long-pineconesAs pretty as the lights and decorations are in town, I kind of like these decorations by nature, all taken on a walk in my village.

quince
Quince

It can be hard to be an expat at Christmas, even after so many years. Some French traditions are nice–the relatively muted consumerism (it’s still there, but on a scale of 1 to 10, I give France a 7 vs. the U.S.’s 11), the Christmas markets with their quaint chalets and elegant snacks (champagne and oysters), the way everything shuts down between Christmas and New Year so people can have time off with their families.

redWhat do I miss? Baking Christmas cookies. We baked many thousands of them last year and the year before (during which my handheld mixer died and I made a zillion batches by hand because: fridge full of butter and eggs). This year? Meh. Christmas cookies are not a thing in France. Friends here were flummoxed by the boxes of cookies we delivered, almost to the point of being embarrassed: “But we don’t exchange gifts!” “It isn’t a ‘gift’–it’s cookies.”

orange-in-parkAnyway, we ate too much dough during the process and worked too hard at Pilates since then, so, not this year. Maybe next year.

quince-2A teeny tiny part of me misses the cold and snow. Just an itsy bitsy bit. Not much. An hour would do. (It’s 62 Fahrenheit as I write this.) The way the cold pinches your nostrils and stings your cheeks. The scrunching crunch of footsteps on snow. The clean smell. The absolute hush that envelopes the world when new snow falls.

grenadines
Pomegranates

I miss Christmas carols. Sure, Christmas music plays in some shops, but groups of carolers going house to house doesn’t seem to be a thing. It’s the singing part that’s fun, noses in the air and mouths open like Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang (a must-watch!). Belting. Glo-oooo-o-oooo-oooo-oria!

blue-berriesSpeaking of belting, I miss going to Handel’s Messiah and singing the Hallelujah chorus. Also, seeing Tchaikovsky’sΒ Nutcracker ballet. Both are very American traditions.

round-pineconesMost of all, I miss my family. After a rough 2015, we didn’t get to travel back this year. Decorations are nice, but family is what Christmas is all about.

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24 thoughts on “Nature’s Christmas Decorations

  1. I sympathise. We wanted to go back to Australia this year but business just hasn’t been good enough. I don’t especially miss Christmas in Australia, or family Christmases once I got married (other people always do Christmas weird). But with aging parents and new grandchildren it would have been nice to be there at some point over our winter (except if we’d hit a heatwave, then we would have regretted going…)

    By the way, I think your ‘quinces’ are persimmons (Fr. kaki).

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  2. Nice post, very nostalgic especially about going home, Christmas music, exchanging gifts. I think The natures decorations photos are beautiful and a great concept. I think I’ll steal it to take a few shots for my Instagram gallery. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ•‰πŸ‘«

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  3. I have a good friend who is an expat also, having lived there for almost ten years. Holidays are very very difficult; in fact, the decision of whether to remain there is always looming. I do feel for you. Much as we actually try to separate from family here, I know that they are always (sort of) close by…On the other hand, the materialism here is so overwhelming and the general hype of Christmas is, for us, a real turn off. We try to keep it very low key. I will be thinking of you as we approach the solstice and holiday and hoping for peace!

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  4. I particularly love that second photo; and yes, Christmas should be about those you love , whether that’s friends or family.
    I think our days of three parties plus over Christmas and New Year are long gone. Only seven of us this Christmas day, and every one a treasure above price to me.

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  5. The tree with the red plumes is a Staghorn Sumac (the branches look like horns). The quince tree looked fabulously laden. Mine- not so much. Made quince jam this year…again…but this time it turned out perfect. Perfect for my Christmas kipfels served with spiked homemade eggnog. THAT I would really miss if away from home!! We have the crunchy snow- but almost too bitter to walk the dog here in northeast Ohio. We WILL go caroling w/ family and a few friends. SO enjoy the faces on the recipients. School choir did a fabulous job on one segment of Handel’s Messiah. Haven’t heard a live performance of the Hallelujah chorus in years. THAT I truly miss. But the idea of closing all the businesses down for the week- I wish the states would honor at least one holiday without thinking the economy would collapse. A warm and lovely holiday to you and all.

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    1. I just saw an eggnog recipe on Joy the Baker and will have to try it out. It’s one thing more thing I miss. Enjoy crunching the snow and singing! My favorites are Joy to the World and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

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      1. We now have 10 adults when we gather so I double the recipe to last the evening!
        12 eggs, separated
        1 cup granulated sugar
        1 cup peach brandy
        1 cup whiskey (Jameson)
        1 cup white rum
        1 1/2 qts. milk
        nutmeg for garnish
        Day before or early morning: In a lg bowl beat yolks till thick; gradually add sugar, beating till thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add the liquor, beating all the while. Refrigerate overnight.
        Before serving: Pour egg mixture into your serving bowl. Stir in milk. Beat egg whites till peaks form; fold into milk mixture. Serve with freshly grated nutmeg per glass.
        I guarantee it will be the best you’ve ever had. Bon apetit!

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  6. Sending you a huge hug from your real and virtual friends around blog land. It’s one year approximately for your blog. Thank you for writing about your corner of France.
    Remember that your life is enviable to a lot of us…who have that living in France fantasy.
    That would be me😊
    We have some snow…a bit….car at the very bottom of the driveway….car not use to snow. We live up a steep hill. Yes it looks very pretty with all the huge fir tree with a frosting of snow….but I would be happier with your temperatures.
    Have a very Happy and a very Merry….

    Ali

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s raining today and actually smells like spring. I’m sure it made a mess of the skating rink.
      I didn’t think you got snow in your corner of the world. Enjoy it if you can (and it’s very smart to leave a car at the bottom of a steep driveway). You’ll be back in how many months?

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  7. I’ve been thinking the same thing about snow, the hush, the softness of new snow falling, the crystalline beauty. And then it’s 30 degrees here and my feet are cold even in the house and I don’t want to go outside, so there’s that.
    The agita and craziness of the U.S. christmas-commercial is off-putting and distressing, especially since it now begins well before Hallowe’en. The low-key French way sounds a bit more sensible. And cookies, yes!

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    1. 30 F isn’t too bad considering the polar vortex, no? If I were in charge, I’d decree that Christmas presents be very small and simple, preferably homemade. Or for small children only.

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  8. Love this article. I miss home SO much this time of year. We moved away with the military and then settled in another state, but I always love going home to see grandma at Christmas. Hot cocoa. Grandma’s famous Fruit Salad. Fireplace. Snow. These pics and thoughts are so nostalgic. Makes me wanna go now!

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  9. Nature has so much beauty in store, we just have to look!! Thanks for sharing those wonderful pictures, and I hope you’ll have a wonderful Christmas. I know it won’t be quite the same without family, but I’m sure it’ll be good!! Joyeux Noel!

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