Holidays are here!
Nowhere in France is Christmas more celebrated than in the Alsace region.
“Christkindelsmarïk”, as Strasbourg’s annual market is called,
dates back to 1570 and reflects the mixed French and German heritage of the region. There's a giant Christmas tree (sapin) on
the Place Kléber, and nearby Place Brogli hosts the world famous holiday market,
featuring traditional decorations, culinary specialties, handcrafted
items, plus all sorts of festive events including concerts, expositions, performances, living crèches and more. The celebration starts in late
November and continues until early January.
Christmas in Strasbourg is
Saint Nicolas, patron des
...arrives in Paris in 21st century style
Christmas in France is a
family-and-food centered celebration, starting in early December with the
traditional table wreath, holding six candles to be lit for each
week of Advent. December 6 is the feast of Saint Nicolas, a most important
friend of school children, le saint patron des écoliers. Traditionally,
especially in the north of France, children place their shoes (sabots
or souliers, in the old-fashioned vernacular) by the hearth on the
eve of December 6 so that Saint Nicolas can leave cookies, candies, fruits
and nuts. Thus the season begins.
Each year, crowds anxiously awaited the arrival
of Saint Nicolas on the streets of Paris. Not to be confused with Santa
Claus in NYC's Macy's parade, this year Saint Nicolas arrived in Paris in
style...dressed in traditional style, but riding in a SMART car (you know,
the roller skate with a small engine). But
regardless of whether he arrives in a sled, a SMART, or on foot, Saint
Nicolas is welcomed by all and marks the official beginning of the holiday
boulangeries are always filled with scrumptious goodies, but during
the holiday season, it’s no holds barred for creativity and festivity.
Chocolates, candies, special gateaux, and of course the Bûche
de Noël (Yule Log) abound. It’s a feast for the eyes as much as for
the palate, and a few hours wandering the streets just window shopping can
be incredibly satisfying and motivating.
Christmas Eve, le Reveillon, includes
Midnight Mass, with dinner either before or after. If you’re in a
smaller city or town, you’ll certainly know when to head out for Mass
because the Christmas bells call for 15 minutes prior to the service. The Reveillon
menu might include a variety of seafoods, particularly oysters, with
champagne; and in Provence the 13 Desserts (les Treizes) are served as
part of Reveillon. Christmas Day dinner is a long round of good eating,
starting with foie gras on toast, smoked salmon, then a full-dressed chapon
(capon) or pintade (guinea hen), followed by a cheese course, then
desserts, then mignardises with a digestif liqueur, and
finally an expresso to top things off. All of this is interwoven with a
variety of wines to suit tastes and food, and it’s an all-afternoon into
the evening event. Not much dropping in and out goes on in France…when
you’re invited to eat, you’re in for the full event!
As Christmas winds down, everyone looks forward to the
next Reveillon, New Year’s Eve, when all give thanks and cheer
for the coming year. But the holidays aren’t yet over…the Feast of the
Kings arrives on January 6 and continues through the entire month of
January. More on that later though. Meanwhile, Joyeux Noël à tout le
Cookies for the
Fête de St. Nicolas and
the traditional Bûche de Noël
with gorgeous goodies,
including this chalet chocolat
The French government wants
to say merci to WW II allied soldiers
Un cadeau français
The French government is involved in a thank-you project that is
gratifying to hear about in these difficult times. French authorities are
issuing a certificate to recognize the participation of all American and
allied soldiers who took part in World War II in France. The certificate is meant to express the
gratitude of the French people to the soldiers who participated in the
Normandy landing and liberation of France, on French territory and in
French territorial waters and airspace, between June 6, 1944 and May 8,
1945. In each of the fifty states, the French Consulates General, state Veterans Affairs Offices, Veterans Service Organizations’ national and
states representatives, and Veterans Associations will identify the
eligible veterans for presentation of these certificates at a ceremony
organized by these groups. So far more than 1,500 certificates have been
awarded in the New England area alone. Unfortunately, the certificate will
not be issued posthumously. If you or anyone you know might be a
candidate, contact your Veterans’ Association or the French
Embassy website for more information. What a lovely way to celebrate
the holidays and give thanks in this new century. Merci, vraiment!
from a Frenchman
Un cadeau d'un Français
This past November, photographer James Nachtwey offered nine of his very
moving photographs from "Ground Zero" to the Paris auction
house, Drouot, with proceeds of the sales to go to the NYC Firemen's
Association. Right away, the pictures were snapped up for the sum of
500,000 francs (approximately $70,000), considered a huge price in the
current market for photojournalistic photographs. At first, the buyer
wished to remain anonymous. But then, Jean-Marie Messier, president of
Vivendi Universel, a French media/communications conglomerate, made
himself known, and immediately gave the photographs to the firemen of New
York. Beau geste, oui?
So many goodies...
those francophiles on your list?
Cadeaux pour les francophiles?
We wouldn't presume to try to influence your gift-giving, but as we work
on finding tidbits of France and things French for our readers, things just pop up that we'd sure
like to see under our sapin. Books always top our wish/gift list,
and there are a number of new (and old) books that are sure to please any
francophile, including Patricia Wells' new Paris Cookbook. For a real
about a cooking class at her farmhouse in Provence? You can find details
on these classes at www.patriciawells.com
-- good for ideas, or at least a little armchair dreaming. Better yet, hit
our Books pages (or Music
or Film) for some suggestions on what
to read, see or listen to in the coming year.
Think France, think food...and there are all
sorts of goodies available as delicious additions to holiday celebrations.
Wine, tapenades, pastries, chocolates, foie gras, confits, confitures,
patés...local gourmet shops and even some grocery stores seem to have
more and more French food products on their shelves. We've been customers
of Table & Vine (formerly Big Y) of Northampton, Massachusetts for a
number of years, and always find a good selection of wines from
France...at prices ranging from $5 to $250 a bottle, depending on your
taste and wallet. Their website, www.tableandvine.com,
provides a full inventory, shipping info (they ship almost everywhere in
the US), and they also offer specialty foods from France.
But fromages...still difficult to find the
real thing here in the US. But you can get the finest and freshest authentic French
cheeses delivered from France by overnight service to arrive in time for any
dinner that you're planning. Check out Fromages.com for
selections, suggestions, and delivery information. It's different,
delicious, and very easy.
Some French products are difficult to get in the
States at this point, but one company from Provence (Manosque), l'Occitane, has
jumped into the market with a number of stores all over America and Europe,
and an on-line shopping center. Soaps, fragrances, candles, lotions, and
much more -- in a variety of scents and packages -- make great gifts for
the holidays or anytime.
If you know of any items, sources, centers for
French products, let us know and we'll check them out. We're hoping to
build more information for shopping francophiles in the coming year.
That rounds out our Holiday 2001 edition. Next month we'll
be back "on the scene" in Uzès, France.
Be sure to keep in
touch via email...we love to hear from you.
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