posted an entry on Christmas a couple of days ago (prompted by an article in the Guardian) and asked everyone how they were spending their Christmas time - or the corresponding holiday in everyone's religion.
Basically, Christmas changed for me a lot since I arrived in France. I will start with the Christmas with my family I was used to (usually in Germany) and then continue with Frenchie Christmas (= with M. and his family).
The Christmas feeling usually started a little before December, with the first Advent and the Advent wreath and sometimes clove-pierced oranges. My mum also put up chain lights/fairy lights on the windows with us, sometimes we tried to make forms (stars for example). Marzipanbrot
are typical sweets for the time preceding Christmas. My mum was always very strict regarding when and how much sweets we had, so we never had a lot of it - at least, until Christmas itself! We also usually had Advent calendars, when I was young little stockings with barely the space for a little sweet (or actually other gem) each day, but later there were the supermarket style chocolate-calendars. I think we once had a Playmobil-one, too. I really like Advent calendars, that little chocolate (or surprise gem) really can make one's day.
On December 6th we would usually have St Nikolaus
- we would find sweets, oranges, nuts, tangerines and sometimes small gifts like stickers in our shoes, stockings or tights. We were of course supposed to clean our shoes to perfection before putting them out and always took great care to choose the biggest shoes we had. I think I once had a birch (which is for naughty children), though when I burst out crying my mum said it was only a joke or something like this. I remember she hasn't been serious about it, but I can't remember what exactly was going on. I also remember having written a long letter to Nikolaus once after he had "lost" his bonnet jammed in the door the previous year and telling him I had stored it safely for him.
Finally Christmas itself is a huge affair - usually we didn't set out to Poland in the winter, due to the difficulties on the road. This limited the impact of Christmas and basically it was Christmas evening with a little bit festive feeling (and food) left for the 25th. We had every year (when at home) a real Christmas tree, decorated by us with chain lights, self-made coloured paper-chains and Christmas ball ornaments. Sometimes we had a colour-theme (silver, gold, red, mix of two colours) or we went crazy on decorating. It also depended on who was "responsible" for decoration... or if we did it all together. Some years we had aluminium foil wrapped chocolate ornaments (put the hyphens were they belong...) for the tree or we used old or self-made ornaments, but I usually liked a more sober Christmas tree.
When it comes to Christmas food... it was usually rather traditional Polish food, depending on the ingredients available. When older, once or twice we fastened on the 24th to better appreciate the evening meal. (It happened that I got really angry at my mum one of these times, because she wanted to call all family members before dining and having been preparing all day long wonderful food without eating the smallest bit I felt just too impatient to wait longer.) We usually have clear Barszcz
(the picture on the Uszka-link depicts it quite well), but the other dishes are quite depending -as I said earlier- on the circumstances and ingredients available. When in Poland, we usually had lots, LOTS, LOTS
of different plates. Another tradition is to share Opłatek
, usually a quite solemn moment.
Finally, when the first star is out shining, blinking, twinkling in the sky, the gift-opening starts. I believed for quite some time in Santa Claus, I even have the memory of seeing disappearing his sleigh in the night sky when I have been at my paternal grandma's.
Now, let's come to how I live Christmas in France. I won't comment on the year I've been volunteering, because it's too specific and I clearly can't remember any details, expect spending hours in the kitchen to reproduce for everyone something with the vague delight and deliciousness that is Barszcz. (Did I make some Uszka? I don't think so.)
Since in France, November and December are very study-intensive months, with most exams being in January. I usually don't manage to even notice when December rolled around - not to talk about preparing anything. We still don't have any decorations (just three, four small ornaments I got from a fellow Bookcrosser ♥), which has another reason: we are spending Christmas normally with M.'s family. Though I'd like some clove
d oranges. His grandparents don't bother for a lot of decoration, if any. When it comes to Advent calenders, there seem to be none in the supermarket where we usually do our shopping, but mum happened to send us some this year again! (...und die Marzipankartoffeln wurden sofort von M. gekidnappt.)
The food here is different and before
dining we are surprised (and do surprise) by gifts on everyone's plate. The food I associate with Frenchie Christmas is Foie Gras
, snails (not that I manage to find the courage to try them) and a Bûche
for dessert. The main dishes vary, usually with capon with chestnuts or Boudin blanc with apples
. Often enough we have Ravioles du Dauphiné
when down there, so I associate it with Christmas, too. I think it's rather a regional food than a seasonal one. Except that we are with family, it isn't so much anything special.
If you have any question, go ahead.