For 30 years Bill and I have celebrated Christmas pretty much the same way: morning coffee sitting around the fireplace, reading. Depending upon where we lived it might have started with the Chicago Trib, the LA Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, or the Atlanta Journal/Constitution. It would then be time for a champagne toast prior to a sumptuous, leisurely lunch that always had to finish by 3:00 PM, the hour when the Queen gives her annual Christmas message. That timing was vital for the holiday vacations we spent in England and not so important in the US with the Internet where we could watch the broadcast at will, but tradition is tradition.
The first time we were in England for Christmas, our hosts had several friends come by for a drinks party just prior to that magic 3:00 PM hour. With a gin and tonic in hand, apparently Her Majesty’s favorite, we toasted her health and listened to “The Message.” Exactly a year later, back in Los Angeles, we considered recreating the scene but with a 9-hour time difference, gin, tonic, and pajamas at 6:00 AM just didn’t seem to be a winner. Now that we live in France we are 1 hour ahead of London time so you just might hear a verse or two of “God save the Queen” around our house this afternoon.
The topic of what we’d be doing on December 25th came up because a friend in America asked if we got caught up in all the travel/gift giving/overindulgence that she experienced there. Vacations overseas taught us that if we saw something that we wanted, it was time to get it right then because we’d probably never see it again. Why wait for Christmas when you can celebrate everyday, so there’s no last-minute stress of trying to find something that each other might (or might not) want. It was easy to find what we both wanted as holiday decorations this year–chocolate! These boxes of bonbons that you see in the photo above already came wrapped in their finery so we just had to put them on display and suddenly it was Christmas.
Now that we’re in France, I don’t think that much is going to change as far as today’s activities. I asked some of our neighbors what they would be doing and it’s not all that different, except for that Queen’s message part: leisurely morning followed by a family meal in the afternoon. But what about all of those traditions we’ve read about for years including the Christmas Eve feast that begins around midnight and lasts well into the wee hours of Christmas morning? Everyone I asked in our English/French conversation class said the same thing: younger families carry on the all-night tradition while more mature folks either have a dinner much earlier in the evening or just wait until everyone can assemble the next day.
In Provence, they apparently finish off the day’s big meal with 13 desserts. We just happen to have 13 boxes of chocolates waiting to be enjoyed. Better get started. Merry Christmas!