Monday, December 27, 2010

View From My Window: Christmas Hoopla

Christmas is over and while it's still officially the season until Epiphany, I feel I've experienced the holiday and can make a reasonable assessment of what Christmas is like in France. And of course, I have an opinion! I think what really solidified that opinion is an email from a friend that I opened just this morning. She told me all about the various Christmas activites with family and at church that she's been busy with and then added that she and her brother had made a 'tour of lights' around one of the swanky Denver neighborhoods. 'The displays were wonderful,' she said, 'so bright and colorful. One yard had 50-60 trees all strung with tiny lights.'  I couldn't help contrasting that neighborhood which I know was brilliantly decorated for Christmas with what I've seen here in Cadrieu and the surrounding area. If you've checked out some of my Christmas blog entries, you already know this: Christmas is very low-key in France. I"ve shared via email with some of my friends that decorations are really minimal. Oh, a few people go all out; Christiane and I saw a house in Grealou that was covered with lights. But as she said, only a very few people do that here. Mostly what you see around the village are Santas climbing into windows and swinging on the porches, maybe one string of lights, and some cut trees set outside festooned with tinsel garland and shiny bows, no lights. Part of the reason for this is the high cost of electricity in France; people are very careful with it. Part of the reason is that Christmas isn't about the glitz and glamor here; it's a holiday that centers around family and the table. Gift-giving is modest. Even the stores in Figeac last week weren't begging shoppers to come in and spend a fortune of that perfect gift for their loved one. I know the fact that I don't have a television here at the Chatette prevented me from being deluged with media hype for gift buying, home decorating and endless Christmas carols, but even knowing that, I'd say Christmas here is quiet and modest.

And this is the view from my window: in my opinion this is as Christmas should be! Not a frantic swirl of activities, not spending money that you don't have for gifts that people could actually buy for themselves if they even want them, not trying to reproduce a by-gone era of traditions that no longer make sense. I think the French have it right. Christmas is about spending quality time with friends being convivial...there's that word 'conviviality' again! about spending time with family for a hearty meal, and if you're religious, about celebrating the birth of Christ. I didn't miss the hoopla of Christmas at all. Christmas in France was a refreshing reminder that December can be just another month to enjoy drinks with friends, dinner with family, and a nice chat around a roaring fire.

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