By: Andrea Bouchaud
(photo by: discoverwalks.com)
During winter break while I was studying abroad in Paris, my father came to visit me. I was so preoccupied with finishing the semester and getting things ready for his visit that I didn’t stop to think about how the Parisians ring in the New Year. Paris doesn’t have anything that resembles Times Square so I didn’t think that they would be doing anything special for New Years for me to investigate. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that the Parisians would celebrate New Years with the most famous structure in Paris- the Eiffel Tower. It was New Year’s Eve 2007 and my father and I finished having dinner with Tatie (his aunt with whom I was living) when we were talking about what we should do for midnight. Tatie told us to go to the Eiffel Tower as they always do something there for New Years. The only issue is that this conversation was at like 11pm so we didn’t have much time to get there. We quickly left her apartment and started walking towards the buttery, illuminated Eiffel Tower. Something you should know about Paris is that there isn’t always a straight route. I led us down a major street which had a direct view of the Eiffel Tower as my idea was to keep walking down that street until we got to it. The only problem was that there were a few squares in the middle of the walk which meant that the straight road to the Eiffel Tower wasn’t really a straight road after all. We had to make turns and after a while I lost sight of the Eiffel Tower. After minutes of walking around and turning in circles, we were able to find another street with a direct view of the tower. Unfortunately for us, when we found this new road, it was too late. My father and I stood in the middle of a quiet, cold Parisian street watching the lights on the Eiffel Tower light up in sporadic bursts while fireworks went off in the background. It was actually a really great way to bring in the New Year. Champ de Mars (that’s the name of the field upon which the Eiffel Tower sits) is super crowded and really cold. Seeing the same sights on that tiny street fostered a more intimate way to say hello to 2008. No matter where you find yourself this New Year’s Eve, please be safe, happy and healthy.
Happy New Year and Bonne Année!
By: Andrea Bouchaud
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Paris this Christmas or just want to have a French styled Christmas, check out the following links from some of the best Paris bloggers in 2013 to help you have a true, French Christmas.
-Gift Shopping with the French
-Ultimate Guide to French Christmas Food Shopping
-Ulimate Guide to French Christmas Gift Shopping
-A Guy’s Guide to Christmas Shopping in Paris
-French Christmas Food
-How to Wish Merry Christmas in French
-Comme Une Française Guide on French Christmas Gifts
-Comme Une Française Guide to French Christmas Dinner phrases
Another fun idea that I didn’t have a link for: Make your own Buche de Noel (A traditional French Christmas ‘log cake’). Look up recipes online and for tutorial videos on Youtube if no local French bakery near you. I got this idea from Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz from Dallas’ own French Affaires (www.frenchaffaires.com) newsletter.
Here’s what a Twenty in Paris Christmas looks like:
By: Andrea Bouchaud
Well… in France, I mean. The French are always fascinated by le thanksgiving (pronounced le ‘tanks’giving in a French accent). It is a day that has such a huge historical and cultural significance in the United States but they don’t know why. In speaking with French friends of similar age, I found out that early American history is not taught to French students. A recent conversation with a young French person confirmed the mystery surrounding this day when he said he thought Thanksgiving was the word Americans used for Christmas Eve!
As born and bred Americans, we can be unaccustomed to someone not knowing the history and current traditions of Thanksgiving because we know it so well. It’s important to remember that it is unique to us and our history. When I studied abroad in Paris, my program director tried to make the American students feel at home by having a potluck Thanksgiving dinner at her house. It was a very nice thought but all the details weren’t exactly right. The American students brought things like cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. Don’t get me wrong the turkey and food was good… but it wasn’t the same.
Maybe it tasted different because there was no significance to the meal. It was a normal Thursday in late November in France and not a day when 2 different peoples came to together in peace to share a bountiful feast, if only temporarily. There were no turkey and pilgrim decorations in every store; no commercials on TV to announce up coming sales; no big parades; no palpable holiday cheer in the air. Thanksgiving is a day that never existed in France. It’s a weird feeling to be somewhere in the world on day that has held cultural meaning to you all your life and now means nothing to those around you. Fascinate your French classmates and friends by explaining to them the history of Thanksgiving up to current traditions of eating, sleeping, watching football games and then getting ready to shop at midnight for Black Friday. They will be amazed and will help you recognize your cultural tradition in the process.
If you’re studying abroad today, I hope that a little Thanksgiving finds its way towards you.