The arrival of The Nutcracker ballet – with its famous pas de deux — in New York City’s Lincoln Center and in venues across the US is one of the first signs of the arrival of the holiday season.
As if the storied New York City Christmas were not already sufficiently French in inspiration, Bryant Park’s Le Carrousel, along with le Réveillon, champagne, chocolates, bûche de Noël, and French cuisine available both in formal restaurants and cozy bistrots and cafés throughout the city, would totally confirm it. A French Marché de Noël from Alsace has joined Le District in developing a French ambiance in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, that most iconic of gifts from the people of France to the people of the United States, and you are more than likely to hear French as you select your sapin de Noël from an assortment of beautiful trees from Québec.
Beyond New York, a French-inspired Christmas can be found in cities and towns across the country, including but not limited to New Orleans with its Réveillon dinners and Christmas King Cake, French Quarter holiday lights, and heritage home tours, and Chicago, with the Chicago French Market’s Marché de Noël. In historic Ste Genevieve, the holiday Christmas celebration includes croquinoles and Le Réveillon, a French Christmas at the Felix Valle Historic Site. Franco-American celebrations may include both Chansons de Noël and Cantiques de Noël, and the réveillon may include tourtière.
Beyond the US, a Christmas spent in Québec, with the Francophones de l’Atlantique, or in the French Caribbean offers a unique experience, combining French heritage with local québécoises, acadiennes, or tropical traditions. A traditional Noël can be celebrated in nearby Québec City, with la messe de minuit, en français, at the Basilique, and the traditional tourtière as part of the Réveillon. A Christmas visit could even include an opportunity to sample tire d’érable, a foretaste of le Carnaval de Québec. In the French Caribbean, Christmas in Martinique or Guadeloupe may include a jambon de noël, as the centerpiece of tropical réveillon, and locally-inspired Christmas carols.
This abundance of French language and Francophone cultural traditions around us continues through le Jour de l’An, la Fête des Rois, and le Carnaval/Mardi Gras, and beyond.
While the internet has increased our ability to observe and to learn about French and Francophone cultures and traditions both here at home and around the world, a holiday visit and actual time spent sur place is unique and irreplaceable, and the experience is made even more memorable en français.
The key takeaway is that French language and Francophone culture are around us, not only during the holidays, but throughout the year, and that French can and should be part of our lives, not just at Christmas and holiday time, but all the time.