Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Joyeux Noel! (And I had to copy that because I don't speak French!!)

Can you smell the bread? Did you bring your corkscrew? How about some cheese? That's right CAW fans! We have finally made it to France. And what an education I have received! Christmas in France is so different from what we are used to but enough babble! Let's get started.

Christmas begins on December 6th with St. Nicholas Day. In some regions of France the children receive their gifts for St. Nicholas Day and Christmas Day is reserved for religious observances. In other regions, Pere Noel brings the gifts on Christmas Eve. But guess what? Pere Noel doesn't come alone. Pere Fouttard comes with Noel to remind him of the children's bad behavior during the year and he may even hand out some spankings if he deems it necessary. Kind of brings to mind the good angel - bad angel on your shoulder doesn't it?

Decorating in France is also very different. Christmas trees never really seemed to catch on like they have here in the States and around the world. Instead there is a large focus on the Nativity or Creche. Artisans sell the different pieces for the nativity from year to year in the markets. The molds for these have been passed from generation to generation. Once a family has their established Nativity, the artisans add other saints from history or from the local legends and patrons.

Here's a little trivia for your next Christmas party. In France (the country known for romance?) the mistletoe is hung over the doorway to symbolize good luck. How many embarrassing moments could you have avoided?

Christmas Eve families attend a midnight mass and then return home for le reveillon - a traditional large family feast. The dishes served depend on the region of France where one is celebrating. Some dishes you may see in your travels include goose, buckwheat pancakes, turkey, or oysters. Dessert will include the Yule Log - and no that's not the one that you've been burning. It is a delightful blend of chocolate and chestnuts formed into a log shaped cake.

One Twelfth Night (January 5th) the children go out to meet the three kings and provide food for them, their pages, and their camels. In return the Kings give gifts once again. The celebration for Epiphany includes a Cake of the King (tune in Mardis Gras friends!) which is a decorated cake that includes a trinket or bean buried somewhere inside. The person who finds the trinket in their piece is king or queen for the following year.



jennifer said...

Hmmm... I need to adopt the Pere Fouttard part of the tradition. Tell my kids if they're not good, not only will Santa not bring them presents BUT he'll swat their booties!

Jenni Jiggety said...

Their yule log sounds yummy!