There are lots of ways to stay connected to that amazing summer vacation you once took with your family to France (or the one you have been dreaming of taking and have been saving up for for the last thirty years). Or maybe you learned French in grade school, love French literature, are now studying the language, are just obsessed with the French soccer team in the World Cup…or maybe you like French chocolate. Whatever the reason that brings you here, I want to share my holiday list for my own Francophile family. I hope none of them peeks! And I hope this list will inspire you to find gifts for your family. I’ve tried to stay with items I think are classy, simple, understated, fun and smart choices that will please your teen, your little one, and even your grumpy dad this holiday. Of course, I added a few things I hope Santa will bring me, too.
–Editor in Chief, Frenchly, Caitlin Shetterly
Big gift ($260): A heather gray 100% cotton agnès b. hoodie. Versatile, hip, understated, classy, unisex and classic.
Vejas: Sustainable and organic, eco conscious sneakers, that are made with clean lines and great materials and can even be repaired, so that they can be worn again by your second and then third children. Shop the outlet, here, for models under $100 because, let’s face it, you know your kids’ feet are still growing.
Your teen comes home and likely sprints upstairs and shuts their door, and soon you hear music. Why not encourage them to learn French at the same time? Listening to music is a proven technique for learning a new language. So, how about a box set of CDs from the late French rock star, Johnny Hallyday? His music is infectious and, before long, the whole family might be dancing…outside your teen’s door, at least. $48.
Even though you don’t want to encourage any more Emily-in-Paris bingeing (Lily Collins is too thin, the language is fresh, the values not exactly progressive!), you couldn’t help but laugh when you saw the Emily in Paris cookbook for $23. (Yes, you briefly considered giving it to your husband…)
Journaling is proven to help relieve stress and anxiety and it’s often encouraged for teenagers to put pen to paper. Anything that encourages the mind/body connection and gets teens off their screens will help their emotional resilience. Why not buy them a beautiful and affordable (59$) pen from the two-hundred-year-old French company, Waterman, and a stack of French Rhodia paper pads.
You likely caused your father to go bald back when you were a teenager, so why not give him something to keep that empty spot warm? Agnès b. makes the perfect 100% wool beanie–it’s not too ridiculous looking, is it? Just make sure Dad tucks in his (graying, thinning) curls and sports a candy cigarette. $120.
This box set of the dazzling works of cinema pioneer, Georges Méliès, is thirteen hours of pure genius. These silent films are the first ever made, starting in 1896-1913 in a studio in Paris; they are full of dreams and fantasies and adventure. Perfect for a winter afternoon with a cup of hot café. $62.
Allez Les Bleus! Who is the world is not in love with the French soccer team playing in the World Cup this fall? This could be a gift for moms as much as dads, as let’s face it, moms are also hooting at the TV “Allez Les Bleus” these days. But dads are often hard to shop for, so a team jersey is a sure ace in the hole. Pecs not included. $95.
Everybody needs a little splash of French color & stripes around this time of year. At $59, this scarf, is versatile, affordable, and classily chic. Made in France–Normandy! Wool blend.
Maman deserves a cosy pair of socks and to be waited on all day the 26th of December. Start her holiday from the holidays off right with these fun and cozy (made in France) socks from agnès b. $35.
Book of Goose by Yiyun Li. This story of two French girls in post-World War II France is strange and captivating, short enough to read in the few days in between Christmas and New Year’s when everyone needs some down time. Read more about it in my Le Weekend from the first week of December. $24.
There’s nothing quite like the tonic of Chartreuse, made from a secret blend of 130 herbs macerated into a liqueur produced by Carthusian monks in the French Alps. Considered an “Elixir of Long Life,” what mother wouldn’t want a tipple or two in the aftermath of the holiday crush that ensures she’ll not just get over her exhaustion but live to experience it another year? $59.
After all that cooking and butter, cream, cheese and fats that held our holidays together, many of us want to start the new year with less meat and dairy–for ourselves, for the planet. This amazing cookbook, The French Market Cookbook, from the celebrated French food blogger, Clotilde Dusoulier (ChocolateAndZucchini.com), has creative ways to use vegetables, plant based milks and lots of spices to make every vegetarian dish a true celebration of color and nutrients. Give mom the book, and then tell her you’ll make a new dish every Friday night while she puts her feet up. That’s a gift she’ll appreciate. $20.
France is a literal Mecca for wonderful books, graphic novels, stuffies, wooden toys, beeswax crayons and more for small children. Here are a few things we’ve bought here, in the U.S., that are inspired by our love of France, or that we saw or bought with my little one in France last summer and I am sure you can get stateside.
Anything from Moulin Roty, the French toymaker. Beautiful plush toys as well as wooden toys. Get inspired here on their website and check out the various places to by them, like Bella Luna toys has this lovely ceramic tea set, $40. Also from Moulin Roty, this little play cinema box, inspired by the first movies projected by the Lumière brothers, $40.
I have given this book Fanny in France to several friends’ kids. It’s by the famous chef, Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse, and is about taking her daughter, fanny, to France and all the food they buy, cook and enjoy. It’s charming and has lots of recipes. Our family has made them all! Here’s Waters reading it outloud. $20.
Metal Earth Notre Dame ($16.95) or Eiffel Tower ($10.61) model kits encourage small motor skills and are a great family activity. You will need tweezers and patience and an adult helping for children under 12 (I delegate my husband for those flying buttresses!) These kits produce beautiful, lasting metal replicas that are as much an “experience” gift as an actual object; later string them up on your tree for a unique, handmade ornament.
Not every kid is into clothes for their gift. But, if the older sib is getting a sweatshirt and/or new kicks, then you might consider a $105 classic striped t-shirt with the new twist of a zippered front for your budding hipster, from agnès b. (I prefer to keep it all even-Steven for our Christmas.) Add a pair of these awesome Vejas, also in the outlet, $80.
The Belle and Sebastian movies that take place in the French Alps during World War II and focus on the German occupation and the French resistance fighters, at the periphery, and the love between a boy and his dog, are beautiful, tear jerkers, history lessons and important moral lessons all rolled up into one. Order one for $10 or the complete set in French on DVD–you won’t regret it.
Everyone needs a Peugeot pepper grinder in their lives. Get them in white, natural, black or chocolate on Food 52.
Or, the perfect understated and lovely gifts are bowls. I fell in love with this French ceramics company, Revol, when I was in France last summer. It has been round since 1768. I also love their coffee cups, ceramic roasting dishes and salad plates. Check them out, here.
Caitlin Shetterly is the Editor-in-Chief of Frenchly. She is also the author of 4 books: Fault Lines, Made for You and Me, Modified and the upcoming novel, Pete and Alice in Maine, which will be published in 2023 by Harper. She is a native daughter and she lives with her two sons and husband in an old house on the coast of Maine.