Family, friends and food make up much of our Christmas fête in Montreal. There’s a slow stream of guests who duck under the twinkling porch lights, stamp the snow from off their boots and step in from the cold. From the hot-spiced apple cider and shortbread at my annual cookie swap in early December to the tartines and bubbly in the wee hours of the morning on New Year’s Day, we celebrate a month of bringing people together over food and drink.
For effortless entertaining, we love a mix-ahead, lightly-spiced winter sangria full of citrus and pomegranate, and gruyère gougères, baked from frozen and served up hot at the cocktail hour. Occasionally, I’ll tuck a sliver of smoked salmon or a slice of Montreal smoked meat inside the cheese puff’s eggy cavity and call it a canapé.
My husband, Danny, hosts a Québec beer tasting on his last day of work, as a sort of ‘chin-chin’ to the debut of the holidays. He balances out the booze by baking up mini tourtière hand pies, and serves them with a crudité plate of winter vegetables. I contribute houses with chimneys and a tiny cinnamon-stick woodpile, but mostly consumed plain and simple, one gingerbread boy at a time.
There is only one option for the Christmas Eve menu in Québec – it must be the province’s favorite pork pie, Tourtière. I serve mine with a platter of garlic-roasted mushrooms and capers and an enormous wooden bowl of winter greens & seasonal fruit. Also? Homemade eggnog with bourbon, if you please.
Christmas morning is simple: overnight cinnamon-pecan rolls, fresh fruit and home peach preserves, a splash of chilled Prosecco, and café à volonté, of course. Eggs, sausages and wild blueberry pancakes with heaps of Québec maple syrup all come later on, when we join up with cousins and siblings across town for a late brunch.
We’re still finding our way for Christmas dinner traditions, and I suppose it will be so for some time to come, as is the case with blended families, comprising of member young and old, near and far. Some years we are fifty-strong at one set of in-laws for a hot turkey dinner with all the fixings, followed by an ample sweet table. This year, we are hosting another side of the family around our simply adorned table. I’m roasting a leg of lamb with winter fruits as a nod to my British background, not forgetting the Yorkshire pudding or the classic English trifle for dessert.
In the slow days after Christmas, we drift back and forth between the bright lights of Montréal and our snow-buried homestead. It’s a special time to soak up a little culture at the cafés, museums, and occasionally the ballet, as well as revel in the simple childhood joys like playing in the snow and getting creative on family art day at home.
This year we have snow to spare and the fruitcake is waiting at the ready, clad in its rum-soused cloth and smelling of cinnamon, butter and figs. Yes, it’s shaping up to be a very merry Christmas indeed.
Montréal Christmas Recipes
We're celebrating Christmas and the winter holidays around the world, inviting friends and fellow writers from The Philippines to France to Rwanda to share how the holidays are celebrated in their corner of the world.
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Christmas Around the World
(Image credits: Aimée Wimbush-Bourque)