“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
Christmas in undeniably my favorite time of year. The cold sets in, strings of lights trim every tree, and best of all, we stressed out students get to look forward to two weeks with no alarm but our Christmas morning anticipations waking us up before noon.
Somehow, though, this year, the Christmas spirit seemed to be lacking. I didn’t feel the tug of excitement at the thought of weeks without school, and Christmas morning, I woke up at 10. That being said, I thought that with Christmas rounding the corner and with me being so far from my hometown traditions, Christmas would feel sad. After all, I can say with absolute certainty that Thanksgiving was my worst day in France.
This holiday, however, I didn’t feel that Nostalgia might drown me or that I was missing out on a special occasion. Why? Because although we celebrated differently here in France, we celebrated all the same.
Allow me to walk you through the Holiday Season; France style!
Around mid-November, every city with a reasonable population size puts up their annual “Marché de Noël”, a formation of vendors selling everything from Christmas candle holders to German sausages and freshly fried doughnuts. In the case of Lille, my home city in France, an entire village sprouts up in Grand Place, complete with a giant Christmas Tree and a Ferris Wheel.
Next up: The family room transforms from casual living area to Santa’s Playground, with presents lined up by the fireplace and snowflakes covering the wall. When I arrived home from a trip to Strasbourg with STS, my host family had already put up the tree and decked the halls which made my homecoming ten times happier.
Christmas reaches its peak here in France on the 24th, the night before Christmas. The table is set, full of every typical “French Food” you can imagine, escargots, foie gras, pain surprise, and of course, champagne, and in between each course, presents are torn open with greedy hands.
The night draws to a close with a special speculoos cake “la Buche de Noël”. After each family member has had their helping, they sit down to watch a movie, unfortunately not Christmas Themed, or perhaps the “12 Coups de Midi” Christmas Special Edition before tucking into bed, stomachs full.
The following day consists of a late wake-up, lazy morning, then getting ready for the family Christmas Lupper, a meal that lasts nearly four hours, and involves so many courses of appetizers that I was stuffed before the “plat chaud” even arrived at the table. A quick walk helps you digest before you eat yet another Bouche de Noël, a cup of coffee and some macarons.
Christmas in France is a two-day affair, but each day brings with it a plethora of delicious food, holiday cheer, and family. It’s not quite my typical Christmas Morning celebration, but I see the traditions that my host family has created for themselves, and I can accept that although they are different, they hold just as much meaning as my family’s matching PJs and Christmas Carols.