The Night of Miracles

Christmas Eve with its atmosphere of wonder offers infinite possibilities to people’s imagination. It was believed, for example, that during this magical night, sand on seashores, rocks on mountains, the oceans and valleys opened up in the light of the moon and the stars to reveal the rich treasures hidden in their depths: this is the revelation of hidden treasures.

It was also said that on the stroke of midnight, farm animals acquired the marvellous and unusual gift of speech. Oxen, cows, horses, pigs, and poultry began to speak to one another and to exchange strange secrets about humans, particularly their masters. Bad luck, the risk of being struck dumb or, worse still, even death came to those who tried to spy on them. This belief was prevalent not only in France but also in Francophone Canada. Another belief says that at midnight, farm cattle kneel in the stable to worship the Infant Jesus. It is clear that these two beliefs are closely linked to the even older one that Jesus was born at midnight.

In Canada, there is a belief that on Christmas Eve, the dead rise up from their graves and kneel at the foot of the cemetery cross where they are awaited by the previous parish priest wearing a white surplice and golden stole.
The priest says the prayers for the Nativity aloud and the departed respond reverently. Once the mass is finished, the dead rise, look longingly at the village and the house where they were born, then silently return to their coffins.