From Cowansville to Lac-Mégantic, you’ll find nearly 50 Christmas markets in Quebec’s Eastern Townships from mid-November to the week before Christmas. If that seems like a lot, that’s because it is.
The Townships have more Christmas markets than any other region in the province, which have long been part of their holiday tradition.
“It started in the 19th century with English, Scottish and German immigrants who brought this European tradition here,” says Lysandre Michar-Verrault, spokesperson for Tourism Eastern Townships.
The region is well known for outdoor activities such as skiing and hiking, but Michaud-Verrault says the culture and arts scene tend to get overlooked. That includes the large number of artisans who live and work in the Townships and who will be selling their goods at markets this season.
It’s not just artists and artisans who are taking advantage of the season, however. It’s also local growers who are part of the agritourism industry.
“If you mix those two factors you get a lot of people and a lot of producers,” says Michaud-Verrault. The rise in the number of gourmet markets is a direct result of that.
The Haute-Yamaska Christmas Food Market takes place in four different towns in the Yamaska Valley from Nov. 27 to Dec. 12. Local farms sell the last of their fruit and vegetable harvests, and there is a wide variety of locally produced goods such as wine, cheese, maple products, meat and even flowers.
At the Racine Christmas Market, Michaud-Verrault recommends the locally produced cheeses and breads at the co-op.
The Brome-Missisquoi area‘s economic development office has seven markets this season that meet their criteria, says Rémi Jacques, the office’s tourism consultant. But there may be other smaller markets run by groups of artisans or small businesses that are using the holiday season to get more visibility for their products.
Most farmer’s or public markets shut down for the winter in October or November. But Jacques says it doesn’t have to be that way. “In Frelighsburg, it’s an extension of the farmer’s market … and in Farnham, we added new dates to the public market with a Christmas theme.”
Some activities at the markets do require reservations so it’s best to check their websites for more information. Most markets are open only on weekends, with a few that are open during the week.