I took up for the upteenth time that pastime to which none of us would admit yet of which all are guilty: people watching. This month is dedicated to consumers who ironically purchase gifts which celebrate the birth of him that had no where to lay his head. But for once, I won’t preach on the meaning of Christmas, I’ll merely let my observations speak for the French traditions discovered by firsthand creeping and/or experience. In the spirit of the advent calendar (sans bonbons which, forcement, cannot be transmitted through cyberspace), the cutenesses witnessed this winter season:
25 days before Christmas (B.C.)– The city hangs these bulky plastic bulbs within cages of lights strung beside rectangular plaques of lights in this hideous pink color. From one side of the street to the other, this arrangment repeats down the length of the busiest, commercial street which, as would be my luck, is en route to the Institute.
24 days B.C. — Unlike the other months out the year, December makes the French relax on their no-work-on-Sunday policy. Result: supermarkets and stores open for a narrow bit of time.
23 days B.C. — Permanently installed in the middle of the main street, Le Marché de Noël has every true and Chinese-fabricated French product that could trap any tourist. I caved and found some homemade goodies. And one vendor had vin chaud which I have been told is quite good… and is considered the equivalent to hot apple cider back at home.
20 days B.C. — Christmas music only plays in the commerical districts of the city, not on the radio. I try to pretend it is Christmas by playing Glee remakes on Youtube. I end unconvinced.
17 days B.C. — Went to a nifty trumpet plus chorus concert at a local chapelle. It sounded like Bach had come back to life while I had died and gone to heaven.
15 days B.C. — Our adorable crèche (nativity scene) goes up with hand-painted santons from the South of France. My French brother and I wondered how the lady with a fruitstand, the cobbler, others in their 19th century duds traveled that far to see Jesus. Time and space. Time and space.
7 days B.C. — Real tree goes up with all the pretties. The streets of the city are packkkkedd to see the Christmas parade with bands. Alongside the street performers, venders peddle up and down the big street with balloons or other trinkets. I cannot breathe in the mall with so. many. shoppers.
6 days B.C. — My little Baptist church had their Christmas feast comprised of mostly North African dishes and loads of French dessert. Gâteaux au chocolat, anyone?!
***Well our calendar line breaks down because we celebrated Christmas this weekend. But I shall continue as if Christmas had happened on the intended day of it happening and hope that you happen to get a picture of French Christmas happenings.
1 day B.C. — This night you go to a mass late into the night by which you return near or after midnight to open all the presents. There is a very light meal involved with chocolat chaud and not too much else. To express a fraction of my appreciation, my little handmade crocheted this or sewed that were given away.
Christmas — Baby Jesus makes it to the crèche scene having been hidden all this time behind the barn. All rooms occupied at the inn. A big lunch with possibly foie gras and definately a bouche de noël (cake with lots of chestnut flavoring options) is served. To conclude the fête, we nestle up beside the fireplace sipping away at tea and café while playing with our new toys and all the while feeling like, even if but for a moment, time seems to have stopped.