Normandy, the veneration of Saint Catherine arose around the virgin and martyr who supposedly lived in the 4th century in Alexandria, Egypt. Saint Catherine was tortured for refusing to renounce her Christian faith and also for spurning Emperor Maxentius’s marriage proposals.


Christmas Christmas
For most of us, the simple mention of the word Christmas evokes countless childhood memories. Christmas became a Christian feast in the 4th century. It was instituted by Pope Liberus as a means of replacing the pagan celebrations surrounding the winter solstice. Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus.


Le charivari Le charivari
A francophone, responding to a loud noise or racket by exclaiming “Quel charivari!” (“What a hullabaloo!”) is probably unaware that the word used so casually alludes to a custom rooted in intolerance.


The Work Bee The Work Bee
The practice of holding work bees shows how essential mutual assistance and solidarity were in establishing the communities of New France. Some house and farm chores required several sets of hands.