And the paradox is that, despite their reputation for being oftentimes rude or standoffish, the French are actually quite festive and sentimental.  Nowhere has this been more apparent than during these past three days.  It’s almost as if they’ve been waiting all year for January 1st to roll around so they can uncharacteristically smile and cry out “Bonne Année!” to one and all.

I’ve just spent these last three days exchanging New Year’s greetings with every living person that has crossed my path.  If dogs could speak, I’m sure we would’ve bid one another a happy and healthy New Year.

Bonne Année!

Meilleurs voeux!

Je vous souhaite tous mes meilleurs voeux pour l’année!

Bonne Année, Bonne Santé!

It’s nice.  Very nice.  But I’m exhausted.  I’m not used to all this Parisian jollity.  It started with neighbours in my building followed by the postman and then the concièrge and then the café owner and his wife on the corner and then the streetsweepers as they stood on the corner knocking back espressos from the café and having a smoke.  Even the local homeless person had something salutary to say.  And that was just on my way to work.  Once at the office, things really heated up.

Meilleurs voeux!” exclaimed my new boss, leaping up from her chair when I walked in on Thursday morning.  I stood in the doorway of her office.  Was she going to shake my hand?  Kiss me?  There’s always that awkward moment when you don’t know whether to stick out your hand or proffer your cheek.  The best action to take is to just stand there and let them take charge.  Thank goodness Parisians only kiss twice, as opposed to three or four like they do in other regions of France.  I guess it’s because we’re more rushed here.

And so it went on for the next two days: email greetings from the CEO and other self-important people, colleagues stopping by to declare, somewhat solemnly “Bonjour Juliet. Je te présente tous mes meilleurs vœux de bonheur et de santé pour l’année.“  I was touched.  Truly!  Chocolates were passed around and much kissing and laughing went on in corridors.  It’s funny, this kissing thing.  (As I said, in Paris it’s twice, once on each cheek.)  Being Anglo-Saxon, as we’re called here, I’ve never been a fan; I prefer a swift, no-nonsense handshake.  I’ve just had a thought….maybe it’s me who’s standoffish??

Anyway, the next festivity will be the Galette des Rois or the Cake of Kings, the delicious flaky pie filled with almond paste baked for Epiphany on 6 January. (Epiphany:  the 12th day after Christmas, celebrates the visit of the three kings or wise men to the Christ Child.) I actually wrote about the tradition one year ago when I started this blog. Here it is below.  Oh, did I mention?  BONNE ANNEE!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!


3 thoughts on “January

  1. Just curious, are the french religious? I always thought of france as more secular, but seeing they celebrate the Epiphany and others, maybe i am wrong?

    • The French are discreet, I’d even go so far as saying secretive, in their Catholic convictions. Catholicism definitely rules here, but not ostentatiously. The most obvious indications are the official holidays when banks, schools and offices shut down – Ascension Day and Pentecost in May, the Feast of the Assumption on August 15 and All Saints Day on November 1st. As for Jewish and other religions’ holidays? Not officially recognized. Intensly chauvinistic, the French ruling class (white, bourgeois, Catholic) isn’t big on diversity. However they have no choice but to adapt as the (multicultural) landscape of their country changes. Their methods, though, are looked upon with suspicion and much controversy. In 2013, a law was passed for a “secular charter” to be displayed in a prominent position in every school to remind pupils and teachers of the country’s so-called secular, Republican principles. The Education Minister says the charter is designed to promote “absolute respect for freedom of conscience”. Freedom of conscience? How impractical and vague is that?

      In typical French fashion, that simple phrase is loaded with ambiguity and codes. The charter’s 15 principles have already been condemned as “a veiled attack on Islam”. As you know, there’s a ban on religious symbols in schools and public buildings. Make out of all this as you will, Kerry.

      • Interesting. Thank you for your insight. The Gallete des Rois sounds delish, but I am afraid I might break a tooth 🙂

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