Stories and Legends

Traditional French culture in the Middle Ages drew heavily on the apocryphal books of the gospel for many Christmas stories. This oral tradition took centuries to become a true literary genre. These stories, tales and legends are fashioned from a number of motifs such as the night of miracles in which animals have the gift of speech, stories of treasures, and of the dead who return to haunt the living. Depending on the region, French Christmas stories take their inspiration from geography, fauna or flora. Thus the very pretty Legend of the sage plant features the Holy Family and three Provencal plants.
At the end of the XVIIIth and the beginning of the XIXth centuries, the Christmas story was recognized as a literary genre because of the English writer Charles Dickens and his famous story: A Christmas Carol.

Stories of French origin, where punishment is meted out to miscreants who refuse to help others on Christmas night, others where charitable souls are rewarded for their generosity to the less fortunate, turned up in French Canadian logging camps. Members of the Holy Family and fantastic heroes like Tom Caribou also appear, along with legends of werewolves, wills-of-the-wisp and ghost ships.

The Quebec version of the ghost ship is a birch bark canoe which sails through the sky carrying lumberjacks anxious to get home for Christmas Eve. To do this, they make a pact with the devil. One of the company, forgetting his promise, causes the canoe to fall by calling on the name of God.