My First French Noël
Waking up between 5:30 and 6:00 before my family allows me to savor the tranquility of the early hours. Each morning is a solitary affair, embraced by the gentle glow of dim lights. With the onset of the Christmas holidays, I illuminate our space with strings of starlights, casting a warm and festive ambiance throughout the room. After attending to the two noisy and hungry cats (I always tell them they’re lucky they’re so cute) and cradle a cup of tea, the melodies of classical music fill the air, creating a serene backdrop to the pre-dawn hours. Gone are the lengthy summer days in France, where I used to gaze at the morning view; now, winter prevails, shrouding the mornings in darkness until 8:30.
I am typically one to plan and allow for ample time to accommodate unforeseen circumstances. However, this year marks a departure from the familiar. In a new country, even with a French husband, we find ourselves navigating the intricacies of building an adult life in France. Living in a furnished rental, the majority of our belongings reside in storage at my mother-in-law’s house while we await the discovery of a more permanent abode. Following a determined search for our beloved ornaments, we returned home laden with multiple boxes filled with the treasures of the holiday season.
Tasks such as finding a Christmas tree and locating the perfect Christmas tree lights are shared endeavors. While our tradition usually involves colored lights, this year, I yearn for the simplicity of white lights. The quest for the perfect lights led us to an initial purchase of nearly fluorescent white lights, promptly returned. We discovered a store offering warm white lights, yet the hustle of daily appointments and shopping hindered our progress, leaving the lights untouched on the table. Three days before Christmas, I stood before a tree, unadorned with artificial sparkle and glitz, basking in its natural splendor. Nothing had been decorated. It’s a beautiful tree and I have to admit that I lovingly admired it without any adornment whatsoever. Yesterday was dedicated to the joyous task of decorating our Christmas tree and it was then that I realized that at least one box of ornaments is still in storage.
Even Christmas trees are different in France. In contrast to the traditional full Douglas Fir tree that graced our San Francisco home every Christmas, we’ve embraced a change with a Noble Fir this year. I love that it’s standard in France to have a cut log as the base of the tree instead of a water bowl. (It really does stay fresh.) Its expansive branches offer more breathing room for decorations, presenting a unique challenge in decorating. Hanging our eclectic array of ornaments was a different sort of challenge indeed and while my artistic and perfectionist inclinations are surfacing, I genuinely adore this tree. Nevertheless, my thoughts are already drifting toward envisioning ways to enhance it further next year!
Olivier’s family will be joining us on Christmas and the day promises to be warm and cozy, accompanied by a bounty of delectable food and the infectious spirit of good cheer.
May the holidays bring you peace, love, and the company of those dear to your heart. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!