**sent to friends and family, printed and folded in my handmade holiday cards, with the inscription "Bonne Fêtes! Bonne année! Bises!".
An American Christmas
Copain and I landed at LAX on December 17th, stopped in at Yogurtland for some American frozen yogurt goodness and promptly hopped back on the congested LA freeway until we arrived in my Christmas-light bedazzled childhood neighborhood. Ah, to be home for the holidays!
My Dad had branched out from the usual single strand of red and green alternating lights, adding some lamp post décor and a lit up angel near the front porch. Now that’s what I call holiday spirit.
After treating our suitcases for any potential bed bugs picked up along our travels (you may think I’m crazy but read bedbugger.com and you’ll never want to be near a traveling suitcase again!), I was finally able to enjoy all that is Christmas at our cozy house - a gigantic illuminated Christmas tree, the decorations from my childhood (life-size Santa doll, the tie I accidentally cut while wrapping for my Dad, which has now become the annual piece de resistance on our Christmas tree, the little light-up snow igloo and peppermints in bowls all over the house…). But the part that I had forgotten was the American Christmas card.
My Mom had started collecting all of the 2011 cards that our family had already received in a large brass bowl. My brother and I took them out, one by one, and started reading about the people we grew up with, their kids, their kids’ kids and all that was going on in their lives. Copain sat next to us on the couch, utterly confused - what on earth were these narratives, printed on holiday paper and sent with a photo?! After spending every Christmas in France until 2011, I realized that he had so much to learn about the American holiday season - so much beyond the succinct French New Year’s Card which generally consists of the following:
Bonnes Fêtes! Bonne Année! Bises! (Happy Holidays, Happy New Years, Kisses)
I fully plan on filling Copain in on the following American amazingness (in no particular order):
Egg nog - leave it to us Americans to mix up raw eggs, dairy fat and spices and call it a holiday drink. It will be hard to explain this one to the vin-chaud drinking Frenchman, but I fully intend on doing it.
Christmas lights, Candy Cane Lane style - I’ve already told Copain about the most-decorated street in our neighborhood and about how we all drive around in a big circle admiring the lights. Copain has already expressed his disgust in the fact that this activity is a driving activity and has requested that we actually park, get out of the car, and walk. We are considering his request, but with this cold California winter we’re having, we may not make it outside for long…
Sees Candy- it’s a well-known fact that a home without Sees Candy over the holidays is Scrooge-ville - or is trying to make it through the holidays on Atkins. Thankfully, with my Dad’s police department hook up to the Sees Candy seconds store (the ugly chocolates that don’t make the cut!) there’s never a chocolate shortage Chez the FCC clan. So far, I’ve introduced Copain to Milk Chocolate Butter Creams, Scotch Mallows and Dark Chocolate Butter Chews. Perhaps if I’m feeling motivated, I’ll take him to the real live Sees Candy store for a free sample - the Frenchman in him, the part that wants anything for free five hundred times more than if he actually had to pay for it, even if it’s just a newspaper at the airport or the free socks on Air Tahiti Nui, will LOVE me for it.
Secret Santa - now this has been a very hard concept for Copain, but we’re trying to be patient with him. Lists, secrets, waiting for actual Christmas day to open a present? After 28 years of knowing his gift by December 10th and having no one to buy presents for but Maman and Papa, this whole Secret Santa thing with the FCCs has thrown him for a loop. Wait until we make him put on red and green pjs on the 24th - he won’t even know what hit him.
The Schedule - would you think any less of my family? Of course there is a Christmas day schedule! This is how it has been from the beginning of time, and this is how it will be until the end of time. It goes like this:
- The first one to wake up runs around waking up everyone else. This used to be my little brother and sister, but now it’s the old farts who can’t sleep.
- Make the coffee. You are not allowed to go into the Christmas Tree And Stocking Area until Mom has her coffee. This rule now also applies to all of the other coffee-addicts in the house.
- Once coffee is running through our veins and Dad has turned on Nat King Cole and made a fire - even if it’s 80 degrees outside - we can open our stockings.
- When stockings are done, it’s time for breakfast which always consists of: more coffee, orange juice, bacon, and Pillsbury cinnamon rolls from the can that makes the scary pop when you open it.
- Fight about who gets the cinnamon roll in the middle of the pan with the most frosting.
- Only when breakfast is over may we open presents - one by one- until there are no more presents to open. Dad gets a cheap thrill by filling up a trash bag with wrapping paper and ribbons.
- Getting dressed is not an option. Pjs stay on for the rest of the day.
Christmas Movies - American Christmas 101 would not be complete without making Copain watch Elf, Christmas Vacation, and The Christmas Story. If he does not know the significance of “You’ll shoot your eye out!” by the end of the December, I will consider myself an utter failure.
So in true multi-cultural form - and in honor of our first Christmas in the U.S of A, we present to you the Franco-American holiday card:
We are loving our Parisian adventure in our mini-apartment, nestled in the 11th arrondissement. Copain has begun his CPA training while he works as a financial auditor, and I continue to work (at my non-blog-able job) in the Marais. We spend our weekends testing out the endless Parisian restaurants (which I love writing about on my blog), buying fruits and veggies at the crazy Marche at Place d’Aligre - (where Copain loves bartering - everything for one euro!!), and exploring the nooks and crannies that make up the City of Light. We are avid bike riders and use the public bike system called Velib - FCC the American wears a helmet and Copain the Frenchie does not. Trying not to die is the goal as we ride alongside the crazy Parisian drivers. We zip up and down the Seine river and still have to pinch ourselves when we stop on the Pont Neuf bridge and look out over the beautiful ville de Paris.
Our life is not all baguettes and cafes, we’ve also become pros at the art of living in small spaces and have resigned ourselves to the fact that we will never be homeowners in the fabulously expensive French capital. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing, since most apartment windows are still from the 1800s and exploding pipes and the subsequent water damage that ensues, are de rigueur. We have thus invested in a super duper dehumidifier and are hoping that we both get Snuggies this Christmas - insulation is not our apartment‘s strong point.
In happier news, I got French nationality in November 2010 and Copain came back from 6 months of travel and study in the United States. Our new favorite hobby is to play “My country is better than yours“. Don’t worry, I usually win. Mostly because I can fight to the death and Copain would rather watch a French political satire show on his Ipad that continues to poke fun at the American political system and Americans in general. We are a happy home.
So as you gather with friends and family for the 2011 holiday season, we wish you all the strange American holiday goodness in the world and the good ol’ French standard:
Bonnes Fêtes! Bonne Année! Bises!
FCC and Copain (who thinks this card is really weird and way too long.)