December 17, 2021
Dear Frenchly Readers,
In France, Christmas Eve dinner is called Le Réveillon, and can go on all night long. Many families open gifts throughout the meal, which can have plusieurs courses of small amuses-bouches, foie gras, salmon toasts with caviar, and entremets like gougères, fromages, salades, and marron glacés, or sugared chestnuts. Usually something special is cooked like a turkey or a rooster or a whole fish or lobster. The loveliest plates in the home are brought out and napkins are arranged on the table. Wine flows and a bûche de noël diminishes, slice by slice. In the wee hours of the morning, little feet pitter pat, pitter pat, rousing bleary-eyed adults to come along and see what Père Noël has left in their shoes. Thus Christmas Day commences, with a strong café crème and, traditionally, a lavish spread of sweet and savory breads and cheeses and meats and fruits.
In our house we do stockings, but on Christmas Day we will do a bûche de Noël for which my older son is going to make the vanilla sponge. I am making some sort of rhubarb filling for it and my husband will make a lemony buttercream. Our Christmas dinner is always lasagna, but we also make lovely squishy rolls to go with it and a salad. On Christmas Eve, we have a bouillabaisse. Like many families we blend cultures and preferences to fit what seems magical and special to us.
This weekend, we will make gingerbread houses and finally make a wreath or two (I have boughs sitting on my porch, ready to go; we just haven’t had time! This reminds me of my friend Andrea, who used to write a blog called, I Don’t Have Time to Write This! It’s about motherhood and writing…and guess what? She hasn’t had time to write it since 2017! )
We will spend the solstice with friends, enjoying a simple chicken soup and some homemade bread. I will light the candles around the crèche which my youngest son lovingly assembled this year on top of the piano. Thus, a dinosaur, an antelope, a drummer boy and three wise men that are actually pine cones stand watch over a swaddled baby Jesus who is nestled into a manger made from a tree cookie.
But before any of that, we are spending some time this weekend giving in places where we feel we can: This week my husband, Dan, went out and bought warm sweaters for a family we adopted for the holiday. Yesterday morning I listened to a piece on NPR about Kentucky children and how they are coping since those deadly tornadoes. After listening to that piece, I have sent two of our favorite books–the first book in the Harry Potter series and Charlotte’s Web– for two children to enjoy in Western Kentucky. It’s a small gesture, but I hope that the kids who each get a book will feel that some joy and light is being beamed their way. You can do this, too, if you click here. Toys, gift cards and financial donations are welcomed. These kids have lost their homes, sometimes someone they loved, and their Christmases hang in the balance. I am aware that there seem to be needs everywhere. So please help in any small way if you can, anywhere you can.
I have an announcement to make: Our winner of the agnès b. snap cardigan was Tatiana Hernandez! Please get in touch with me, Tatiana, so that you can claim your prize. We are all really happy you were the first one to respond. Thank you for reading and being a part of our community. Everyone else, I love these little games, so I will have more! Stay tuned in the New Year—I hope you win next time!
Now, to read and watch and cook ce weekend: We elves at Frenchly have trimmed our website with so many gifts: we have assembled a list of new French Netflix shows for you; we’ve got this piece hereabout Christmas Eve dinner in France; we’ve got a list of French holiday songs to sing; we’ve got French holiday markets and gift ideas and holiday food podcasts in both French and English—anything and everything you might need to have a relaxing and inspired Christmas with a French flair you will find on our website at Frenchly.us.
We are going to be adding to our website right up the holiday, so check back in (next week we’ll have a review of a new, beautiful and awe-inspiring French documentary called, The Velvet Queen, about an elusive snow leopard on the Tibetan plateau; a round of Frenchly writers’ picks of the best books to lose yourself in during the holidays; and a review of Netflix’s second season of Emily in Paris is also on the docket!)
We at Frenchly hope that wherever you are and however you celebrate (or don’t celebrate) that you have a wonderful last couple of weeks of December and wake up refreshed to start a New Year.
Before I go, I want to highlight one great read on our website, if you read none other: Here is a lovely (and short) essay by playwright Craig Pospisil. His “Love in France” essay about his cat, Elle, was so loved by so many of you, as well as his piece about a disgusting andouillette he ordered by mistake. This new one is a memory piece about his mother making Coq au Vin every Christmas. It might not leave you dry-eyed.
Happy holidays. Stay in touch, do a good deed or two, hold onto the light inside you. We are all in this together.