I happened upon a post in a “Brits in France” Facebook group a few weeks ago in which a lady asked the group, “Does anyone else hate Christmas in France? Nowhere does Christmas quite like Blighty.”
This post jumped out at me but not because I agree with her sentiments; my feelings are exactly the opposite of hers.
This time of year I try not to become defensive when another person playfully accuses me of being “bah humbug!” I’m not a misery. I just don’t really like Christmas. And that’s one of the reasons why I absolutely love being tucked away in a quiet corner of rural France because I can escape it altogether.
I used to love Christmas as a child as my parents always made it magical but slowly and surely, I have become a rebel against Christmas. It’s not my fault; the Christmas adverts that screech at one from UK television from September (September folks?!), the fact that I never used to be able to park in my local town on a Saturday from mid-November onwards, what I believe to be environmental and economic waste caused by frantic present buying, sometimes for the sake of it, plus many other examples I risk beginning to rant about have unfortunately resulted in me wanting to shun the entire thing. I may be in the minority with this view but I know I’m not alone.
Still, at least I’m in the right place.
France, or at least rural France is like a breath of non-cinnamon-scented air for my tortured, killjoy, Grinchy soul. Here, Christmas is a much more low-key affair. It’s early December and only now are the villages being decorated in their usual understated fashion. I can drive into town and actually park without any stress. My ears are not afflicted by an endless rotation of Christmas songs in every building I enter and the supermarkets look pretty normal, aside from one or two aisles dedicated to Christmas chocolates and toys.
Perhaps this is indicative of how the French celebrate Christmas. As I understand from my French friends, compared to the UK, Christmas in France is a much quieter family and / or religious affair in which Christmas Eve is the main get-together, celebrated by a very good meal. Present giving takes place but in a more restrained way and everything goes back to normal on 26th. (Interestingly, I’ve also heard that in France it’s almost unheard of to get smashed at the work Christmas party and snog your colleague in the stationery cupboard).
Christmas is what you make it. We’re all different and I won’t judge how you spend yours if you promise not to judge mine.
I will be spending Christmas day meeting up with my buddy for a hopefully sunny dog walk, perhaps a champagne picnic and then coming home to relax. Every other day of the festive season will be a normal day for me and that’s just the way I like it.
No matter how you are spending yours, I wish you a very happy and healthy festive season.
By Jane Hunt.