MONROE — A glimpse of how early French settlers celebrated the winter season will be featured at Echoes of a French Noel from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3, at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park’s Visitor Center, 333 N. Dixie Hwy.
The Friends of the River Raisin Battlefield (FRRB) will host the annual holiday event and showcase French Christmas traditions and the life of French settlers living along the River Raisin from the late 1700s up through the War of 1812.
Through crafts, food and storytelling, families and friends will be introduced to French Christmas traditions celebrated more than 300 years ago.
The event is free and open to the public and offers opportunities to learn about the Yule log tradition and La Guiannee, a French tradition celebrating the new year.
“Poor people would ask the wealthy for food and drink during the celebration season,” said Joseph Dowd, park ranger. “The townsfolk, primarily men, would go door to door singing, similar to caroling, to entertain and ring in the new year. The hosts were expected to provide them with food and drink. This tradition was carried to North America by the people of French descent that settled around the Great Lakes.”
Visitors will also hear stories about the French custom, Le Révellion de Noel, also known as Christmas dinner. After attending midnight mass, French families would eat a special meal to celebrate the beginning of Christmas day.
Dowd said the annual event allows the community to look at the people of the past and make connections.
“Events like this humanize the people of the past,” Dowd said. “It is reminding us that these people who lived here more than 250 years ago were normal people like we are. They enjoyed celebrating. The enjoyed having their traditions and customs. Especially here in Monroe, we have that extra bit of culture of this French influence that many towns in the Midwest don’t have.”
For more than a decade, FRRB has hosted the event. More than 250 guests attended last year’s presentation. For more information, call 734-243-7136.
— Contact reporter Lisa Vidaurri-Bowling at firstname.lastname@example.org.