Happy New Year!
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and wishing you all a happy & healthy 2018.
We had a calm and relaxing Christmas in the north of France with my in-laws. Of course I ate way too much, and had a few too many glasses of wine, but isn’t that what the holiday season is all about? And especially in France, where they go all out as far as holiday meals are concerned.
And I certainly learned that on New Year’s Eve. This was the first year that I cooked a meal (we had a small dinner party) and wow, if the supermarket wasn’t the busiest I’ve ever seen it. The Saturday before the big day, I ventured out with my shopping list and was amazed by the size of the crowds. And the food… just wow. Additional tables (long ones) were brought in to host seafood platters, baskets heaped full of oysters, and rows of dried fruit & nut baskets. In the dairy case, I found at least 5 different cheese platters that were impossible to pass up (we opted for a goat-cheese selection).
My aperitif (apéro) involved smoked salmon, and I literally had to twist and turn (& “pardon”) myself into the salmon case to get my hands on one of the remaining packages. It was craziness. But it was a fun & exciting kind of craziness. I really felt a part of the holiday excitement.
A few years ago my mother-in-law asked me if I felt more American or more French – which I thought was a very funny question at the time. I didn’t skip a beat and answered, “American, for sure”. I’d never felt like French culture had changed me all that much.
But on the 30th of December, piloting my shopping cart topped sky-high with all of the trappings of a traditional New Year’s Eve, I felt it. I felt French. Sure, that feeling really only lasted that afternoon, and some of the next day while preparing for our party, but it was something really new for me. I felt like I really “got” it all: the meal-preparation frenzy, the careful attention paid to each dish (scallops, we must have scallops!), and the following of the classic steps of a French NYE celebration – the amazingly long meal, the watching of a kitschy, but well-love variety show (cancan dancers, circus acts, the works) and the final “sound & lights show” countdown on the L’avenue des Champs-Élysées.
Of course I’ll never really be 100% French, but it was a pretty great feeling to be fully involved in the holidays this year, and feel fully a part of the celebrations.
This month will mark 8 years that I’ve lived in France, and it feels light-years away from those first few moments when I stepped off the plane in Marseille and thought, whoa, this isn’t exactly what I bargained for… how in the world will I ever learn this language?
Living in France has most certainly changed me in the most unexpected of ways.
-Have you ever lived in a place that you felt changed you forever? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Bonne Année from belle Provence!