Wherever you go, Christmas is a special time. Every country has it’s own special way to celebrate it. I don’t know where you are from, but I will tell you what Christmas looks like here, in Paris…
You can feel that magical mood in November when the first Christmas trees and lights appear in the shop windows. The last leaves are still on the trees when we start thinking about Christmas presents. Yes, it was hard shopping since last autumn. With the beginning of December, Paris has to face a serious invasion of tourists hungry for luxury gifts and selfies in front of the Dior or Printemps shop. There is no need to hide it – Paris looks like hand-decorated box of chocolates wrapped with a golden bow during the Christmas holidays. I think the question: „Will you marry me?” is more often asked here in December than on Valentine’s Day. It’s easy to be seduced by the magic of the place and say: „Yes”, while standing in front of that Dior shop window.
The shopping madness lasts almost until Christmas Eve. This is one of my favorite days of the year. We meet the whole family and for two days we celebrate this special time. During the Christmas Eve dinner we eat things you probably already relate to Paris such as oysters, seafood, fish and fois gras…and good wine. But the supper isn’t too heavy – it’s not so much about eating food as it is meeting with loved ones. One thing that’s unusual and not seen outside of France is our traditional Christmas cake – Buche de Noel. It used to be served with a thick cream, but now its replaced with ice cream. And we rarely bake the cake ourselves, because you really have to be on a higher culinary skill level to do it. So we rather buy it in a shop.
Gifts, as in America, we get in the morning the next day. As a kid I couldn’t sleep half the night being so excited that I would meet Pere Noel when walking to the kitchen to get a glass of water. Surprisingly, I never met him! After we unwrap all of the presents it is time for a dinner, which lasts practically the whole day. In the evening my cousins and I are going out to a local pub to drink some of the special Christmas Breton beer called Coreff. As we don’t see each other too often, our talks end really, really late. Fortunately, the bars are open for the whole night this season, something rare in France.
It is funny, because by the end of December (precisely Dec 21st 1921) Ernest Hemingway came to Paris. As a well-known reveler he would certainly approve of this post-Christmas pub tradition. Who knows, maybe he was the one who started it? It wouldn’t be surprising. He was lucky to be able to party all night unlike the rest of the French people. Unfortunately, they had to go back to work next day.