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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Colis des aînés

This expression describes a charming festive tradition practised in France every December.

French Expression of the Day: Colis des aînés
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know colis des aînés?

Because French solidarity is alive and well. 

What does it mean?

Colis des aînés, pronounced “cohl-ee dez-ai-nay”, are Christmas packages gifted to older people by local authorities in France. 

The term literally translates as “parcels of the elders”. 

Typically, they are distributed in hampers and contain culinary delights like sausage, foie gras, chocolate and booze.

READ MORE Why French mayors give out food hampers at Christmas

In some small villages, colis des aînés are delivered personally to the elderly by local mayors. 

This gifting is not enshrined in law but many areas across France are proud of the tradition, which goes back as far as the 1940s. The whole operation is generally paid for by local  neighbourhood committees or residents’ associations. 

Eligibility to receive a colis des aînés varies by area, with different age and earnings requirements in place. 

Use it like this

Les colis des aînés du village ont été distribués – The village’s Christmas hampers for the elderly have been distributed

Cent colis des aînés seront distribués – 100 Christmas hampers for the elderly will be given out

As-tu reçu ton colis aux ainés? – Have you received your Christmas hamper? 

Synonyms 

Colis des vieux

Colis de Noël

Colis cadeaux

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

He's the legendary Englishman who is surprisingly relevant to French political discourse.

French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

Why do I need to know Robin des bois?

Because you might be wondering why the French reference this English outlaw during protest movements 

What does it mean?

Robin des bois roughly pronounced roe-bahn day bwah – is the French version of “Robin Hood” – the legendary outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. 

Robin Hood is part of English folklore, with the first references to him occurring sometime during the 13th or 14th century. He did not become Robin des bois for some time – as the legend did not spread to the majority of French people until at least the 18th or 19th century. 

Robin des bois most likely made his big entrance on the French stage in the 19th century when the novel Ivanhoe (1819), which tells tales of medieval England, was translated into French. 

The fabled outlaw was welcomed by the French, particularly romantic writers and thinkers of the time who saw him as a symbol of the fight against the aristocracy. 

But the French had their own versions of Robin Hood before the English legend made its way to l’Hexagone – like the “Louis Mandrin” who supposedly rebelled against corrupt tax collectors during the Ancien Regime. 

Over the years, the French – particularly those on the political left – have evoked “Robin des bois” during strikes and protests, and it’s relatively common to see protest movements or direct action groups name themselves after Robin Hood.

The English outlaw also had his own French television series between 1963 and 1966 – though this time he was called “Thierry La Fronde” and he lived in France during the Hundred Years’ War.

Use it like this

Nous devons nous attaquer aux actions de Robin des Bois afin d’aider la classe ouvrière à payer leurs factures d’énergie, a déclaré le syndicat dans un communiqué de presse. – We must take action like Robin Hood to help the working class pay for their energy bills, the union said in a flyer. 

Le restaurateur était un véritable Robin des Bois – il avait tendance à surfacturer les tables des riches et à sous-facturer celles de la classe populaire. – The restaurant owner was a real Robin Hood – he had a tendency of overcharging tables of rich people and under-charging those of poor folks.

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