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"La tire Sainte-Catherine" in Marguerite Bourgeoys' days

Congrégation de Notre-Dame

While enjoying a piece of tire Sainte-Catherine (Saint Catherine's Day taffy), did you ever stop and ask yourself: Where does it come from?

As its name indicates, this candy is associated with the legend of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. In the 4th century A.D., the Roman emperor Maximus presumably had her beheaded for having refused to marry him. This made her the patron saint of young women. While it was customary in the Middle Ages to "cap" statues with beautiful head-gear, only an unmarried young woman would have the honour to adorn the statue of Saint Catherine. Hence the expression elles coiffent sainte Catherine (they cap Saint Catherine) to designate twenty-five year old women who were still single.

The tradition travelled across the Atlantic with the first settlers. According to legend, the tradition of making tire Sainte-Catherine goes back to the French régime. It is said that Marguerite Bourgeoys, foundress of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame and first teacher in Ville-Marie (today Montreal), invented this sugar-and-molasses-based candy. Some say it was to reward her students while others claim it was to attract the young Amerindians to her school. This tradition, celebrated just before Advent (November 25), was very popular in the 19th century and continued well into the 20th century.

These taffies were so popular that eventually young maidens began making them on the feast of St. Catherine and gave them to the single men around town in order to display their cooking skills in the hopes of finding a husband.

http://catholiccuisine.blogspot.ca/2010/11/la-tire-de-ste-catherine.html

Come and celebrate St. Catherine's day at Maison Saint-Gabriel: 
http://www.maisonsaint-gabriel.qc.ca/en/b/comm2012/sainte-catherine.html

 

 

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