613 Holiday Special: Traditions

This post is the fourth and last in our Ottawa blogger 613 Holiday Special series for 2013. Follow five fabulous Ottawa blogs as we set our tables, deck our halls & try to survive the holiday season with style & cheer. Grab your eggnog and toast to the season with us every Monday until December 23. Happy Holidays!

Holiday traditions in our family have evolved along with our circumstances. When I was a kid, we’d often be traveling on Christmas Eve, driving from Toronto to Ottawa and arriving at my grandparents’ house just in time for a few of Nan’s cookies before heading to bed to wait for Santa. We’d come over the hill on the Queensway just past Kanata and know we were almost there when we saw the “Ottawa lights” sparkling ahead. To me, the anticipation of Christmas Eve is as good – if not better – than the mayhem of Christmas morning. Now that my brother and I have families of our own, we still try to be together for Christmas Eve if we can. A few years ago, my mom started making her mother-in-law’s delicious tourtière for Christmas Eve dinner and it’s become a new tradition for us to enjoy it together each year on the night before Christmas.

This year, we’re lucky to have a few extra days of visiting with my brother, sister-in-law and 8 month old nephew. Tonight I asked my brother for his take on our family’s Christmas traditions and he immediately replied: Christmas Eve tourtière. Since he feels the same way I do about Christmas Eve, I asked him to share a few thoughts about what makes it special for us.



My Nan’s Pastry & Joan’s Tourtière Filling (complete with my notes for mastering the technique)


Ode to the Tourtière – by Dave Gauthier

The tourtière: technically, NOT the unsung hero of the holidays. At least not anymore, since in this post I sing its praises. And they are many.

The word itself invokes thoughts of the stalwart peaks of the Rocky Mountains and ranges beyond. Mount Indefatigable. Iconoclast Mountain. The connection is not made through size or scale, or age. It’s in their majesty, and their perfect execution of the challenge bestowed upon them. In the same way that the jagged summits intercept all – from streams to weather systems to weary travellers – on their journey across the continent, so does the tourtière intercept all who make the most perilous trek of all. One cannot arrive safely at Christmas without first climbing the pass of Christmas Eve.

The humble tourtière is not in it for the glory; turkeys have that market cornered. Nor does the tourtière seek to provide guilty pleasure; pound cake and pistachio dessert excel in that regard (in our family!) The tourtière does not reward blood and sweat spilled by modern martyr-chefs.  It’s not cut out for the ‘big dance’ on the 25th. Rather, it eschews the limelight in favour of being the workhorse of ‘the night before Christmas’.

Wrapped up in its flaky pastry crust, aside the loose filling of mildly-spiced ground pork, is the true joy of the holiday season. Family and friends trickling in on a snowy night before Christmas, stomping their boots clean as they  embrace the warmth of the kitchen, and the cheer of the people in it, all aglow with having finally made it, like an explorer to the summit of the highest peak, to the crescendo – but not the ultimate destination – of a long and tiring, year-long epic.

If you’ve ever had an old-school tourtièred family supper on Christmas Eve, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t, it’s not too late. All you need is the people you love, a few meat pies, and…well, that’s it. Then you too will be singing the praises of the unsung, indefatigable, iconoclastic hero of the holidays.


I know, it sounds a little over-the-top, but believe me – this meat pie is THAT good. As for my brother, he’s more than a little over-the-top, but it’s part of his charm ;)

Sue Signature

Head over and see what the rest of the 613 Holiday Special bloggers have to say about holiday traditions today!

613 holiday special

Alicia @ keepitbeautifuldesigns.com

Fiona @ justsettledown.ca

Gemma @ thesweetestdigs.com

Lisa @ lisagouletdesign.com

2 Comments on 613 Holiday Special: Traditions

  1. Meredith
    December 23, 2013 at 8:43 am (3 years ago)

    Your brother sound like he’s just up my alley :) We’re anticipating the arrival of my mom and dad with the tourtiere on Christmas eve as well. Merry Christmas!

  2. Lisa Goulet
    December 23, 2013 at 9:40 am (3 years ago)

    Love your brother’s description of tourtiere. Being half French and marrying a french guy I know all about the Christmas eve tradition of tourtiere. But I had never really thought of it as the work horse of Christmas, but it is true. It is really the start of the holiday celebrating.


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