Guest Blogger: Donald Levesque
One of the many precious St. John Valley Acadian traditions is the gathering of de l'eau de Paques, Easter water. This is an old Acadian tradition that is most probably several hundred years old.
Here's how it works: Easter Sunday morning, between midnight and sunrise, find a stream with open running water. It need not be a large area, just big enough to fill a jar.
As you've probably already deduced, if you are relatively new to the County, this might require some investigation prior to Easter to avoid wandering aimlessly across the countryside from midnight to sunup with an empty jar on Easter Sunday. Rest assured, there are still Acadians who carry on this tradition and they will be more than happy to help you locate open water.
This, too, almost goes without saying but I'm going to say it anyway. You'll need some sort means to travel over what might be fairly deep snow: skis, snowshoes, snowmobiles, or whatever they invent between now and then. Snowshoes are the traditional means of transportation but, whatever you choose, you'll probably need to get familiar with it before heading out across the fields after midnight on Easter morning when it could be very very cold.
Which brings us to this obvious question: Why in the world would you do this? Well, for one thing, that water is considered as de l'eau bénite, holy water. It is preserved and sparingly doled out so that it lasts as long as possible. It is mainly used in Catholic family blessings, baptisms and in administering the last rites, for example. It was also used by my mother, as well as many other mothers, to sprinkle in the windows during a thunderstorm. It was have worked because our house was never struck by lightning. I'm just sayin' ...
While gathering de l'eau de Pacques is still a treasured Acadian tradition, few modern Acadians practice this and fewer still believe the water is magic. But having said that, gathering de l'eau de Paques is still practiced by some Acadian families in the St. John Valley.
The St. John Valley was settled by Acadian refugees in the late 1700s and many of their descendants, mixed generously with immigrants from Le Bas St-Laurent, the southern shores of the St. Lawrence Seaway in Québec province, still live here and many strive to preserve not only the beautiful language of Molière, gathering de l'eau de Pacques, but also carry on other Acadian traditions, such as ployes.
But that's for another blog.