Friday, December 23, 2016

23 décembre : Noël au Québec

photo © Mark Butkus 2014
Une chanson de Noël de méchanceté et de souvenir.

J'ai dans la tête un vieux sapin, une crêche en dessous
Un Saint-Joseph avec une canne en caoutchouc
Etait mal faite pis j'avais fret
Quand je r'venais d'passer trois heures dans un igloo
Qu'on avait fait, deux ou trois gars, chez Guy Rondou

J'ai d'vant les yeux, quand j'suis heureux, une sorte de jeu
Qu'on avait eu, une sorte de grange avec des bœufs
La même année où j'ai passé
Le temps des fêtes avec su'a tête une tuque d'hockey
Parce que j'voulais me faire passer pour Doug Harvey

Vingt-trois décembre, Joyeux Noël, Monsieur Côté
Salut ti-cul, on se r'verra, le sept janvier

J'ai dans le cœur un jour de l'an où mes parents
Pensant bien faire, m'avaient habillé en communiant
Chez ma grand-mère c'était mon père
Qui s'déguisait en Pêre Noël pour faire accroire
Que les cadeaux ça v'nait pas tout de Dupuis Frères

Vingt-trois décembre, Joyeux Noël, Monsieur Côté
Salut ti-cul, on se r'verra, le sept janvier

Ça m'tente des fois d'aller la voir puis d'y parler
"Fée des étoiles, j'peux-tu avoir un autre hockey?
J'ai perdu l'mien, beau sans-dessein
J'l'ai échangé contre une photo où on voit rien
Une fille de dos qui s'cache les fesses avec les mains"

Vingt-trois décembre, Joyeux Noël, Monsieur Côté
Salut ti-cul, on se r'verra, le sept janvier


— Pierre Huet et Michel Rivard


Typically, we run an accompanying English translation of items we post here, but 23 décembre isn't one of those cases. Too much would be lost in translation for this Christmas school-break song written by Pierre Huet and Michel Rivard.

23 décembre was released on the eponymous triple platinum debut album by the French Canadian rock band Beau Dommage in 1974. Hailing from Montreal, Québec, Beau Dommage was honored in 2013 with a commemorative postage stamp in Canada. Their stamp is part of a series that also honors three other Canadian bands: Rush; The Guess Who and; The Tragically Hip.

But it's such a great story!

It's a quintessential poem about a time and place that a lot of people can relate to at this time of year regardless of the language of origin. Some turns of a phrase are specifically French Canadian without a literal English translation. We apologize in advance for the liberties that we took but we hopefully did so while maintaining the spirit of the song. The chorus, as these eyes see it, is of a schoolboy flipping off his teacher as he leaves school for Christmas vacation on December 23. The story itself, is of the same schoolboy years later reflecting on his childhood Christmas memories.


December 23

I have in my head an old Christmas tree, with a nativity scene underneath
There's a little figure of Saint Joseph holding a rubber staff
It was badly made and I was freezing cold
When I came back home after spending three hours in an igloo
That me and a few of my friends had made over at Guy Rondou's place

I have before my eyes, when I was happy, a kind of toy
That we used to have, a little tin barn with plastic cows
That was the same Christmas that I spent
The holidays with a hockey toque on my head
Because I pretended to be Doug Harvey

It's December 23rd! Merry Christmas, Mr. Côté!
All the best you little fool, we'll be back, on January 7!

I have in my heart one day of the year when my parents
With the best of intentions, had dressed me up in my Sunday best
and we went to my grandmother's house
Where my father dressed up as Santa Claus to make believe
That all our gifts did not come from the department store

It's December 23rd! Merry Christmas, Mr. Côté!
All the best you little fool, we'll be back, on January 7!

I sometimes want to talk to Santa Claus again,
"Santa, can you give me another hockey stick?
I lost mine, because I was a fool
I traded it for a dirty picture where there was nothing to see,
It's a naked girl from behind and she's covering her bum with her hands."

It's December 23rd! Merry Christmas, Mr. Côté!
All the best you little fool, we'll be back, on January 7!


— Pierre Huet and Michel Rivard