The French are crazy about Christmas. It was sometime after Halloween that I gradually began to see a sprig of holly here and there. My cousin, an ex-pat married to a Frenchman, hypothesizes that the Christmas Craze occurs because they have no Thanksgiving, and, therefore, nothing else in between to look forward to.
Now that it’s just a few days away, the entire city feels like it’s celebrating. The winding streets of the Latin Quarter are lit up with twinkly lights, the windows of the department stores have been transformed into lavish, glittery displays, and on just about every corner you’ll get a whiff of a hearty, nutty smell—street vendors roasting chestnuts. And the food. Oh my God. The food. I spent about a half-hour browsing the new Christmas section in my grocery store, fingering packages of foie gras, caviar, and pâté. Marzipan shaped like cherries. Pale green pistachio macaroons. Sugary marrons glacés.
Being a Jew, I’ve never really celebrated Christmas, but the idea is highly appealing to me. It feels warm and festive, and more about love and the feeling of being home. It was because of this that I was initially terrified of Christmas’ arrival—a painful reminder that I’m not exactly in my dream life yet. To follow Mindy Kaling’s relatable “Scripting a Fantasy of a Family” essay that ran in the Sunday Times, my ideal holiday season would look something like this …
I’m desperately in love with my dashing French boyfriend of four months. Julien is in politics and wears a suit to work everyday. I don’t really understand what he does, but it’s something liberal and has to do with human rights. He smells like fresh laundry detergent, with a slight undertone of tobacco (he’s trying to quit). He cooks me amazing meals, but most nights, we eat out in restaurants only a real Parisian would know about. We’ve just said “Je t’aime,” and are preparing to drive (he has his own car) to Bordeaux to spend Christmas with his family. In the chateau, of course. There, his mother and sisters won’t at all be the typical, snooty women you expect of your French boyfriend’s family, but instead they’ll compliment me on my fluency (ha!) and teach me how to cook something insane. For my gift, Julien has gotten me something crazy-expensive yet totally fabulous from Chanel. (Because French guys can get away with knowing style.) For New Year’s we’ll return to Paris and prepare for the party we’re throwing in Julien’s fabulous flat in St. Germain.
Le sigh … Alas, no Julien in my life, yet the holidays actually seem to be shaping up nicely. Last week, I went to a Christmas carol sing-along (in English) in a bar with some friends, who, I realized as I became more and more merry off whiskey, were likely to become my “core” group in Paris. Two girls: Emily and Dani, who are both musicians. I’ve only recently met Emily, but we’ll be in a language class together starting January, and she’s invited me to join her for Christmas Eve—something about Judy Garland songs on a boat. I accepted on the spot, hugely relieved that the evening wouldn’t be me alone with a bottle of wine and iTunes rentals.
This won’t quite be the Christmas I’d had in mind, but I’m definitely all aboard.