Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
It’s Christmas in France (and Hanukkah, too, this year!). Under the Christmas tree (sapin de Noel) the crèche scene is now complete, as the baby Jesus made his appearance there at midnight last night, Christmas Eve. Sleeping in later than usual this morning, after over-indulging on long evening dinners of smoked salmon, oysters and foie gras last night (finished with beautiful log-shaped, frosted cakes called bûche de Noël, decorated with miniatures of forest or lumberjack or North Pole scenes), my neighbors will eventually all be out strolling along the Seine this afternoon. They will be impeccably dressed and out enjoying fresh air with their parents, grandparents, babies and dogs.
In the Paris cafes that are open to serve tourists on Christmas, you can enjoy some vin chaud and hot chocolate. Try the various roast poultry and fowl, with chestnuts if possible, for lunch or dinner. Buy a little sack of roasted chestnuts from the street vendors roasting them over round charcoal stoves. Enjoy the decorated windows, and the fresh pine garlands that encircle doorways.
I do not find the “touristy” Paris Christmas markets particularly interesting, but they can provide a destination point for a nice promenade in good weather, and any young children you have in tow will find them attractive. If you’re in the Alsace-Lorraine region, however, then these Christmas markets are “must-sees,” as they are authentic in this region and stocked with higher-quality goods and food. If you have a couple of days, take a train to Strasbourg for an authentic treat! You’ll need a car or bus tour to explore the smaller, charming towns in the Alsace region (Colmar, Eguisheim, Riquewihr, and Kaysersberg, to name a few of my favorites), but the train to Strasbourg is easy and quick. Unlike the German Christmas markets, which all close on or before Dec. 24, the larger French ones stay open through New Year’s. Go, if you can. And, now for the haiku to mark the season:
Signs of the season
On the hearth and on our plates
Yule logs ev’rywhere