For most of the world, the Christmas Season seems to end shortly after opening presents on Christmas Day. Maybe, with a stretch, it extends to December 26. I remember as a child, for my brother and me, Christmas didn’t start until Christmas Eve. After we went to bed, “Santa” put up the tree and decorated it and delivered our presents. We would be awakened after midnight to the lit tree, and we would open gifts and have some Christmas cookies and eggnog. (Dad would have a beer.) Our tree stayed decorated with dust gathering on the ornaments until at least New Year’s Day and sometimes as long as a week after. Here in France, one of the most secular countries in Europe, the season and the decorations go on until at least January 6, often called the Epiphany, Twelfth Night (counting 12 days from December 26), or le Fête des Rois (Feast of the Kings).
The celebration of this feast is enjoyed by des gens (people) of all ages. I just happened to be with some friends checking out an English class for French people at Babel, a language and cultural exchange association, on January 6. Des galettes des Rois (King’s cakes) were on hand, and so I had my first taste of the cake and the traditions. I’m including a link from Slow Travel France that has some wonderful pictures of these cakes and how they’re made, and also the link, Galette des Rois so you can have a look. At Babel, we played the game in which the youngest person present must crouch under a table (luckily, I was neither the youngest nor the oldest person there) and play le main innocent (literally, the innocent hand) choosing the order the guests receive their cake. One of the teachers acted as the distributeur des parts portioning out the slices. My friend, Sheree, was the lucky person who found le prix, a little ceramic bear, baked into the cake.
On my way home from this lively experience, I bought a cake for Steve and me to enjoy. French pain et pâtisseries (breads and pastries) are relatively inexpensive and easy to buy, so it’s safer for all involved to trust the experts. How do you like the Woody and Friends crown? Steve insisted on it!
Many of les propriétaires d’entreprises (business owners) who sell food or drink on cours Jean Jaurès (our street) engaged artists to decorate their windows before Christmas with pictures of Père Noël in various poses related to their shops. I’ve snapped some that I’ve found and invite you to play Match the Santa with the Shop Name game. For the full effect, click on the pictures. (See the answers below.)
Je vous souhaite meilleurs voeux pour cette Nouvelle Année … Bonheur, Santé, et Réussite
I wish you best Wishes for this New Year … Happiness, Health, and Success