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Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

No. 94: Le Réveillon


All day yesterday (Christmas Eve), the friendly Martiniquais were wishing each other (and us) un bon Réveillon. Le Réveillon is the huge feast traditionally following la Messe de Minuit.

Although not many of my French friends attend midnight mass, they certainly wouldn’t miss out on le Réveillon. The meal can run into the wee hours of the morning, and usually includes a pause for the older children (the little ones are already tucked in bed) to open their presents from Père Noël.

In Paris le Réveillon is not for the faint of heart (or for the vegetarian in your life). No self-respecting Réveillon would be complete without foie gras, oysters, smoked salmon, a chestnut stuffed capon, turkey, or goose, and possibly some assortment of wild game.

For some families this late evening meal is the gastronomic highlight of the entire year.

This year we stuck to our family tradition of fondue, followed by snuggling together to watch a Christmas movie (usually A Christmas Story, but this year It’s a Wonderful Life), while happily ensconced in our petite maison en Martinique.

While each region in mainland France has its own slight variation on the traditional Christmas menu (in Provence, apparently it includes 13 dessert!), the Réveillon en Martinique is made up of an entirely different menu.


I’m lucky enough to know this because our landlords here (or our Martiniquais grandparents) were kind enough to recreate le Réveillon for Christmas lunch today. After four appetizers and five main course dishes, we all had the top button of our pants undone. The highlights of the feast included accras (fried fish and vegetable dumplings), petits patés Créole (bite sized savory meat pies, filled with langoustine, shrimp or pork), smoked caramelized ham, cooked yellow-fleshed bananas with tender pork ragu, and of course, Punch coco.

On my I-don’t-think-I’ll-eat-that-again list: Boudin noir —a fat sausage of spicy pig’s blood.

Donc, a Christmas very well spent. I am so grateful for our new friends, this wonderfully diverse country and all the marvelous encounters we have had along the way.

Joyeux Noël à toutes et à tous une bonne nuit.


Joyeux Noël à toutes et à tous une bonne nuit. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

la Messe de Minuit: midnight mass

le Reveillon: Christmas/New Year’s Eve feast, literally, eve, from the verb réveiller, to wake up, awaken, or revive.

petite maison en Martinique: small house in Martinique


No. 86: Marché de Noël

Christmas markets can be found in all the major cities of France, and also in the small villages and hamlets. Most of them are characterized by charming wooden chalets, vin chaud, local food specialties, gingerbread, and lots and lots of saucisson.


They have strayed from their original purpose of supplying rural French femmes au foyer with all the hard to find ingredients for preparing the traditional holiday feast. And while the marché de Noël originated in the northern Alsace region, (belonging to Germany at assorted moments in history) and tend to draws on German Christmas market traditions, these days, at least in Paris most of the “handcrafted” toys and gifts are junky stuff mass produced in China.

That said, I still love them. They do add a terrifically festive feel to France in December. Here are the ones I’ve managed to see this year.

Marché de Noël Suédois, Swedish Church in Paris

I’d never been to a Swedish Christmas market so I really enjoyed this one. It was small and intimate, and the Swedish community was so very friendly. All things Swedish and holiday-ish available, including reindeer sausage, amazing ginger crisps, and of course Swedish meatballs and Glögg. (Held right before Lucia, so you’ve already missed it, but do look for it next year.)


Marché de Noël, La Défense

More than 350 stands, very jolly despite the chalets nestled in the surreal setting of glass high-rise buildings and the ominous Grande Arche. (November 27-December 28.)


Marché de Noël, Avenue des Champs-Elysées

The largest Christmas market within the Paris city limits. Incredibly crowded and best at nighttime—if you are going to brave the throngs of people, you might as well see the lights. (November 15-January 5.)

Marché de Noël, Trocadero

About 100 stands, a “snow” village, and an ice-skating rink with the best view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Lots of tourist, kiddos, African Eiffel Tower sellers, and pickpockets.

Marché de Noël, Notre Dame Cathedral



Charming and cheery Christmassy views. Good photo opportunities. Beware of the gypsies and their tricks.

Marché de Noël on my bucket list:

Marché de Noël, Strasbourg

The mother of all Christmas markets and the largest and oldest one in France. A pilgrimage for those obsessed with Noël. Set in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral. I’ve seen pictures and the views are spectacular.

Marché de Noël, Bordeaux

Supposedly one of the more “magical” of the French Christmas markets, and of course, a great opportunity to stock up on wine from Bordeaux.

Marché de Noël, Nancy

Even though Nancy, France is my namesake, I have never made it there. I need to. Know for its range of traditional and regional foods and less junk from China.



femmes au foyer: housewives

marché de Noël: Christmas markets

saucisson: sausage

vin chaud: mulled wine


No. 85: Edible Christmas Windows

These Christmas windows aren’t just for licking, they are for eating.









No. 83: Tacky Christmas Trees

What I love about these really tacky Christmas trees in France is that the fact that they exist proves that the French do NOT have impeccable taste, and are, after all, human like the rest of us.

These foam sprayed trees don’t just come in white (to mimic snow), but in every color imaginable, and they seem to be selling like hotcakes.

Tacky Christmas Tree

No. 81: THE Sapin de Noël

In America we have our National Christmas Tree in Washington D.C., on the Ellipse near the White House.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

I am wondering if the sapin de Noël at the Galeries Lafayette is the French equivalent of our nation’s tree?

It certainly is enormous (20 meters high), stunning, stylish, and as Paolo de Cesare, Printemps CEO said, “makes a statement for Paris, for France and for the world.”

Perched under the famous cupola in the center of Galeries Lafayette, the tree features a toy village at the base that springs to life on the hour, every hour, and compliments the Christmas window theme: Il était une fois Noël avant les douze coups de minuit.


The cheerful tree continues the adventures of Lily the doll and Martin the Teddy Bear. As she wakes up their sleepy Christmas village, Monsieur and Madame Wolf, a gang of mischievous mice, a clowder of cats, and a family of snow white owls spring into action to beat the clock and get ready for Noël.

If you can brave the tourists and Christmas shoppers, it’s definitely magical and worth seeing…go early, and get out quickly.


Il était une fois Noël …avant les douze coups de minuitOnce upon a time at Christmas…before the clock strikes twelve.

Printemps: one of the largest and fanciest department stores in Paris (literally, spring)

Sapin de Noël: Christmas tree




No. 78: Licking the Christmas Windows

This Christmas with the help of celebrated designers, les grands magasins in Paris have succeeded again in creating magical Christmas windows.

Every December I have been in France, I have spent hours gazing at these fairytale windows, and this year is no exception. At least one day a week I’m out and about licking the gorgeous Christmas windows (lèche-vitrines). The French really know how to dress a window, and I just can’t get enough.

This year’s theme is, “Once upon a Christmas…Before the Clock Strikes Twelve”.

The windows chronicle the journey of rag doll Lilly and a cuddly Teddy Bear as they try to get to Christmas before the stroke of midnight. Their adventure involves meeting and playing with hundreds of furry friends, most notably spirited mice and ritzy monkeys dressed and ready for any escapade, especially ones involving pocket watches and clocks. The windows are whimsical and dreamlike and tempt even the most curmudgeony of the French to crack a smile, find a glimmer of hope and remember the joyful anticipation of being a child at Christmastime.


lèche-vitrines: window shopping (literally, licking the windows)

les grands magasins: department stores


No. 77: Lingering Autumn

It looks like nature forgot to tell the trees around the Eiffel Tower that it is Christmastime…mais pour moi, c’est merveilleux.


This gorgeous tree just won’t give up.


mais pour moi, c’est merveilleux: but for me, it’s marvelous