A ‘So British’ Christmas in Lavelanet

It’s time for a visit to my French archive once more – any excuse to get out of post-election UK.  Come and enjoy a traditional British Christmas, as explained to the residents of the small town next to ours when we lived in France.

December 6th, 2011 

A ‘So British’ Christmas in Lavelanet

A British living room comes to Lavelanet library.A good old-fashioned English Christmas has come early to Lavelanet.  To the library (oops, mediathèque) to be exact.  The librarian there enjoys children’s literature, and is a bit of an Anglophile.  So she’s mounting a small festival of English Children’s literature featuring everyone from John Burningham and Quentin Blake to – of course – Charles Dickens and Beatrix Potter.

What a disappointment I am to her.  I can’t produce a pretty tea set awash with rosebuds, and she can’t believe I really don’t like tea very much: and that when I do drink it, I decline to add milk.

She’s wheeled in Découverte des Terres Lointaines to help with all the activities for schools, retirement homes, and the general public.  And DTL have wheeled me in as Consultant on All Matters English. Together we’ve chosen recipes and we’re baking biscuits and cakes and we’ve planned craft activities round, for instance, our ‘so British’ Christmas cards.  But said cards must contain no bible-story references.  No stables, cribs, angels or Three Wise Men. French schools are strictly laïque – secular – and our friends were astonished to learn that even the mantelpieces of committed atheists are likely to feature Christmas cards from friends, showing church stained glass windows or the Star of Bethlehem.

From tomorrow, I’ll be reading stories in English, helping pull crackers (an unknown treat), and unpacking – many times – a stocking which dear old Father Christmas has delivered to me early.

A satisfyingly bulging stocking.

My other job is to correct the misapprehensions learnt from French websites and children’s books about England. Who knew that the English enjoy tucking in to a huge plate of oysters at the beginning of Christmas dinner? Or that all British schoolchildren have a free bottle of milk every morning?  Margaret Thatcher abolished that back in the early 70’s.  And Sylvia misunderstood me, and thought we served stewed cherries, not sherry sauce, with our Christmas pudding (cherries – sherry: easy to confuse when you speak no English).  And so on.

But it’s been fun transforming the community room in the library into an impossibly cosy snug, full of Christmas cheer.  Let’s see what ‘le tout public’ think, when we open the doors tomorrow.

Six Word Saturday.

 

29 thoughts on “A ‘So British’ Christmas in Lavelanet”

  1. Oh I do love the French perception of the English and our traditions. Here, they just don’t ‘get’ mince pies (yummmm)! But I think it all adds to the fun of learning and being in another country…and there are some French traditions that I have started to embrace, so it’s a win-win situation 🙂 A propos…my tree has been up since Dec 1st!

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    1. I bet it’s the only one in the village. Where we were, after the 20th seemed the norm. And that goes for the street decorations too. I taught a good friend in France to make mince pies. She still makes them every year, and tells me proudly when she’s made her mincemeat. Yes, win-win.

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      1. It’s interesting that yes, I was the first one to have my tree and lights up, and it has taken a wee while for the rest to get into the spirit of it, but this year I have noticed so many more houses decorated with garden displays and even music! (shock horror) LOL. And this year for the first time, the Mairie has decorated the building, trees all lit-up and we even have street lights…now that’s a BIG thing for a tiny village of 250 people! Wishing you a very merry Christmas 🙂

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  2. It is remarkable how many traditions remain alive. I confess I had never heard of marmalade loaf cake!
    Escaping to France seems like a good idea in the post-election days. Maybe you might indulge in a hit of sherry sans the pud as a bit of solace.

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  3. Good luck! I could actually try the stewed cherries – there’s not much you would be likely to do to a cherry that would stop me eating it. (If I seem like a glutton today, put it down to post-election traumatic stress).
    My sweetheart always explains to every American who asks that Boxing Day is so that the ‘staff’ can visit their own families and open their presents from boxes. I always suspect too much of the ‘that was then and this is now’ aspect is lost in the telling.

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  4. We’re on the train on the last leg of our journey back to post election UK. We’ve had 2 weeks in Malaysia and it was very tempting to stay!

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  5. The Danes are the ones with the cherry sauces on their pudding ( rice pudding) at Christmas! There seems to be a lot of misapprehensions even though your two countries are close geographically! I also take my tea black and only 1-2 cups a day!

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  6. Sounds fun and you are doing more than some in Anglo French relations. What a memory ‘ Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher’. However I did not like the milk on offer so didn’t miss it!

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    1. Oooh yes, do you remember warm curdled milk in the summer, chunks of ice in winter? We were lucky in not having many English around, so integration was necessary, apart from being fun.

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