How to Make a Holiday Toast Around the World

Jill Barth is a well-known wine writer whose work has been featured in Decanter, Forbes, USA Today, and elsewhere. She recently wrote an article on wine-related holiday traditions around the world: Italy, France, Argentina, and elsewhere. She consulted experts about each country and I was thrilled that she contacted me as the French expert!

Here’s her fun article, just perfect for the holiday season.

 

My new book is out! Are We French Yet? is available at Amazon!

Christmas Traditions in Provence

Provence shares many Christmas traditions with the rest of France, like sapins de Noël (Christmas trees) and Pére Noël (Father Christmas.) But it also has some unique ones of its own.

One is the santons, those cute little figurines sold all over Provence. They depict characters from village life such as the baker, the fishwife and the scissor grinder. They are popular with tourists, kind of like Hummel figurines but with a French twist. And their origin goes back to the French Revolution.

Crèches (nativity scenes) had long been popular in France but were banned by the fiercely anti-clerical leaders of the Revolution. What to do? An artist from Marseille came up with a clever solution. He invented santons and turned the crèche into a “village scene,” using his little figurines in place of the usual Biblical characters. This passed muster with the anti-religious zealots, who somehow missed the fact that santon means “little saint,” and a new tradition was born.

Another Provencal Christmas specialty is le gros souper (the big dinner) eaten before midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It is full of religious symbolism, like the three white tablecloths representing the holy trinity and the seven dishes representing Mary’s sorrows. It also requires a great deal of preparation, so fewer families today have this big dinner than in years past.

Perhaps the most famous Provence Christmas tradition is the treize (thirteen) desserts. Wait, thirteen? Yes!

These are eaten after midnight Mass, which means in the wee hours of Christmas—what a great way to start the day! Like the gros souper, the treize desserts are full of religious symbolism. Thirteen, for example, represents the number of people at the Last Supper.

Each family can decide what to serve but the desserts usually include fruits and nuts, candies and some sort of sweetened bread. My favorites are the two kinds of nougat, one white and one black, symbolizing good and evil.

Like the gros souper, fewer families prepare the treize desserts today than in the past but they maintain a loyal following. Some people just skip the dinner and the Mass and go straight to the desserts!

So at your Christmas dinner this year, when you are debating whether to have another slice of pie—go for it! Just tell your family that you are taking part in an ancient and noble French tradition.

 

My new book is out! Are We French Yet? is available at Amazon!

What Do the French Think of the United States Right Now?

President Trump will visit France this Friday, November 9, for a military celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. This will be his second visit to the country often called America’s oldest ally. Which makes it a good time to ask, what do the French think of America these days?

Find out at Frenchly!

The 6 Stages of Becoming French

Admit it, you want to be French. Or at least be able to pass yourself off as French, like a spy who fools everyone with her secret identity. What a dream it is to speak perfect French, be stylish and sexy, and actually know what postmodernism means.

But to do that you have to pass through the different stages of Frenchness, slowly graduating from one to the next. Let’s take a look at these stages as they occur in France.

Real the rest of the article at Frenchly!

Why You Should Be A French Bureaucrat

Becoming a fonctionnaire (government bureaucrat) is a popular career choice in France. Fonctionnaires have jobs for life, lots of vacation, and they are known for not working very hard. This makes them envied but also the butt of a lot of jokes. You can read all about the life of a fonctionnaires in France, plus learn a few of the best jokes, here at Frenchly.

Legends of Provence: The Tarasque Monster of Tarascon

I recently picked up a book called Legendes de Provence by Eugene Bressy. It’s a series of short stories about the legends of Provence: famous heroes, spiritual leaders and the occasional monster. Over the next few months I’ll dive into some of these stories and let you decide whether you believe them or not.

I’ll start with the most famous legend of them all, that of the fearsome Tarasque, who terrorized Provence until he met a plucky young lady named…Well, I’ll let you read all about it at Perfectly Provence.

A Bite Too Far

My wife Val and I spend part of each year in Provence and it’s allowed us to learn the language and appreciate French culture. We knew before we moved there that food and wine are a big part of French life but we didn’t realize quite how big until our neighbor Fabienne gave us a “taste” of real French life. She invited us to her birthday party, which went on and on and on…

Read my funny story about a real French birthday party at A French Collection.

11 Fun Traditions from the South of France

France is a country with a lot of traditions, and some of the best come from Provence. You may have seen people there playing pétanque, or heard the story about Saint Martha and the Tarasque. But how about the Blessing of the Truffles? Or the young men in their tight white pants? And don’t forget the great sheep migration!

Read all about these and other fun traditions at Frenchly.

The Hottest Ticket in Paris

The Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux-de-Provence is one of the area’s top tourist attractions. It’s a totally immersive sound and light show with a cultural purpose. Recent shows have explored the work of artists like Picasso, Chagall and Van Gogh.

It has been such a success that a sister site has opened in Paris, the Atelier des Lumières, and it’s one of the hottest tickets in town. Don’t miss it if you travel to Paris!

Read all about this great new Paris attraction in Frenchly.