Canadian Boys' Clothes Related to Religious Practice


Figure 1.--he Procession de la Fête-Dieu takes place around the Sunday of the Trinity in June. There was a procession from the church to a parisher home specilly decorated for receiving the Holy Host. This photograph was taken in 1917. These customs, almost inexistant today were a factor of social strenght among French Canadians at the time. Source: "Aux limites de la mémoire".

Canada has a varied religious heritage, both Catholic and Protestant. The country was founded by Catholic France. It was then conquered by the English with their Anglican religion. The Scoots with their own Prtotestant religious tradition played an important part in the early history of British Canada, both in Montreal and Nova Scotia. The Catholic Church became more diverse in the 19th century with the arrival of Irish Catholics beginning in the 1840s as a result of the Potato Famine. We are just begining our assessment of religion in Canada, but have some information on Canadian First Communions.

Religious Traditions

Canada has a varied religious heritage, both Catholic and Protestant. The country was founded by Catholic France. It was then conquered by the English with their Anglican religion. The Scotts with their own Prtotestant religious tradition played an important part in the early history of British Canada, both in Montreal and Nova Scotia. The Catholic Church became more diverse in the 19th entury with the arrival of Irish Catholics as a result of the Potato Famine Some French-speaking Canadians are in fact Irish. When they arrived from Ireland in 1847, many were deseased on ships. On arrival at Québec and Montréal, they were landed at Grosse-Isle in the St-Lawrence River to be kept away from giving typhus to Québec and Montréal residents. One study indicates that of 100,000 immigrants, 5,293 died at sea, 3,389 at Grosse-Isle, 1,137 at Québec, 4,021 at Montréal. [Lachine and St-Jean] They do not detail deaths in Upper Canada . Today, a memorial recalls this event at Grosse-Isle. Many immigrant children who lost their parents were adopted by other Catholics, mainly French-speakers. The children commonly kept their Irish family names like Mulroney, Murphy, and Ryan. Claude Ryan, a famous journalist at Le Devoir and Québec liberal politician. Brian Mulroney, a former Prime Minister of Canada was from Irish descent . Being Anglophone and Catholics, the Irish played a key role in Québec even if relations between Irish Bishops from Ontario where often in disputes with French-Canadian Bishops of Québec. The Irish Bishops were more open to innovation than conservative Québec. Expanded Europeam migrantion to both America and Canada after the Americam Cicil War brought with it and even more varied religious landscape. Emmigration from central and Eastern Europe in the late 19th century brought many Orthodox Christians to Canada. The first Orthodox Christians came from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but they were soon followed by immigrants from Russia.

Catholic Church

Several religious orders were active in Canada, both orders of priests and nuns. These orders varied significantly in importance and wealth. Two well-established orders of nuns were "Les Ursulines" at Québec (1639) for instructing girls and the "Congrégation Notre-Dame " founded in Montréal by Marguerite Bourgeoys in 1657 for instructing French children and Indians. In 1674, Mgr de Laval was named the first Bishop of Québec. Until 1688, he organized the Church in Nouvelle-France and he was considered a man of high sprituality. In the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, until "La Révolution Tranquiille", French Canadian families could be quite large. Normally some of the children in a large family would become priests or nuns. It was a tradition that the 13th child, if boy, was under the assistance of the parish priest. Priests in Canada were generally recruited from the wealthy classes . This include farmers who lived frugally like Puritans, but were well to do. The Church also had a place for people from working-class families. Boys became "brothers" and girls "sisters" for educating in working-class primary schools or for nursing. With such a system, merchants were not highly regarded. Upper class parents wanted their children to seek more prestigious professions like the priesthood, the law (or politics), and medecine. It was accepted that some of the children would enter the Church and parents made decisions with the parish priest and the bishop. The Catholic Church also supported many charities affecting children. The Church for example supported orphanages. We note a Montreal orphanage.

Procession de la Fête-Dieu

The Procession de la Fête-Dieu takes place around the Sunday of the trinity in June when in Québec when the temperature is really hot and humid. There was a procession from the church to a little chapel at the limit of a village or to a parisher home specilly decorated for receiving the Holy Host. With pumps, the parish priest was accompanied by boys wearing a kind of white smock called a surplice and also a black cassock as it was for serving mass followed with girls in uniforms and long stockings. Parishers end the procession. A Procession de la Fête-Dieu in 1917 is seen here (figure 1). These customs, almost inexistant today were a factor of social strenght among French Canadians at the time. [Aux limites de la mémoire.]

Feast of St John the Baptist

We notice the Feast of St John the Baptist is a big event in Montreal. We have few details at this time. Hopefully our Canadian readers will be able to provide some details. We note the celebration in 1895. One of the floats is a boat, "Le Grande Hermine" filled wih boys. I'm not sure what that has to do with John the Baptist. All the boys in the boat wear sailor suits with sailor caps.

Altar Boys


Communion

There is in Catholic Canada, three important events in children's lives associated with coomunion. First Communion comes around Grade 1 when the children are 6 years old. I assume arond Easter. Confirmation comes later at the end of the year when the children are still 6 years old. Confirmation required the Bishop's presence because only a bishop can administer confirmation. Solemn Commuion comes at the end of primary school when the children are about 12 years old. All three of these events were conducted through the schools administered by the Catholic church, especially in Québec. This may have changed somewhat since the 1960s.

First Communion

Canada has a large French-speaking population in Quebec. As in France and other Catholic countries, First Communion was a major event in a boys' life. While many boys may have disliked the dressing up, most saw it as an important step in growing up. They as all children also liked the attention devoted to them. The Church was an important rallying point for French Canadians--thus First Communion had important natioanl-ethnic connotations perhaps lacking in many other countries. HBC has only limited information on Canadian First Communion suits at this time.

Weddings

We do not yet have much imformation on Canfian weddings. We note one portrait taken in 1918 that may be a World War I wedding, but we are not positive.

Sources

Unknown author. Aux limites de la mémoire: Photographies du Québec 1900-1930 (Les Publications du Québec, Québec, 1995). This wonderful photographic study has many beautiful photographic images of Quebec.

Lachine and St-Jean, unknown title







HBC








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Created: July 26, 2003
Last updated: 7:04 AM 9/30/2011