In France it’s that time of the year, like every year, I don’t look forward to it.
Winter Solstice time followed by snow, vin chaud and Christmas Markets.
Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I don’t celebrate Christmas for a couple of reasons.
The last time I really celebrated Christmas was when my mother and father were still together at the age of four. I had the tree with loads of gifts up under it then after my parents divorced, my mother didn’t celebrate Christmas because she had NO-MONEY to do so and our family is not tight. My mother explained how money played a big part in this kind of celebration. We weren’t sad because we saw our mother work hard for a living. I learned from a very early age the value of money and the time that you have to spend to earn it.
During Christmas, the one thing that my mother did was take us to the Christmas markets to look at the decorations and what-nots. And we did get our candy apple treats.
I don’t feel that I missed out on the gift giving part because I learned you can do a lot with your family without spending MONEY.
Now, I do get it when people get excited about Christmas because they have tons of family memories that go with it, like building snowmen, Christmas music, Christmas lights, egg nog and spending time with people who really love you.
I get excited TOO about egg nog and vin chaud.
I believe in religion, and I believe that you should believe in something.
I’m a buddhist who will go to church (Sunday morning when I was single in Toulouse). I feel that Christmas has been hijacked from Christians and turned into this commercial opportunity and the “Je, Je, Je fête” (All I want, All I want, me, me party!).
To me it seems that people are no longer passing values down to their children. I hear too often, people asking their kids, “What do you want for Christmas?” and I never hear, “Do you know what Christmas is and where does it come from? “, “How do other religions celebrate Christmas?”.
The other day, my Dad sent me a Skype message saying, “What do you want for X-mas this year?”. I replied, “An IPAD”, since he’s playing Santa Claus this year. In reality, I prefer to spend time with him and he can put that money on a plane ticket (I can buy my own IPAD).
I believe that you should have rituals with your family like coming together and quality time. It’s sad that we as a society are no longer teaching these kinds of values to children and adults.
We should come together and celebrate, not concentrate on gift giving.
It’s Christmas time, “I want this, I want that, get me this, get me that”. Then people complain that this new generation in France don’t understand the value of money. Well, if we don’t teach values and rely on commercial and department stores to do it, this is what you get.
Even though I feel this way, I’m STUCK just like you with Christmas shopping for my extended family.
From Black Friday, Boxing day to Christmas and right around the corner after Christmas sales, it feels like we are always shopping…
What I like about Christmas is the design, egg nog, vin chaud and fois gras.
Yes, in that order.
I think if you have kids, yes it’s a fun activity to do with them but teaching them that it’s all about getting gifts and cash is the wrong way to go.
In America, It’s not uncommon to hear a “Happy Kwanzaa” along with “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah”
I taught most recently to H.B. about Kwanzaa, to my surprise this is the first time he learned about this American celebration. With more than 18 million people worldwide who practice Kwanzaa, you would think it was taught in school in Europe. NOPE!
What I like about Kwanzaa (means first fruits) is that you sit down and you discuss a lot of things that happened in the past in relation to your family history. You really have to take time out and stress to the young kids what’s really going on, what it actually means. It’s not just a holiday to celebrate. You celebrate, but you don’t celebrate it with gifts; you celebrate it as passing on your history and values.
Kwanzaa is based on seven principles of a traditional ancient African harvest festival. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
On each evening of the seven-day festival, a family member lights a candle in a special candleholder and discusses one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. On the evening of December 31, family and friends get together to enjoy a large feast. The last day of Kwanzaa, January 1, is a time of gift-giving.
After my little Kwanzaa English lesson with Frenchie H.B., we call my mother to talk about Kwanzaa. How did my mother live through the time when Kwanzaa was created in the 60’s and how did she perceive this celebration. The conversation between the three of us was priceless and you can’t throw a red ribbon on that.
So, if your subscribe to une lettre de Rachael, you know I’m all about practicing what I preach.
This Christmas I have set out to learn about all festivals around Christmas like Chanukah (Hanukkah), Yule, Bodhi Day and anything else I can get my hands on. Also, to teach to my extended French family the importance of values around this time and family history.
Plus visiting French, Germany and Luxembourg Christmas markets.
And let’s not forget drinking some vin chaud.
I love the design of the Christmas markets in Europe and over the years I have been to many.
Last year (December 2016), I’ve been to Metz, Strasbourg in France, SaarBrücken, Trier (Trèves) in Germany and Luxembourg.
I love looking at the architecture of the cities that is decorated with colorful light, the smell of vin chaud and Christmas cheer spread around.
So if you are new to France (and beyond), looking for something to do in December.
I will create a list here and I will continue to update it as the years go by with pictures and videos:
- list coming soon
Last, would you like to get MORE personal, MORE intimate details, to my no-bull-shit perspective on surviving in France (life, work, relationships and more)?
I will write you two lettres (letters) per month. Yes, the old fashion way.
Then sign-up to une lettre de Rachael.
In the comments below, tell me what do you think about Christmas and everything else around that too.
I’d love to hear from you.
Til the next time,
Live, Love & Design your life the way you want it to be,
If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook.