Trimming a French Christmas Tree
In spite of the cold, gray, damp typically Parisian weather, The streets have been swarming with bundled up Parisians out shopping, partying and enjoying the holiday spirit. More and more stores are opening on Sundays, which I’m sure makes the shoppers happy and the merchants reaping the rewards even happier.
This year, the Jewish holiday of Chanukah (a.k.a. Hanukkah, Festival of Lights) begins on Christmas eve, December 24th (the 25th of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar) lasting for eight days. The holiday has zero to do with Christmas as it commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. (Wikipedia.org) Jesus obviously hadn’t yet been born! Gifts later became “the thing to do” in order to compete with Christmas, although not a real part of the celebration.
When we were living in Israel in 1980, we purchased a brass 18th-century Polish “Chanukiah” (menorah) in the Old Jaffa “Shuk Ha’Pishpeshim” (flee market) which doubles for use on the sabbath with two special candle holders, one on each side. Many similar in design and provenance are on display at the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme. Although I’m not religious, I do follow some Jewish traditions and have always enjoyed lighting the candles, especially because I appreciate the menorah. Growing up we never had a Christmas tree (my mother would have called that heresy!), nor during all of my adulthood, about which my daughter has always bitterly complained.
“Tant pis!” “Never,” I avow, behaving just like my mother, which only encourages her rebellion and a new habit of celebrating what she calls a “real” Christmas with gentile friends in snowy Vermont. One year she bought a tree for herself and donned it with ornaments she could find from around the apartment: a spatula, scotch tape, pots, face masks…whatever she could dig up. It was particularly charming.
The trees sold in France are usually spruce, Nordmann and noble firs. They can be found just about everywhere at the moment — at all the flower shops, grocery stores and other venders. Saturday night we helped trim the tree of American friends living in Paris who make it an event every year. The children loved finding a spot to hang each ornament and struggled with getting them to stay on the needles — so we adults assisted…a bit. Their West Highland White pup, “Alfie,” loves to open his gifts all by himself and put on quite a show to prove it.
Meanwhile, on Christmas Day I usually head off to see a movie and then dine at a Chinese restaurant like so many other Jews — our own Christmas tradition — while everyone else is opening gifts and drinking egg nog. This year is different: I’m headed to my friends in Ansouis, in the Luberon region of Provence, for a relaxed holiday in front of the big fire. Jokingly, we decided to try to combine Christmas with Chanukah by having at least one Chinese meal and finding a movie to see in Aix-en-Provence — about a 45-minute drive away. We may come up short, but at least we’ll make the effort. The Chanukah candles are already packed for the trip. Now, I just have to come up with a menorah not as heavy as the antique brass model in which to light them!
A few special notes:
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* In special memory: We are deeply saddened by the loss of Tori Robinson, one of the most powerful and talented gospel singers I have ever heard sing. She sang regularly at the restaurant Bojangles here in Paris in the early 2000s during their “Soul on Sunday” dinners. Her memorial service will be held on Friday, December 23rd at 11 a.m. at the Apostolic Faith Temple at 300 Milford Place in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, 32168 and the wake will be held on Thursday, December 22nd from 5 to 8 p.m. Close friends and family attending should please wear white at her home-going celebration.
* Sharon Morgan, of Bojangles, announces her newest book: “Paris in a Pot: Living a Dream in the City of Light” — a memoir of her experiences in establishing Bojangles. The book is ready to ship. $20 covers the cost of the book and shipping in the USA. For international locations, she can send an Ebook. Get your copy!
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Don’t forget, House Hunters International’s “A Paris Shoebox for Six” airs Friday Dec 23 11:30pm E10:30C and Saturday Dec 24 2:30am E1:30C. Details on our HHI page