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Dec 23

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?

Cle France Savings

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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Dec 21

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: 273
Dec 16

More French Christmas Treats

While Christmas Day may be winding down, the season isn’t really over until the New Year. Christmas has many traditions, and many of them are tied to food. Everyone loves family meals consisting of a baked ham or turkey, savoury sides, and delicious desserts (miam ! yum!) – and we’re not even counting the sugar overdose from all those homemade cookies and fudge.

Xmas Log

We have our traditional pies, and France, Quebec, and certain French colonies get to chow down an elaborate and historical dessert known as une buche de Noel. Called a Yule log in English, it’s simply a sponge cake rolled and filled with a chocolate buttercream and designed to resemble a log. Some cake makers will cut out branches to stick out of the log. Others will whip up meringue mushrooms, add fresh berries, make fake holly, or sprinkle powdered sugar on top to resemble snow. The cake as we know it today emerged during the 19th century, but the origins of the actual Yule log date back before the medieval era.

At this time, Gaelic Europeans and Celtic Brits believed trees held special powers and burning them to create les cendres (ashes) would increase the strength of this power. Before the winter solstice, people would search out a huge log, decorate it with holly and ivy, and burn it to celebrate days finally becoming longer. The log’s ashes would be collected and used in medicines. In addition to its healing benefits, the ashes also guarded against evil and accidents. It was also believed that spreading the ashes in les champs (the fields) would yield a nice harvest. Certaines personnes (some people) would keep charcoal or cinders from the original log because relighting them during a thunderstorm would protect your home and property from being struck by lightening.

When Christianity spread through Europe, this tradition still continued. The logs were brought in and burned in the hearth, the fireplace area. Onlookers would observe les flammes (flames) and make predictions about the upcoming year – important things like how many calves would be born that year and how many marriages would take place.

Au fil des années (over the years), heaths in houses were built smaller, and people weren’t bringing full-sized logs into their homes anymore. It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when people stopped burning the Yule logs in their homes and created edible versions instead, but some research suggests that the cakes date back the 1600s judging from popular ingredients of the time. The traditional buche de Noel has meringue and marzipan decorations, and both of these were common treats at that time. Same goes for sponge cake –  it was mentioned as early as 1615 in Gervaise Markham’s “The English Huswife.”

Want to try one of these delicious, calorie-laden Christmas desserts? No problem. You can make it yourself by following one of the many recipes online, but make sure you have time and patience. Some of the recipes require more than 8 hours of your time!

Baking not up your alley? Just head on down to your local patisserie (bakery specialising in sweets) and order one. You’ll find more simple ones à prix abordable (at an affordable price) – about 20 euros – but you can easily drop more than 100 euros for a fancy one.

Bon appétit!

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: 318
Dec 15

French Christmas Carols

In The Kingdom Of The Winter Snowman

La période de Noel est ici (Christmas time is here) ! Every time I leave mon appartement (my apartment) I can hear les chants de Noel (Christmas carols) as I make my way to le marché de Noel to drink du vin chaud. While listening to la musique, I was surprised that many of les chansons (the songs) that I grew up with in English have French versions as well!

French Snowman

Image is “Snowman” by Toshiyuki Imai on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

English and French versions

Hearing a song you know par coeur (by heart) in another language can be a strange experience. It’s easy to hum along, but not knowing any of les paroles (the lyrics) can be frustrating.

L’autre jour (the other day), I heard a very familiar song that I could not chanter (sing): Au Royaume du Bonhomme Hiver.

I couldn’t chanter because I only know la chanson in English: Walking in a Winter Wonderland!

After humming along and doing my best to listen to les paroles, I knew I would have to learn la chanson française.

Looking up les paroles taught me du nouveau vocabulaire (some new vocabulary) like le traîneau et le foulard (the sleigh and the scarf). It also taught me that la chanson is very different in french.

Most importantly, I could chanter the next time I heard la chanson!

Voici les paroles avec la traduction anglaise :

Au Royaume du Bonhomme HiverWalking in a Winter Wonderland!

 

Écoutez les clochettes

Du joyeux temps des fêtes

Annonçant la joie

De chaque cœur qui bat

Au royaume du bonhomme hiver.

 

Listen to the bells

Of the joyful holiday times

Announcing the joy

Of each beating heart

In the kingdom of the winter snowman.

 

Sous la neige qui tombe

Le traîneau vagabonde

Semant tout autour

Une chanson d’amour

Au royaume du bonhomme hiver.

 

Under the falling snow

The sleigh wanders

Spreading all around

A love song

In the kingdom of the winter snowman.

 

Le voilà qui sourit sur la place

Son chapeau, sa canne et son foulard

Il semble nous dire d’un ton bonasse

Ne voyez-vous donc pas qu’il est tard ?

 

There he is smiling in the plaza

His hat, his cane, and his scarf

Seemingly telling us in a soft tone

Don’t you see that it’s late?

 

Il dit vrai tout de même

Près du feu, je t’emmène

Allons nous chauffer dans l’intimité

Au royaume du bonhomme hiver.

 

He speaks the truth anyway

Next to the fire, I’m taking you

Let’s go warm up in privacy

In the kingdom of the winter snowman.

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

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

Add CommentViews: 298
Dec 14

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.

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