Christmastime in France

This was written in 2007, when I was living in the South of France.

Sometimes the air is so cold, it shocks. Like a scary movie, it crept up. And now, in beautiful Aix-en-Provence, where the earth is brick red and the sky is always blue, the Mistral has arrived. That northerly whimsical wind that picks odd sequences of days on which it will blow. It’s basically the bingo of weather systems. Sometimes it’s almost balmy and warm and then BOOM! The evening comes and the wind picks up and before you know it you’re watching your breath contribute to the texture of the icy air that cocoons you. Welcome to winter in Provence.

Walking through the streets yesterday, it struck me that Christmastime had finally arrived. All the roads were full to brimming with a myriad of people. Some were taking their toddlers to see the live animals that make up the nativity. Others were out to get big sugary clouds of “Santa’s beard” (aka. Cotton candy – apparently a Christmas-thing here). Still more were carrying dozens of bags, looking well-laden with all sorts of colorfully wrapped packages and bags. Screw Santa, the French can do it better. One woman pushed through the crowd with a huge flowery lamp under her arm and another man hefted an enormous box onto one shoulder to carry it better. You know it’€™s actually a serious holiday when stores have decided to stay open on the Monday before Christmas. I wasn’t even sure that was legal, but apparently the French pull out all the stops when it comes to Christmas. Literally I guess a smidgen of pure unadulterated commercialism is present in every culture around the holidays.

Despite the jostling that occasionally smacks of commercialism: I still love the hustle and bustle of Christmas!

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