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L'Ordre de Bon Temps - The Order of Good Time [aka Good Cheer]

L'Ordre de Bon Temps was established on November 14, 1606 by Samuel Champlain.  Like most events in history, there was precedent for the event because French fishermen had celebrated with meals with the Indians since 1504.  The event  was recorded by Champlain in his record of his voyages in 1613. The passage reads:

Nous passâmes cet hiver fort joyeusement, & fîmes bonne chair, par le moyen de l'ordre de bon temps que j'y établis, qu'un chacun trouva utile pour la santé, & plus profitable que toutes sortes de médecines, dont on eut pu user. Cet ordre était une chaîne que nous mettions avec quelques petites cérémonies au col d'un de nos gens, lui donnant la charge pour ce jour d'aller chasser : le lendemain on la baillait à un autre, & ainsi consécutivement : tous lesquels s'efforçaient à l'envie à qui ferait le mieux & apporterait la plus belle chasse : Nous ne nous en trouvâmes pas mal, ni les Sauvages qui étaient avec nous.
Tiré des Voyages [...] de Champlain, 1613

The English translation below was prepared by Elaine F. Clément, Relations Communautaires, Conseil pour le Développement du Français en Louisiane, [CODOFIL]

We spent this winter very joyously and of good cheer, due to the order of good times that I established here, which each person finds useful for their health and more beneficial than any sort of medicine that we could have used. This order was a chain that we placed, with some small ceremony, at the neck of one of our people, charging him that day with going hunting; the next day we gave it to another and thus consecutively: all who wished to try would do their best and bring the most beautiful hunt: We don't find it half bad, as well as the Indians who were with us.

Taken from the Voyages [...] of Champlain, 1613

Author JAMES MARSH in an article in The Canadian Encyclopedia  © 2006 Historica Foundation of Canada wrote:

Ordre de Bon Temps

Ordre de Bon Temps ("Order of Good Cheer"), was founded at PORT-ROYAL in 1606 by Samuel de CHAMPLAIN. After a disastrous winter at Ste Croix Island, when many of the French settlers perished from scurvy, the colony was moved to Port-Royal in 1605. Scurvy again took its toll but the following year the colony enjoyed a more pleasant winter. "We passed this winter most joyously, & fared lavishly," wrote Champlain, and in this genial atmosphere he founded the order - modelled loosely on a European order of chivalry - to maintain spirits and pass the time. Members took turns providing fresh game and, as chief steward of the day, leading a ceremonial procession to the table.

First Things in Acadia: "The Birthplace of a Continent" by John Quinpool, pub. 1936, pages 61-62 describes America's First Social Club. Below are a few excerpts:

A cairn and tablet, with legend in English, unveiled August 13, 1924, at Lower Granville, Annapolis, Nova Scotia, marks the site of Champlain's "Habitation. " described in the inscription as the home of the "Order of Good Cheer," and the "Birthplace of Canadian Literature and Drama.

Initial membership in America's primary "Order of Good Fellows" was not commonplace and was limited to fifteen.

Guests in turn were maitres d'hotel, whose function was to furnish one new dish and provide a better dinner than the immediate predecessor.  Instead of a president, there was a steward at the head of America's first club, to watch over the wants and amusements of the company, opportunities for fishing and hunting were abundant and afforded wide scope for variety in catering.

Murdoch gives a concise description of the working of the "Order of Good Cheer" 330 years ago in Acadia [Note: Book published in 1936 so 2006 will be 400th Anniversary]: - "There were fifteen guests, each of whom in his turn, became steward and caterer of the day.  At the weekly dinner, the steward with napkin on shoulder, staff of office in hand and the splendid embroidered collar of the order round his neck, led the van.  The other guests in procession followed, each bearing a dish.  After grace in the evening, he resigned the insignia to his successor and they drank to each other in a cup of wine.  It was the steward's duty to look to supplies, and he would go hunt or fish a day or two before his turn came, to add some dainty to the ordinary fare.  During this winter, they had fowl and game in abundance, supplied by the Indians and by their own exertions.  The feasts were often attended by Indians of all ages and both sexes, sometimes 20 or 30 being present.  The sagamore or chief, Membertou, the greatest sachem of the land, and other chiefs, when there, were treated as guests and equals."  Story Telling and music followed.

The following web site has photos from recreations of the meetings of the L'Habitation, the table, costumes, the Order of Good Time and a membership card:

It was at the L'Ordre de Bon Temps that Marc Lescarbot composed and staged the first European drama in the New World, "Le Theatre de Neptune," and wrote some of the earliest European poetry in Canada.

See for the play in French.

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