Archive for December, 2010

When I arrived in the South of France in late September, people repeatedly told me I was coming in the worst time of the year: that despite the olive trees and Mediterranean Sea being right there, it was going to get cold. I…did not believe them. I thought that I, who have lived through winters in New York and Maryland and Cleveland for heaven’s sake, could handle whatever Mediterranean “winter” they could throw at me.

Well, allow me to be the first to admit that I’m freezing. This is entirely my fault. I neglected to consider the 20-minute walk I have to do to get to and from school, so that even though it’s a balmy 30-40ish degrees Fahrenheit, I spend much more time outdoors than I do at similar times in New York. I also neglected to take into account the indisputable fact that my current “winter wardrobe” is woefully insufficient for anything remotely resembling actual below-freezing temperatures, and as hard as it is to find warm vegan boots in the States…well…you know the rest.

The evident upside of the cold snap is that it reminds me inevitably of Christmas. In New York, the first dip below 30 degrees heralds the end of fall and the beginning of the frost-bitten, well-illuminated, clothing-layering, tourist-avoiding, spiked-hot-chocolate-drinking, ice-skating, window-shopping holiday season. Cue music. Preferably “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” but the Chipmunk song will also do. (more…)


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You Knew This Already


An on-topic treat for my French-speaking readers: this choice article, published in today’s Monde.


The literati of France’s newspaper of record examine American Christmas traditions in a way that is both hilarious and slightly inaccurate (They misspell several of the reindeers’ names and COMPLETELY OMIT Rudolph, which is frankly egregious). I did, however, learn several things, like how Coca Cola gave Santa a red suit in the early 1900s, and how Clement Clarke Moore thought of his flying sleigh in 1823.

There is also this brilliant, if super French literary comparison:

A côté du Noël de Tchaïkovski, il y a Dickens. Dans le premier, on s’arrache les cadeaux les plus chers. Dans le second, on se précipite à minuit pour acheter du lait pour biberon : c’est l’heure à laquelle les chèques d’allocation chômage arrivent sur les comptes.

I think it’s interesting, though, that they accuse Americans of an obsession with Christmas. I think it’s true that we do it in a very uniquely “American” way (inflatable Santas, anyone?), and it’s got to strike foreigners as extravagant, BUT AS I WILL LATER ARGUE, the spirit and the energy and the magic is more or less the same.


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With a holiday as cherished and globally recognizable as Christmas, it’s easy to think that our own rituals and lore represent the entirety of the day’s traditions.

However, when a holiday is as widely celebrated, globalized and commercialized as Christmas is, it’s pretty easy to learn that this is not at all the case. The following may shock and/or/not awe you. (more…)

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In a continuing series about French linguistic quirks, in which I try desperately to keep you, my readership, interested by getting all deep about second person pronouns, today’s topic of discussion is actually English. Or, more precisely, English words that have been commandeered by the French language and removed from their original meaning  in a vaguely comical way. (more…)

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