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Dec 9

What does your family do for Christmas Eve?

Christmas Eve in France is a holiday in and of itself. Traditionally, it was celebrated with la Messe de Minuit (midnight mass) for many families, even those who are non-pratiquant (non-practicing). With attendance rates lowering, it’s becoming less and less common as a whole for the French to attend this mass, but you can still find them all over France.

Malgré son nom (despite its name), most of the masses take place between 6 and 10pm. Some people prefer to stay at home and watch the Pope’s Midnight Mass on France 2, and some even listen to local masses on the radio.

Christmas In France

The Midnight Mass is followed by a large feast called le Réveillon (you might recognise la racine du mot [the root of the word]: comes from the same family as réveiller [to wake up / to revive]). Why this name? It’s to se réveiller (to wake yourself up) after such a late-night activity!

Ce festin (this feast) can be enjoyed at home or in a café or restaurant (some stay open all night for this). Even with all the food, depending on the region you’re in, the main dish may change. You might eat le poulet (chicken), les escargots (snails), la dinde farcie aux marrons (chestnut-stuffed turkey), le saumon fumé (smoked salmon), l’oie (goose), le boudin blanc (white pudding), ou même les huîtres (or even oysters). Naturally, all of this is washed down with le vin (wine) or/and le champagne (champagne).

So we decided to ask 3 people (two French and one Canadian French — le Réveillion exists there, too!) what their families do for Christmas Eve. Read their answers below (there are English translations but try reading the original French answers at the bottom of each post) and see how these families celebrate.

Can you see any similarities or differences?

Christmas Table in France

Que fait votre famille pour le Réveillion de Noel?

Juliette, 24. Lille, France - 

My family has never really been into celebrating Christmas Eve. For us, the party is on the 25th only, at a family member’s house. Thus, unless we were invited somewhere precisely to celebrate Christmas Eve, we would just stay at home.

When I was younger, I would spend the evening in my pajamas with my sister and my dad in front of the Christmas specials on TV, while my mom would prepare dinner and something 'special' like drinks (non-alcoholic champagne for children) and a small appetizer (toasts with salmon or fish eggs), or a Christmas party specialty (foie gras, smoked salmon, scallop). But since we had to be ready to host or leave early to go somewhere else the following day, that was it, especially since we must couldn’t eat too much, or we’d be sick for the big day!

However, in the past few years, the deal has changed: my sister is dating a Bulgarian guy, and because my parents don’t do anything, she often invites me over for a Bulgarian Christmas Eve: 12 home-made vegetarian courses (this is so that we can survive the 50 pounds or so of meat that would come the next day). We also open our presents at midnight.

Now, for Christmas Day, we stay very traditional when we host the party: appetizer, foie gras or salmon, turkey, chestnuts, salad, French chesse platter, and buche de Noel (the infamous French Christmas cake).

En Francias...

Ma famille n’a jamais été très 'réveillon de Noel'. Pour nous, la fête se fait le 25 décembre, chez un membre de la famille. Du coup, à moins d’être invités quelque part précisément pour le réveillon, on reste à la maison tranquillement.

Quand j’étais petite, je passais la soirée avec ma sœur et mon père, en pyjamas, à regarder les programmes de Noel et ma mère préparait quelque chose de 'spécial', comme un mini apéritif (champomy pour les enfants), avec des toasts au saumon ou aux œufs de Lymp, ou une entrée de fete (saumon fumé, foie gras, coquille Saint Jacques…) Mais comme il fallait etre pret à recevoir le lendemain ou prêt à partir tot pour aller chez la famille, c’était tout, d’autant plus qu’il ne fallait surtout pas avoir trop mangé et être malade !

Cependant, depuis quelques année, le programme a changé : ma sœur a maintenant un petit-ami bulgare, et puisque mes parents ne font rien, elle m’invite souvent pour un réveillon 100% Bulgare : 12 plats végétariens fait maison (histoire de survivre à la demi tonne de viande qui viendra lors du repas du 25). On ouvre également les cadeaux à minuit.

Maintenant, le jour de Noel, nous restons très traditionnels quand nous recevons : apéro, foie gras ou saumon, dinde, marrons, salade, fromage, et buche !

Olivier, 18. Montréal, Canada - 

For Christmas, we generally celebrate the way our ancestors have since the French colonies. On the 24th, while some go hunting for the perfect Christmas tree, others prepare a typical French-Canadian Christmas  dinner which includes :

– a stuffed turkey

– meatball stew

– ham

– pie

– baked beans

– potatoes

– cranberry sauce

– the French log cake

After supper, everyone plays games while listening to traditional music until midnight comes when everyone wishes a merry Christmas to their loved ones. For those who can’t wait, they’re allowed to open one gift from under the tree.

En Francias...

Chez nous, pour Noel, on perpétue certaines traditions qui datent de plusieurs générations, depuis le temps des grandes veillées des colons.

Le 24, alors qu’on va chercher un sapin pour décorer le salon, une ou plusieurs personnes s’occupe(nt) de préparer le souper du réveillon pour le restant de la famille qui ressemble à :

-une dinde farcie

-du ragout de boulettes

-du jambon

-une tourtière

-des fèves au lard

-des patates

-des atacas

-une buche de Noël

Après le souper, on passe la 'veillée' ensemble à jouer à des jeux en écoutant de la musique de Noel ou de la musique traditionnelle jusqu’à minuit et tout le monde se souhaite joyeux Noel. Pour ceux qui ne peuvent attendre, ils peuvent ouvrir un cadeau sous le sapin.

Karine, 24. Cavaillon, France - 

The day before Christmas, that is to say December 24th, my family and I spend the most precious time of year together. It’s a warm time that we always choose to spend together, and we reserve the following days for the rest of my family, like my grandfather, for example. I know my friends do the same thing. However, what they don’t do is a tradition we invented! For weeks, my family and I carefully kept glass yogurt jars that we would wash out before putting candle in them that we’d light with a piece of spaghetti so we wouldn’t burn ourselves. When my sister and I were young, our parents told us that these little improvised lanterns that we’d place in the windows were used to help Santa Claus not get lost, and, of course, to not forget to come to us.

Now we continue this tradition with the yogurt jars because it’s our little bit of Christmas Magic. I prefer Christmas Eve. We eat all our favorite foods, and indisputably, the foie gras is in the spotlight! Right when we raise our glasses, my mom takes a picture of the family, and we toast in front of the nativity scene. My father puts on Christmas CDs, and we play with our dog. Even though we’re adults now, the gifts have to wait until the morning after Santa Claus has come. I cherish with all my heart these precious moments with my family because that’s the spirit of Christmas!

En Francias...

La veille de Noel, c’est-à-dire le 24 Décembre, ma famille et moi passons ensemble le moment le plus précieux de l’année. C’est un moment chaleureux que nous décidons de toujours passer ensemble, et nous réservons les jours qui suivent pour le reste de ma famille comme mon grand père par exemple. Je sais que mes amis font la même chose. En revanche, ce qu’ils ne font pas c’est notre tradition que nous avons inventé! Pendant des semaines ma famille et moi gardons précieusement des pots de yaourt en verre que nous avons au préalable nettoyé et où on installe une bougie que nous allumons à l’aide d’un spaghetti afin de ne pas nous bruler. Quand ma sœur et moi étions petites, nos parents nous disaient que ces petits photophores improvisés que nous plaçons aux fenêtres servaient à aider le Père Noël à ne pas se perdre, et bien sûr à ne pas oublier de venir chez nous.

Maintenant, nous perpétuons cette tradition des pots de yaourt, car c’est un peu notre magie de Noel à nous. Le réveillon est le moment que je préfère. Nous mangeons toutes les choses que nous préférons, et incontestablement; le foie gras est à l’honneur! Au moment de lever nos verres, ma mère prend une photo de famille, puis nous trinquons devant la crèche. Mon père met des CD de Noël, nous jouons avec notre chien. Meme si nous sommes grandes maintenant, les cadeaux attendront demain matin, le temps que le Père Noel passe. Je chérie de tout mon coeur ces instants précieux avec ma famille, car c’est aussi ça l’esprit de Noël.

What does your family do for Christmas Eve?

Does your family celebrate Christmas Eve? How so? Any similarities between your family’s celebrations and Olivier’s, Juliette’s, or Karine’s?

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

Add CommentViews: 148
Dec 9

Its Christmas, well almost

C’est Noel!

Well, not quite. Ce n’est pas encore Noel. But it will be soon enough. And it’s the perfect time to enjoy some Christmas music… en français.

Last week, we shared with you le chanson “Au Royaume du Bonhomme Hiver” (Walking in a Winter Wonderland).

There’s another holiday classic is often played on French airwaves during this season: “C’est Noel” (It’s Christmas). This is a French original and doesn’t have an equivalent in English. Written in 1956 by famous composer Henri Betti for the film Honoré de Marseille, it was performed by the actor and singer Fernandel. Supposedly, Betti wrote the song for the first Christmas he celebrated with his daughter.

The song switches between a modern Christmas celebration and a retelling of the nativity.

Merry Christmas

Here are the lyrics:

 

Un beau soir d’hiver près d’un grand sapin, 

Naquit dans une humble étable, 

L’enfant Jésus cet enfant divin, 

Et depuis pour les bambins. 

 

C’est Noel, sous un ciel de lumière. 

Les enfants, sagement à genou, 

Ce soir là, font tout bas leur prière. 

Doux Jésus, entends tu? Réponds nous!

 

Et Jésus descendu sur la terre 

Plein d’amour en ce jour solennel 

Fait surgir de partout 

A plaisir des joujoux 

Ce mystère c’est Noel

 

Cette belle nuit que le monde attend 

Nous rappelle notre enfance 

Par des souvenirs de Noel d’antan 

Et depuis cet heureux temps 

C’est Noel sous un ciel d’espérance 

Les bergers messagers du seigneur 

Vont chantant célébrant la naissance 

De celui qui conduit au bonheur

 

Vocabulary:

les bambins–toddlers/little kids

les bergers–the shepherds

conduire (conduit)–to drive/to lead

d’espérance–of hope

notre enfance–our childhood

une humble étable–a humble stable

des joujoux–toys (informal)

ce jour solennel–this solemn day

la naissance–the birth

sagement–wisely

sapin–fir tree (referring to a Christmas tree).

Cle Mortages 

Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

Add CommentViews: 157
Dec 9

A Christmas Carol in French

A Christmas Carol En Version Française

There are many famous stories about la période des fêtes (the holiday season). My personal favorite is Un chant de Noël (A Christmas Carol) by Charles Dickens. Although originally in English, Un chant de Noël can help your French!

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Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol, Title page, First edition 1843. Wikimedia Commons.

You will know how it can be useful to watch your favorite TV shows and movies either with les sous-titres français or doublées en français (dubbed in French). While it’s preferable to watch a movie or a TV show en VOST, being familiar with the characters and the story in your first language can help you stay engaged in another language.

The same idea works with les livres (books)!

If you have a favorite book in English, you can usually find it en version française.

Dans l’esprit de Noël (in the Christmas spirit), one such example is Un chant de Noël, a story that has been retold many times and in many different styles. My first memory of the story is la version de Disney (the Disney version) where Balthazar Picsou (Scrooge McDuck) plays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge and Dingo (Goofy) is le fantôme de Jacob Marley (the ghost of Jacob Marley).

The novella is most commonly known as Un chant de Noël in French, but it was also published under the names of Cantique de Noël, Chanson de Noël, and Conte de Noël. No matter the version It’s easy to recognise le thème général (the overarching theme):

Scrooge déteste Noël

« Foutaises ! » 

Bob Cratchit, le pauve employée de Scrooge

Le fantôme de Marley visite Scrooge et lui dit qu’il va être hanté par trois esprits

L’esprit des Noëls passés

L’esprit du Noéls présent

L’esprit des Noëls à venir

Scrooge se reveille, il aime Noël et il veut changer sa vie

Scrooge hates Christmas

“Bah! Humbug!”

Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s poor employee

The ghost of Marley visits Scrooge and tells him that he will be haunted by three spirits

The Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas Present

The Ghost of Christmas Future

Scrooge wakes up, he loves Christmas, and he wants to change his life

If you’re looking to practice your French during the holidays, try reading le grand classique (the great classic) in French.

Cle Mortages 

Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

Add CommentViews: 188
Dec 9

Festive season - So how do the French celebrate Christmas?

So how do the French celebrate Christmas?

In France, Christmas is a time for family and for generosity, marked by family reunions, gifts and chocolates for children, gifts for the poor, Midnight Mass, and le Réveillon.

We still arrange and meet with clients during December and over the holidays for property viewings in France, vendors still want to sell their house in France and you may have some time off work to visit France to look at some lovely French Houses BUT make sure you give us enough notice as it can be a busy period and of course most of our offices will have periods of closure over the festive period.

Christmas in France

The celebration of Christmas in France varies by region. As you would expect most regions celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, which is a bank holiday. However, in eastern and northern France, the Christmas season begins on 6 December, la fête de Saint Nicolas, and in some provinces la fête des Rois* is one the most important holidays of the Christmas season. In Lyon, 8 December is la Fête de lumières, when Lyonnais pay hommage to the virgin Mary by putting candles in their windows to light up the city.

*Epiphany (la fête des Rois) is usually celebrated the 6th of January, but in some places in France it is celebrated the first Sunday after January 1st.

French Christmas Traditions

French children put their shoes in front of the fireplace, in the hopes that Père Noël (aka Papa Noël) will fill them with gifts. Chocolate, fruit, nuts, and small toys will also be hung on the tree overnight. In some regions there's also Père Fouettard who gives out spankings to bad children (sort of the equivalent of Santa giving coal to the naughty). Pere Noel, like Santa, has a long, white beard, but wears a long, red robe that is trimmed with white fur and hooded. He is also portrayed as being thin, rather than fat.

AND shopping in France is as big an event as in the UK and eslewhere of course.

In 1962, a law was passed decreeing that all letters written to Santa would responded to with a postcard. When a class writes a letter, each student gets a response.

Le Réveillon

Reveillon is a huge traditional feast that takes place over the holiday season. It is eaten late at night, following Christmas Eve mass. What is served largely depends upon which area of the country you live in. This is probably one of the best reasons to visit France during Christmas. Although fewer and fewer French attend la Messe de Minuit on Christmas Eve, it is still an important part of Christmas for many families.

Le Réveillon is a symbolic awakening to the meaning of Christ's birth and is the culinary high point of the season, which may be enjoyed at home or in a restaurant or café that is open all night. Each region in France has its own traditional Christmas menu, with dishes like turkey, capon, goose, chicken, and boudin blanc (similar to white pudding). Examples of some the dishes served are oysters, pâté de foie gras, turkey, goose, salads, fruit, a Yule Log and, of course, wine.

Throughout the French Christmas season, there are special traditional desserts:

  • La bûche de Noël (Yule log) - A log-shaped cake made of chocolate and chestnuts. Representative of the special wood log burned from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day in the Périgord, which is a holdover from a pagan Gaul celebration.
     
  • Le pain calendeau (in southern France) - Christmas loaf, part of which is given to a poor person.
     
  • La Galette des Rois (on Epiphany) - round cake which is cut into pieces and distributed by a child, known as le petit roi or l'enfant soleil, hiding under the table. Whoever finds la fève - the charm hidden inside - is King or Queen and can choose a partner.

French Christmas Decorations

The sapin de Noël is the main decoration in homes, streets, shops, offices, and factories. The sapin de Noël appeared in Alsace in the 14th century, decorated with apples, paper flowers, and ribbons, and was introduced in France in 1837.

Another important aspect of French Christmas celebrations is the crèche filled with santons, which is displayed in churches and many homes. Living crèches in the form of plays and puppet shows based on the Nativity are commonly performed to teach the important ideas of Christianity and the Christmas celebration.

Mistletoe is hung above the door during the Christmas season to bring good fortune throughout the year.

After Réveillon, it's customary to leave a candle burning in case the Virgin Mary passes by.

Is that Carol singing?

Some traditional French Christmas carols include "Un Flambeau", "Petit Papa Noel", "La Marche des rois", "Venez Divin Messie", "Nouelle Agreable" and "C'est la jour de la Noel."

Blog submitted by: David at Cle France.

2 CommentsViews: 384
Jul 25

Almost August Already

Almost Août!

Today, as I was standing à la caisse (at the checkout/cashier) to pay for my groceries, la cassière (the cashier) mentioned that she couldn’t believe all the back-to-school ads she saw all over the place. "Summer isn’t over!" she cried. I agreed heartily with her, but then I realised that next week will already be August. How the summer flies! by.

In French, the word for the month of August is Août. This comes from the Latin word augustus, which evolved into the old French aoust. The circonflexe in French typically signals that there was previously an “s” in an earlier version of the word.

Of course, the original root of the word dates back to the Roman Empire, when the emperor Augustus decided to rename the Roman month sextilis after himself! (Of course, changing the names of months or switching up calendars is not rare).

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A typical scene of a amateur cycle club training in the French countryside.

August is known as le mois de la moisson. What is la moisson? Moisson means “"harvest" and refers to the reaping of crops toward the end of the summer. Take a look at this verse by the Belgian poet Emile Verhaeren in his poem Les Villes tenaculaires (1895):

"Dites! L’ancien labeur pacifique, dans l’août Des seigles mûrs et des avoines rousses, Avec les bras au clair, le front debout Dans l’or des blés qui se retrousse Vers l’horizon torride où le silence bout.”"

(See below for vocabulary words to help you decipher these verses)

But, in French, as in English, there are many derivations of the word août. And typically these derivations are associated with August’s familiar activities—including harvesting produce and taking vacation. For example, l’aoûtat is a kind of harvest mite that eats mature crops (and, thus, appears in August). And the word aoûtien literally means “someone who goes on vacation in August.” Can you think of any derivations of the English word “August” (or for any other months)?

Happy (soon to be early) August to all. Don’t worry, the summer isn’t winding down just yet.

Vocabulary List

pacifique—peaceful

des seigles—rye

mûrs—mature or ripe

des avoines—oat

des blés—wheat.

Cle Mortgages

Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

 

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