“The story of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons dates back almost four hundred years. Wendake (“the land apart”) was the ancestral homeland of the Huron Wendat nation, a branch of the Iroquoian family. The Wendat were a matrilineal society of skilled traders and farmers.” — So begins the history lesson explaining the significance of Sainte Marie Among the Hurons in Midland, ON, according to Ontario Huron Historical Parks website.
The French Jesuit priests had embarked on their mission to preach to and convert the Huron Wendat Native people; created a settlement but first learned their language and their customs. Rich in history, Sainte Marie Among the Hurons, endeavours to provide historical education and event programming about the relationship between the Jesuits and Huron Native People, (Huron is the French name for Wendat). Although programs primarily run during the spring and summer months, Ste. Marie is open select dates during November and December for their First Light Celebration to help kick off Christmas festivities.
Sainte Marie Among the Hurons is celebrating its 19th year of setting the Christmas spirit at the First Light event. Follow the dramatic candle-lit trails, (5000 candles!), around the grounds, through buildings housing family activities and musical highlights, all the way to the Martyr’s Shrine.
Visit a blacksmith shop, participate in a traditional drum circle in the longhouse, peak inside the chapel to see the Christmas Nativity scene and remember to go into the church hall basement for music, children’s crafts and a visit with Santa!
Hungry from your journey? Stop in at the fully licensed Restaurant St. Marie for some delicious Canadian cuisine like Tourtiere served with a fresh side salad. So many choices from the sit-down menu or, if you’d rather, there is more casual fare available. As I savoured my dish of mouthwateringly tender Chicken Souvlaki with Greek Salad, I overheard patrons’ comments such as, “It feels so festive!” Indeed it does! Relish your supper while listening to French Canadian musicians performing live as they spark up the place with their toe tapping, hand clapping melodies. Keep in mind, especially if you’re going on a Friday or Saturday, be sure to make reservations to avoid disappointment!
Out on the patio, sit by a roaring wood fire to keep warm when you return from your walk-about and drink up some hot chocolate, roast marshmallows and make s’mores at the wood burning fireplace! Yummy!
But that’s not all! There are over 100 artisans set up to peruse through and start your Christmas shopping. Many local talented individuals showing and selling everything from hand-knitted children’s puppets and sweaters, gorgeous hand-painted ceramic tile art, Christmas tags & cards, genuine indigenous pieces, jewelry, wood cut toys adorned with led-free paint and so much more from which to select, unique gifts to give loved ones.
Food, music, candle light and gifts…all combined together, enjoying the winter fresh air, help to set the Christmas spirit in motion if you’re not feeling it already. Only one weekend left to visit – Thursday December 6 to Saturday December 8, 5:30pm to 9:30pm. There are First Light ticket & accommodation packages available for stays at the Comfort Inn located just down the road. However, there is also the Quality Inn across the street and countless other places to stay in Midland if you choose. Also, there are dinner & admittance combo tickets available as well. (There is limited parking on site but there is additional parking at the Wal-mart plaza up the street; a FREE shuttle runs regularly between the plaza and Ste. Marie’s site for the occasion.) All celebration details are available at Ontario Huron historical Parks Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons special event page.
For an experience that is historically educational, fun for the entire family and sure to get you into a festive Christmas mood, a visit to Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons is a “must-see” that should be on everyone’s holiday event list! If you are not able to attend this year, be sure to put it on your holiday to-do list for next year. Bundle up and get outside! Till next time….