Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas in France

     As part of our December special promotion, we here at Big Dave and Company are examining how Christmas is celebrated in other countries around the world and why they don't celebrate it as well as we do.  Today we look at Christmas in France.

     The French, as would be expected, can't seem to make up their minds or agree with each other on anything.  Christmas celebrations in France vary widely depending on what part of the country you are in, even going so far as to celebrate things on different days.  Nearly everyone celebrates in some way, shape, or form on Dec. 25, but in various parts of the country they have celebrations on Dec. 6, Dec. 8, Jan. 6, and the first Sunday in January as well.  Talk about confusing.  And what if you are from the north, say, Brittany, and you live in the south in Provence or something, what do you do?  How do you make that decision?  I mean, it is always said "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" which is all fine and good but how do your buck family and regional tradition.  And what if you marry someone from a different part of the country.  I mean, it's one thing to have different traditions from family to family, but what about when the way you celebrate the holidays doesn't sync up.  What do you do then?  Luckily for us, and more so for the French, there are a few traditions and customs that everyone seems to enjoy.
     First of all seems to be statuary.  They love their little statues at Christmastime from what I understand.  Most families in France will place a nativity, or as they call it a creche, that are filled with little figurines of Christ, Joseph, the Three Wise Men, etc.  Except these are not ordinary statues.  They are special statues.  Even more special than Mexican Mart statues, if that's possible.  These statues (santonsare made by artisan craftsmen who use molds that have been handed down within families for centuries.  How fantastically French is that?  I suppose though that it beats putting up Christmas light all over the place but it's still awfully lame.  Especially since in many places they add local dignitaries like the mayor or
a TV anchor to the scene.  Wow.  "Hello, this is Kent Brockman reporting from the Bethlehem stables..."  Just shoot me now.  I am surprised that they don't put Santa in there too.  Speaking of Santa Claus...
      In France, Santa Claus is called Père Noël, which makes sense because literally translated that means Father Christmas.  But in France he does not travel alone.  He has a sort of travelling secretary names Père Fouettard which translates into Father…I have no clue.  But it's Father something.  Anyway, Père Fouettard rides along with Père Noël on his donkey and tells him what your kids did.  Yeah, so he's sort of like a prison rat, going around and spying on everyone then spilling to the man in charge.  In charge of the presents.  
      Once the boys get down the chimney or whatever they use to get into the house; it's France so they probably come through the basement coal chute or something.  But anyway, once they are in there are no warm stockings and no brightly lit Christmas tree, oh no.  There are shoes.  Some of them are wooden, and the rest of them probably smell bad.  Because the little rugrats just put out whatever shoes they wear around, and that's what gets filled with presents.  How awful is that?  All you get is a Reebok filled with marbles or something?  What if you got thumbtacks for Christmas (because you are a bulletin board loving freak) and you missed one.  Then you put on your shoe to go play soccer or some stupid French game and you stab your big toe into oblivion?  That sucks balls.  What kind of Christmas is that?  I think that it is much safer to have your stuff hidden under a pine tree.  And what's with the donkey?  First of all, get a cool animal.  Donkey's are slow and they suck.  You wouldn't be able to deliver presents to everyone in Aix-la-Chappelle on the back of a donkey, let alone all of France or all the world.  Especially since both Père Nöel AND Père Fouettard have to ride the damn thing, not to mention the big basket of presents they have to carry.  No, none of this adds up at all.
     My favorite part of Christmas in France, however, is le Révellion, which is a giant, late night feast that is held to honor Christmas.  It's great.  They all pile in the Peugeot and go to Midnight Mass, then they come home an stuff themselves in the wee hours of the morning.  Awesome.  I am actually a little jealous.  They get une bûche de nöel (a yule log, dude, settle down) and other amazing things, like turkey or goose or whatever.  That's my kind of celebration. 
      So all in all the French Christmas is pretty different than that which we are used to here.  Much less commercial and much more rooted in the religious aspect.  I mean, the adults don't even usually exchange gifts for Christmas; they wait for New Year's Day.  And I am sure that the French would be appalled to experience a Christmas here.  But whatever.  I am sure they would love all the presents, don't you think?  Plus, no lame statues.  That's enough for me.


Pharoh said...

Le Père Fouettard (French for The whipping Father) is a character who accompanies St. Nicholas in his rounds at Christmas dispensing lumps of coal and/or floggings to the naughty children while St. Nick gives gifts to the well behaved. He is known mainly in the Eastern regions of France, although similar characters exist all over Europe

There ya go bro. Pharaoh

Big Dave said...

Thanks Pharaoh, I appreciate you hitting me with that little burst of knowledge.