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