Joyeaux Noël - Christmas in France by Oliver Mailon, age 12
A week before Christmas, father buys a Christmas tree and brings it home where the celebration starts already! Mother gets the colored decorations, the Christmas Star, the wreaths and garlands, electric or not. As for me, I bring the santons - Christmas clay figures - and we prepare the crèche - Christmas crib or manger. It represents a village with a manger where stays the Christ child. He is surrounded by a donkey and an ox.
Everybody from the village comes to see the child. One should not forget to place the Three Wise Men away from the manger, they will arrive for the Epiphany on January 6. Then my mother puts the crèche at the foot of the Christmas tree, and my youngest brother, with daddy's help, places the star at the top of the tree which shines with a thousand lights.
On Christmas Eve, we are all very excited and we wait impatiently. When finally the night comes, we rush under the Christmas tree to see what Santa Claus brought us for this year.
Then we go to my grandparents' house for the réveillon - Midnight supper. It is a hearty meal. Our grandmother offers us a turkey with chestnuts, refined goose liver, various meats, smoked salmon, a multitude of cheeses and for dessert, she brings a big, beautiful iced yule-log. And of course, we get the thirteen desserts from Provence, including nougats, and varied dried fruits (walnuts, hazelnuts, raisins & dried figs.) At midnight, we kiss each other with much warmth, then around two o'clock in the morning, we leave my grandparents and go home to bed.
Olivier Mailon lives in Nice, France. His article is part of our ongoing exchanges with the French newspaper for kids, "Hic et Nunc" (Here and Now.)
- originally published in the Holiday 1993 issue of ZuZu