Good morning and merry Christmas!
My earliest–and only consistent–Christmas memory is the smell of oregano and onions wafting through the house for breakfast once Santa had come and gone. We never really cared about Christmas lunch or dinner; for us, the Christmas staple was my mom’s tree-shaped bread filled with bacon and cheese that my siblings and I still try to recreate every year. As most Christmas mornings are filled with anticipation, ours was always filled with us waiting–and drooling–over the bread, bored of looking at the stocking’s chocolate and band aids and gift cards, ready for the real present opening to begin, all set to the soundtrack of, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
As far as I know, crescent rolls haven’t yet made it to France, so this year I have to forgo my ultimate Christmas treat for the 13 desserts de Noël and maybe some foie gras. As kids in America still
sleep anxiously lay awake, I’m embarking on my first French Christmas adventure. (And I desperately hope these lights stay lining the city forever).
Unfortunately, Aix around Christmastime is absolutely packed with tourists–even I have been giving some side eyes to the slow-moving, loud-English-speaking, confused visitors. The lines out of the fnac store as it opened yesterday were like at Best Buy on Black Friday (maybe I exaggerate). All of the people have dramatically slowed my walking commute.
But lights are everywhere, speakers playing Christmas music line the streets, and downtown even a giant menorah was lit for Hanukkah (not the most laïque things I’ve ever seen, but not everything in France makes sense).
On Cours Mirabeau, the Christmas market has been open for a while, selling everything from lavender to Russian dolls (I very seriously am considering buying the one painted to look like Putin) to jewelry and scarves. Past Mirabeau, in the Allées Provençales (kind of our mall), there is a Santa that scared me to death the other day because maybe I thought he was plastic until he moved and le Marché des Treize Desserts, where today I got a grammar lesson and chocolate all at once. Seriously–for anyone looking to study abroad and wants to become fluent in French, don’t study in Paris. Study in the south, where people are nicer, more patient, and will actually explain weird French grammar rules to you.
Christmas in France is a major family holiday, not unlike it is in America. Lines at the boucherie and the patisserie and the boulangerie and at the market yesterday morning gave proof of everyone working to finish off their dinner menus and buy out the last of the clementines, and even the heart of the ever-scowling lady at the grocery store seemed to grow at least a couple sizes. I’ll be sure to let you know where Christmas Eve and Christmas finds me, and of course what was eaten…I’ve heard rumors that les cuisses de grenouille will be served, which my dad has been telling me my whole life “tastes like chicken” (though I don’t think he has ever had it).
The next time I’m home for Christmas and/or have an oven, I’ll be happy to make you some of our family Christmas bread…but for this year, as my sister said it won’t cook well in a skillet, I’ll have to leave the oregano and bacon and cheese in my dreams. ♦
Bonne fêtes à tous et toutes!