How foreigners in France mix traditions to create a 'blended' Christmas

The Local France
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How foreigners in France mix traditions to create a 'blended' Christmas
Christmas for foreigners in France is a chance to mix traditions. Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

From food and drink to music and gifts, Christmas traditions vary widely between countries - and foreigners living in France often end up creating their own very special 'blended' Christmas rituals, using some French traditions and others from their native country.


Many people who have moved countries like to keep some of their own traditions at Christmas time - but at the same enjoy learning more about French festive rituals.

This means that for many Christmas develops a flavour all of its own, with a mix of old and new traditions, French and non-French (and it's a great time to ditch some of those seasonal 'must-haves' that you secretly hate).

Calla Jones Corner, an American living in Burgundy, eastern France, explains how her family's Christmas traditions have evolved.

"Like many families with multicultural members, my own family incorporates traditions to reflect our different Christmases. I count seven besides American: Swedish, English, Scottish, German, French, Swiss, Belgian. The first five are in the family DNA. The last three reflect countries where we have lived and raised our children.


"This Christmas will be the first celebrated in France, since I moved here from California, following the death of my husband Richard last year. Christmas will start on December 6th, as my grandchildren open their advent calendars, unlocking little chocolates each morning.

"Growing up with Swedish immigrant grandparents under the same roof in Weston, Connecticut, my Christmas took on many Swedish customs, starting on December 13 with the celebration of Santa Lucia and lasting until December 25th when the imps, with pointed red stockings pulled over their foreheads, arrived to deliver presents to good children.

"I carried on Swedish, American and British traditions when we lived in Switzerland in the 1960s and 70s, serving glögg (warm red wine, laced with aquavit), polkagris (candy canes), limpa (Swedish rye bread) gravlax (pickled salmon with dill) and surstromming (lightly salted fermented Baltic Sea herring) followed by pepparkakor (Swedish ginger snaps).

"Richard, a Brit, brought some of his traditions; tree ornaments from Bristol, reflecting his family's sea-going ventures and most importantly Old Father Christmas, a British tune sang by Richard as he spooned lighted brandy over a Christmas pudding, which he had picked up in Marks & Spencer in London on a business trip.

"Our daughter, Annabelle, carries on the Swedish traditions with her children, but the children will have written their letters to Père Noël to ask for their favourite cadeaux. They will get a response from Father Christmas - if they thank him!

"This year our family will gather around my fireplace in my 200 year-old Burgundian house, mantle decorated in pine boughs where tomtes hide among the needles, lit by white candles in my grandmother Anna's copper candle sticks and hung with 10 stockings, instead of 11.

"Finally, seated at my parents' pine table (that my father found in a New York junk shop in 1932) dressed with my mother's embroidered blue and yellow table cloth, we shall feast on roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and Brussels sprouts, accompanied by a fine Pinot Noir, from Domaine De Montille, where my son-in-law, Brian is winemaker.


"Dessert? Plum pudding, of course. This time musically aflame with Domaine Roulot's renowned apricot brandy, that Annabelle's boss, Jean-Marc Roulot, a sixth generation wine-maker, distils in his local caves, just as his father and grandfather did before him.

"We will wish each other God Jul, Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noël."

What are your 'blended Christmas' traditions? Which bits of French Christmas have you enthusiastically embraced and which traditions do you cling on to from your home country? Share your festive rituals in the comments below.


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