On January 1, 1924, two Oratory employees, Édouard Barsalo and Napoléon Carrières, had a pious idea: to start the new year off right by making a night pilgrimage from Mile-End to the Oratory, arriving on time for the first mass of the year, at 6 a.m. From this initiative, a tradition that has lasted over 80 years was born!

The following year, eight men participated. Departing at 4.30 a.m. from the former Compagnie Carrières, located on avenue Laurier Est, they sang hymns to Saint Joseph until their arrival at the Oratory. In 1926 their number increased to 75, but in 1927, thanks to publicity by the Oratory and newspapers, there were 1,800 pilgrims starting in Mile-End and a few thousand others starting at different points in the future metropolis! Some, coming from even further, started their walk at 2 a.m.!

In the years that followed, the organization improved and the fathers of the Oratory recognized this tradition more formally. From this point on, the pilgrimage started in front of the Saint-Enfant-Jésus church in Mile-End at 3 a.m. and the first New Year’s mass was given between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m., depending on the year – and after the brave pilgrims offered their confessions.

Fig. 1 - Carte professionnelle d’Édouard Barsalo.

Fig. 1 – Professional card of Edouard Barsalo.

Until his death in the early 1960s, Édouard Barsalo organized and participated in the pilgrimage that he had helped initiate. He is also associated with other pilgrimages. Through his devotion, he was appointed the chief organizer of pilgrimages on foot to the Oratory.

Archives of Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount-Royal.

Fig. 2 - Lettre de Raoul Charbonneau

Fig. 2 – As this letter from Raoul Charbonneau proves, the Oratory and Mr. Barsalo were not the only ones involved in this pilgrimage.

From the 1950s, The Laurier Snowshoeing Club made its building, located near the Mile-End church, available to pilgrims.

Archives of Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount-Royal.

Affiche pèlerinage premier janvier

Fig. 3 – Sign announcing, among other things, the pilgrimage on January 1, 1968.

Archives of Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount-Royal.

Pelerinage du Jour de l'An

Fig. 4 – Pilgrimage of January 1, 1965. CADRG 235-19.


Fig. 5 – Standard certificate that was distributed during the 60s and 70s to deserving pilgrims.

Archives of Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount-Royal.

From the year 2000 onwards, because of the decline in popularity of this night walk, among other things, the schedule for this walk was moved to the evening, starting at the usual place at 10 p.m. on December 31, so that pilgrims arrive for midnight mass on January 1. The last New Year’s Day walk took place on December 31, 2008. Since then, there has only been a midnight mass.

I would therefore like to take this opportunity to invite you to join us at midnight on January 1 to celebrate with dignity the arrival of the sacred year of Our Lord, 2020.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!


Les Annales de Saint Joseph, 1927, p. 60-61.