I thought for sure there were animals running around out on the front porch or they were moving furniture around upstairs but instead it was a violent wind and rain storm that howled between the houses. It sounded incredible. I took great comfort in the fact that I was indoors, warm and cozied in a blanket and ready for bed.
This morning I had to ask myself what happened recently? Why is it I feel like I never see anyone all of a sudden? I realize it’s winter, no one wants to leave the house and so fewer plans are made for picnics or bike rides in the city. Go figure, too bad. It’s times like this where I wish I lived downtown and could walk everywhere and enjoy the lights on all the buildings and maybe even dress nice and warmly and have a winter picnic fueled by wine and cheese.
Wilson and I were in Surrey on Sunday afternoon trying to find her some work pants and as I stood outside I was transported back in my memory to somewhere in the vicinity of winter 2006. The cold short walk to the bus on my way to school or work in the city and the smell of the park and the feeling of warmth from a good life. She asked me whether my feeling like I was back in that time in life was good or not and it’s true, it’s bittersweet. I have such good memories of those days but also the knowledge it will forever be different.
This year will be my first Christmas season solo in 8 years. I’m trying not to be sad about it. I’m mostly okay with it but I have so many unanswered questions about the past. On a more surface level it’s weird not having my own Christmas tree, with my ornaments or my Christmas music. I’m trying to dream up Christmas presents but knowing that my sewing machine isn’t here and my box of thread is also on the island. Something I can look forward to is making gluhwein but in the same… no one drinks alcohol in this house except me so it’ll have to be reserved for my time spent with the family. It’s beginning to sound like a crazy condensed Christmas to me.
Things are just… different.
Instead of getting wrapped up in all that I could potentially mull over I started to wonder what kind of Christmas traditions are celebrated in France and so I took to Google to find out! Not surprisingly, the Catholic country celebrates primarily around the Nativity. While most places in France put out the manger, or Crèche, of Jesus Provence creates a more complete nativity with wise men, kings the drummer boy and apparently even gypsies. Children gather from the outdoors evergreens, moss and other such items to liven up the scene and gather nightly to sing Christmas carols, called noels, around it until Epiphany on January 6th.
Not only that but they celebrate St. Nicholas Eve on December 5th as a kick off to the holidays leaving shoes out to be filled by Pere Noel or the Christ child with gifts. If not left out then, you can also leave out shoes on Christmas eve and candles and snacks are left out for the possible visitation of Mary and child. Homes with trees are found in the morning adorned with fruit, candies and toys. On the 24th of December people fast all day in preparation for midnight mass and when they return home they enjoy the feast known as le reveillon with traditional fare which varies from region to region. On Christmas day it is common to eat a buche de noel, a butter cream filled cake which is made to look like a Yule log. The feasting doesn’t seem to stop there though there is still new years and Epiphany where galettes are served and everything draws to a close with the ringing of the church bells on January 6th.
With all the feasting I have to wonder how it’s possible they’re all so petite. Perhaps I’ll learn the secret soon to small portions, lots of biking or walking and their trim lifestyles amidst all the wine, cheese and smoking.