This was written years ago, when I was living in Aix-En-Provence, in 2007. I thought I would share because it was around this time of year that all of the festive Christmassy things began to be rolled out!
It is November 26 and still feels practically like summer here in Aix-en-Provence. A bit blustery I guess, but in the mid-to-high sixties. Sometimes the Mistral blows in a shivery day, but all in all, its quite good weather. Despite the lack of winter, December is pretty much upon us here in France . . . which means it’s (drum-roll please!) Christmas time!!!!
All up and down the Cours Mirabeau there are little cabins that are brimming with art, toys, soaps, flowers, jewelry, sweets, and clothing. One woman specializes in chocolates that look just like sausages and eggs. Another man does absolutely exquisite glass-blowing. One cabin is just stuffed full of porcelain chickens in all colors and sizes…randomly enough. There is even a fortune teller booth!
Each little cabin has the same wooden frame and it looks sort of like the Cours Mirabeau has been taken over by Gingerbread Houses! But the artists and vendors have decorated them individually, so they tend to be personalized and are often quite . . . unique. AKA: ridiculously tacky. Let’s just say the lack of real snow inspires a whoooole lot of that lovely white plastic stuff. But there are several pretty ones all the same!
Everything sort of has the air of a Carnival at the Christmas Market! Crowds of Christmas-ee people mill about through the cabins and go to see the somewhat-terrifying life-sized crèche at the top of the Street. By the way: Did you know that in French Crèche’s, they don’t put Jesus in until the 25th of December at midnight? But that doesn’t stop them from getting everybody else in place. And this is no ordinary crèche, oh no. It moves. That’s right. It’s electric nativity. You’ve got the works all plugged in, too. A sheep, a donkey, somebody that looked like a Catholic priest but I can only assume was a shepherd, Mary, Joseph and an ENORMOUS Ox.
I actually think it was a Bull, to tell you the truth. But this bull must be on double time for his electric moovement (get it?), or there was a short in his fuse or something, because he just stands there and his head goes back and forth really fast. Well. Mad cow disease did start in Europe. Maybe they’re just being realistic. Which would explain why Joseph’s electronic movement makes him look like he’s swilling an imaginary bottle of liquor.
(I don’t think I’m very impressed with this particular crèche. Don’t let this fool you though…there are AMAZING-ly beautiful hand-made crèches here in France and in Aix especially!!)
A little farther down, once you pass the cotton candy stand and the little “sleigh ride” (?), there’s a sort of a little petting-zoo set up around it. This particular petting zoo consists of some statue-like donkeys and two very shell shocked little reindeer. Poor little suckers. They’d probably prefer the North Pole.
Music is performed live on a tiny little stage and broadcasted via speakers all up and down the Cours Mirabeau, which can sometimes be an unfortunate convenience. Yesterday there was some second-rate, Russian-sounding, Christmas-music-slash-opera. The woman had a voice like vinegar. Needless to say, that was not such a nice thing, but they did play “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland” at one point! It inspired me to cut out my snowflakes to put up on the windows for Winter!
It occurred to me today that I have been in France for 70 days. That’s pretty intense. I love it here still. But I am homesick. (27 days till I go home, by the way!)
Thanksgiving was . . . different. I never really thought about Thanksgiving not existing in other countries. That would be like Christmas not existing. (Which I guess I am learning is sort of the case in some countries.) I started the day with three hours of class and I wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, even if it meant nothing to them, since I am one of two Americans in the class! Sophie and I were planning to go to the gym afterwards, but that just seemed a little too anti-Thanksgiving for me. I mean, I was already going to class and foregoing Turkey . . . but damned if I was adding the gym to that. So we found a British store (random, I know, but Sophie is from Scotland, so it was especially fun for her!) and ended up having Tea and Digestive Biscuits for Thanksgiving Lunch. It was . . . unique. But Sophie pretty much saved my life. I should write a story: How Sophie Saved Thanksgiving. Hmmm. It’s a thought. We even walked around Market a bit and we found a PUMPKIN! I made pumpkin pie on Friday, and it turned out very yummy despite the fact that I didn’t measure ANYTHING, which was good. It looks like I’m going to have to make more, since we still have a whole lot of raw pumpkin chilling in the kitchen.
The hardest part of Thanksgiving in France was sitting down to dinner right after talking to my family. And they were sitting down to dinner at exactly the same time. And I was very, very, very sad. I am definitely going to appreciate Christmas a million times more.
(Okay, this note is getting ridiculously long, but I haven’t written in a bit, so I will just write a few last things that are fun Abby-in-France things:)
My Thursday Teacher, Monsieur Chapus, took us all out for some wine last week after class. And I got some wicked pleasure out of knowing what Gordon College, my seriously dry campus, is paying for these aspects of my education here in France.
I am singing in an English Christmas Choir, and our concert is this coming Sunday and apparently the concert is usually attended by 1500 people! It is held in a Cathedral which is not far from my house! Hopefully that will go well!
My host-parents’ grand-children were here and I got to hold baby Zacharie and play Legos and Shtroumpfs (figurines of the Smurphs) with their three year old daughter Adèle. It made me miss my Hannah and my Lilly even more than usual, but it was still lovely!
Well, that about sums up the recent news…if you happen to be in New York between Dec. 24th and January 4th, you should stop by because I’ll be HOME for Christmas!!!! In the mean time, I’ll be here in Aix, enjoying the Christmas lights!!!