Wishing for a very French Christmas

In the past I have spent Christmas in various countries and the way different cultures celebrate at this time of year seems to be very indicative of their priorities. So when we moved to France, I was fascinated to see what the focus of the celebration would be here. Of course, it should have been obvious – the focus is on food and eating but also on spending time en famille; all traditions which we are very happy to take on in our house.

Christmas trees decorate the streets of St Lizier

Having lived in France for seven years now though, I realise that what I enjoy most about Christmas here is that the French have not yet completely sold out to the commercial, shopping fest that has become the norm in many countries, maybe because people just do not have the money (and do not spend money they don’t have which is why France has come through the current financial crisis so much better than many countries.)

Presents are, of course, part of the celebrations but almost as a secondary element to the culinary highlight of the Christmas meal which takes place on Christmas Eve. Moreover, Christmas decorations generally don’t go up until two weeks before the day and, here in the Ariège, the local communes organize hundreds of Christmas trees to be placed at intervals along the streets, often decorated by the local school children.

Snowy Christmas walk

Even better for us, because we are so close to the mountains, we are pretty much guaranteed a white Christmas – at least within a short drive. So either on Christmas Eve or on Boxing Day, we pile into the car with the rest of the family who generally join us in France and go up to our favourite snowy plateau for a walk, some sledging and some mulled wine and mince pies from the picnic basket (mince pies is a British tradition that we cling to but one that our French neighbours just don’t get!)

Mince pies in the Pyrenees!

Somehow the French manage to take the best bits of Christmas, discard the stress and overspending and just focus on eating, drinking and enjoying time en famille. As so often is the case, it leaves us realizing that our French friends and neighbours here have their priorities right.

Wishing you a very happy Christmas à la français.

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