French Canadian and Métis people have sustained our cultures throughout the generations by passing down family stories, history, and folklore by word of mouth. That oral tradition continues to be a feature of our family and communal life. In this rendition of “La Chasse Galerie” or “The Flying Canoe” by Genot Picor, he presents this traditional New Year’s story in an interactive way that reflects our oral tradition and provides a way for parents and grandparents to share the story with younger generations.—ed. 

“One cold New Year’s Eve (“Bonne Année”), six bûcherons (chop, chop, chop) missed their sweethearts (“OOO La La”) back in Quebec (“La Belle Province”). One of the bûcherons (chop, chop, chop) named Baptiste said he knew of a way all the men could celebrate New Year’s Eve (“Bonne Année”) with their sweethearts (“OOO La La”). The other bûcherons (chop, chop, chop) were astounded. Quebec (“La Belle Province”) was a day’s journey by horse and cart during the summer. How could they make the same journey in winter in less than three hours?

Suddenly, an evil spirit (“BOOOOO!”) appeared in their midst and spoke to them. The men were terrified.

“I have summoned this ghost to help us on this night,” said Baptiste. “Listen close to what he has to say!”

“You do not have to be afraid of me,” reassured the evil spirit (“BOOOOO!”). “It is no trouble at all to transport you through the night to be with your sweethearts (“OOO La La”) back in Quebec (“La Belle Province”). I am happy to be of service. In return for my favor to you, all I ask is that you promise not drink sparkling wine (pop) on this New Year’s Eve (“Bonne Année”). Quickly now, put on your coats, go outside and sit in your canoe (paddle, paddle, paddle).”

The bûcherons (chop, chop, chop) did as they were instructed. The evil spirit (“BOOOOO!”), floating above the frozen ground descended into a trance. “You must be back in the canoe (paddle, paddle, paddle) after the church bells ring in the New Year (“Bonne Année”) so that I may transport you back to the logging camp, and remember, no sparkling wine (pop)!”

The evil spirit (“BOOOOO!”) spoke these magic words, “Abracabree, Abracabra, Abracabram!”

The six bûcherons (chop, chop, chop) and the canoe (paddle, paddle, paddle) rose into the crisp night air. They shot straight away off to the southeast, and in no time at all, they arrived in Quebec (“La Belle Province”).

Their sweethearts (“OOO La La”) were astounded!

“How did you get here?” they asked. The bûcherons (chop, chop, chop) gave them no answer. Instead, they danced and sang the whole night through. When the church bells chimed in the New Year (“Bonne Année”), the men kissed their sweethearts (“OOO La La”) goodnight, and rushed back outside. But where was Baptiste? They found he was huddled inside the canoe (paddle, paddle, paddle) fast asleep.

Just as the evil spirit (“BOOOOO!”) promised, the canoe (paddle, paddle, paddle) and its humanly cargo rose into the night sky and shot off back to the logging camp. But soon there was a problem. The bûcherons (chop, chop, chop) were thrown to the left and then lurched to the right! Baptiste had broken the agreement with the Evil Spirit (“BOOOOO”)! He had drunk some sparkling wine (pop) when the New Year (“Bonne Année”) had arrived. All six bûcherons (chop, chop, chop) were thrown from the canoe (paddle, paddle, paddle) and fell into the cold, dark forest below. They were never seen again.

And that is why to this day, bûcherons (chop, chop, chop) never drink sparkling wine (pop) before they sit inside a canoe (paddle, paddle, paddle).

Happy New Year (Bonne Année)!

From “Stories Mimi and Pipi Told”
© Genot Winter Elk Picor, November 1, 2015
Used with permission for the Soo Evening News and the Mackinac Journal


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