Figgy pudding, brandy butter, too many roast potatoes – Christmas dinner always leaves us reaching for the nearest digestif and snoozing in front of the TV afterwards. All over the world, overindulgence and celebratory dinners are par for the course during Christmas, and it’s when we spend more money on food and drink than any other time of the year. However, if you think the UK holds the number one spot for festive feasting, think again – the French-speaking areas of Canada have been banqueting on Christmas Eve for the past two hundred years, and the heady combination of both quantity and quality means it’s a dinner to remember.
This custom is known as the Réveillon, and has its origins in the nineteenth century – although back then the meal only consisted of a few biscuits and perhaps a piece of tourtière (a Canadian minced meat pie). But as food became less scarce and more families could afford it, the custom grew and grew into an incredible lavish feast. Today it is still enjoyed after midnight mass by a select few, but most tend to tuck in around dinnertime so they can enjoy Christmas Day as well.
It used to start after midnight mass and last until Christmas morning, until the children would come down to open their presents (the parents presumably would spend most of Christmas Day asleep!). The tradition fell out of favour towards the beginning of the twentieth century and became a custom only found in devout Catholic homes, but resurfaced in the 1990s when restaurants started serving Réveillon dinners at a more sociable time. Today, it’s celebrated at home once more, with the same core rule at its heart: the table must be adorned with the most luxurious food and drink the family can afford.