Since my last online posting, I was in Paris for the French Affaires “Gourmet Paris” trip. Our lovely group savored the culinary delights of la Capitale, and I’ll be sharing some of our French foodie experiences in upcoming articles. I have also been deep into planning exciting new programs and events for 2011 that will bring the spirit of France to the U.S. in wonderful ways.  

As Christmas 2010 is almost upon us, this week’s post features holiday experiences some of my French friends and colleagues who live in Texas and have brought their French heritage with them. I asked them to share one thing that made Christmas special when growing up in France and also one thing they now do in the U.S. to add France to their holiday season. I hope you enjoy their stories–and I wish you and yours a “Joyeux Noël” (Merry Christmas), “Joyeuses fêtes” (Happy Holidays) and “Bonne Année” (Happy New Year)!! 

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Isabelle de Wulf, Executive Director of the French-American Chamber of Dallas / Ft. Worth (www.faccdallas.com) :
“One thing that made Christmas special growing up in France was living in the countryside as a child, we would have a pine tree cut from the forest and hook candle holders on the branches. Then my dad would light the candles just before the Christmas celebration. Of course we had a bucket of water not too far!” 

“One thing I do now in Dallas to make my family’s Christmas season French is to eat turkey with ‘purée de marrons’ (chestnut purée) and order a ‘bûche de Noël’ (Christmas yule log) for dessert from Main Street Bakery!”

Betty Reiter, owner of the Betty Reiter boutique in Dallas:
“I have memories of wakening up on Christmas morning and checking the front of the fireplace for gifts. I also remember going with my dad to the Mouffetard food market in Paris near our apartment. I especially treasured the smells and visual displays at the market-and of course, the time with my dad. We would come back home and then enjoy the usual turkey stuffed with chestnuts and oysters. We would finish off our Christmas dinner with the bûche de Noël.

“As for now, if I am ambitious I try to make traditional Provence 13 desserts and always a big “réveillon de Noël” (Christmas eve dinner). We eat a lot late in the evening and if we don’t have oysters, we at least have some foie gras!”

Jean-Marie Cadot, chef and owner of Cadot French restaurant in Dallas (www.cadotrestaurant.com) :
For me growing up in France, there wasn’t any one particular thing that made Christmas special. It was the combination of things similar to Christmas in many countries: family reunions, gifts & candy for the children, holiday church services & le Réveillon.” 

“Now in addition to spending time with family, much of my experiences and specialties with Christmas involve cooking. I prepare traditional French dishes such as capon, Lobster Thermidor, turbot, oysters, foie gras, caviar, chestnuts, bûche de Noël, and many others. Spending time in the kitchen preparing these especially for the season helps to put everyone (including myself) in the spirit of French Christmas at home in Dallas. And of course, I make all these French delicacies at my Dallas restaurant for the holidays!”

Cécile Marche, Marketing Director and co-creator of Dallas-based Frog du jour, the online shopping place for French treasures (www.frogdujour.com) :
“One thing that made Christmas special growing up in France was the emphasis on tradition and family. Christmas is the main moment of the year when French families spend time together. It’s so reassuring in this crazy world and in good times or bad to be near to those close to you.”

“My family and I now live in the U.S. and we make sure to have foie gras with toasts and Champagne with close friends as we wish each other a Joyeux Noël!”

Dr. Maurice Elton, former professor of French at SMU and owner of his French translation business:
My mother was French and I grew up in England so we had more British Christmas traditions growing up. Of course, France is part of my heritage and I spent summers there with family when I was young. My wife and I have included some French elements in our Christmases over the years in the U.S. We have a collection of twelve books of Christmas around the world which we shared with our children when they were growing up. The book has the story of the Santons of Provence (clay figures of the nativity with villagers included), and we have almost the complete set of 110 figures by Marcel Carbonel that we purchased over the years in France. We display them at Christmas time. And some years, we celebrate the ‘Fête des Rois’ (feast of the Epiphany) with the galette des rois (King’s cake) to add a French flavor to our extended holiday celebrations.”

Anne-Lyse Ségur Hardesty, Part time intern with French Affaires:
“When I grew up in France, my family and I used to go to the midnight mass on Christmas Eve in a small church in a village in southwest France. The mass was really special because you could enjoy the birth of Jesus Christ with a live nativity scene. It was played by kids from catechism. For few years, I was shepherdess holding a real lamb and then Mary holding this time a newborn baby. The mass last one hour and half and then we came back home and ate the “bûche de Noel” and some exotic fruits.”

“Now being in the U.S., I of course miss my family back in France. The other thing I miss the most is the Christmas eve dinner which lasts five hours and includes ten courses. It has all the French specialties: foie gras, saumon fumé (smoked salmon), oysters, capon, bûche de Noël, and of course some good wine and Champagne. This year, my family sent my husband and me many of these wonderful foods and ingredients that I can’t find in the United States. So good long food preparation and a long wonderful dinner is waiting us for on Christmas eve!”

 French Take-Out™ ~ La France à emporter 

For a very special holiday gift, French Affaires offers gift certificates for upcoming events, programs, trip design and more. If you would like to give some for delivery this Christmas, send us an email asap at info.french@frenchaffaires.com and we’ll get it to you in time for December 25th!

Christmas market wreath