Xmas in France begins today
As it is in so many places, Christmas in France is all about family, friends and food. While it’s generally a low-key affair marked by gatherings of relatives and treats for children, it also has the culinary high point of the year: le réveillon de Noël (Christmas Eve dinner).
The season officially starts today on the Dec. 6 with a visit from St. Nicholas, who arrives with a donkey carrying treat-filled baskets, a tradition still reenacted in some villages. Over the centuries, the French merged St. Nicholas with Father Christmas to get Père Noël. On Dec. 25, Père Noël travels in the company of Père Fouettard, a wicked butcher who once tried to pickle some children. Nicholas rescued them, and now Père Fouettard is doomed to follow around his better-behaved compatriot, helping deliver presents to French children.
French shoppers typically favour small specialty stores for gifts. In Paris, there are whole shops dedicated to foie gras, a traditional Christmas gift. Chocolate shops and patisseries get even more enticing during this season. The streets are dotted with stalls selling all sorts of scrumptious food, including pain d’épices, a spiced honey bread.
An ‘awakening’ meal – on Christmas Eve, it’s time for le réveillon de Noël feast. Réveillon literally means “awakening.” In a symbolic sense, the réveillon is a kind of spiritual bugler’s reveille – awakening people to the meaning of Jesus’ birth.
Like most French dinners, the réveillon lasts several hours – including appetizers, main course, cheese plate and dessert, all paired with wine. Each region of France serves special dishes for this feast: raw oysters in Paris, foie gras in Alsace, buckwheat cakes and sour cream in Brittany. The main course is usually roast goose or turkey…
Doctor, Doctor, I’ve a strawberry in my ear!
Don’t worry, you can have some cream with it
Doctor, Doctor, I feel like a pony!
Don’t worry, you’re just a little hoarse
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