Dreaming of a French Christmas

Christmas weather in the Pyrenees

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.

Our little part of France has 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.) 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.

Even better, while Christmas here is nearly always mild and sunny (we mostly have our apéro on the terrace in the sun) we can nevertheless guarantee a white Christmas – at least within a short drive into the mountains. So either Christmas Eve or Boxing Day is usually spent enjoying a walk on our favourite snowy plateau with 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!)

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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