“If you put yourself in a position where you have to stretch outside your comfort zone, then you are forced to expand your consciousness.” – Les Brown
It’s not very cold out today. For lack of a better term (and one you’re probably hearing a lot this year), it’s unseasonably warm. There’s no Christmas tree in my apartment. No gifts either. No creatures stirring. Not even a mouse! This isn’t to say that the Christmas spirit is absent in Paris… It’s definitely here. The mayor’s office is fully decked out with amazing trees that are three times my height, covered in ornaments the size of my head. The shops in my neighborhood are lit up and filled with gifts, and there’s even Armée du Salut, or Salvation Army, workers jingling their bells. I’ll soon be traveling to Orléans to spend Christmas with my husband’s family, but until then I’ll continue my week just like any other.
My husband Léopold
kidnapped me brought me back to his home of Paris what seems like a year ago, but I guess it was really just four months ago. We met in New York City when he was studying abroad; I was working in a bakery making pastries at the time. It sounds like a dream, I know, but it has come with its own slew of emotions and complications that I never imagined when I first daydreamed of moving to Paris with my adorable French boyfriend. It’s been hard to adjust, but of course that’s to be expected of any new country or city.
Besides the language barrier, being so far away from home has been the most difficult part for me. I’m normally filled with so much Christmas joy that it’s annoying, and I count down the days until the 25th. This year is a little different, though. It’s my first Christmas in France with my husband, as well as my first Christmas outside of the United States. I’m feeling more homesick than usual, which might explain my lack of Christmas spirit. I’m not a total Grinch; I did find the time to bake some classic sugar cookies with a fellow American expat… but I still long for the comfort of being at home. I want to bake a pie for my family and roast a bird. I want to push my dog off of my lap because I can’t stand her “puppy” breath. I really want to yell at someone because they’re in the way while I’m cooking in my grandmother’s tiny kitchen. However, that will all have to wait until next Christmas!
This year, I’m going to create some new traditions. I know it won’t be exactly the same, but that will be a great thing, too. I’ll eat how the French eat at Christmas (think scallops, a bûche de Noël, and maybe some foie gras) and I’ll bring an American dessert of my own to my first Réveillon. I’ll speak lots of Franglish with my husband’s family, and I’ll devour an ungodly amount of amazing cheeses. Glass after glass of French wine will practically force its way into my body. I’ll call my grandmother, aunt, and the rest of the family to let them know that I love them, miss them, and can’t wait to see them in 2016. And finally, I’ll ring in the New Year in this beautiful new country that I am so fortunate to call home. If you’re like me and you find yourself away from home this year, make sure you bring a little bit of your own Christmas to the table. It’s easy to become sad if your holidays don’t match up to the high expectations created by movies and Christmas advertisements, but there’s no such thing as the perfect holiday. And that’s perfectly okay. Share your traditions and welcome new ones.
Whatever you’re celebrating and wherever you are, Happy Holidays!
- Check out our roundup of cozy restaurants and cafés where you can get in the festive, wintry spirit (even if it is unseasonably warm).
- Interested in the experience of an expat chef in Paris? Read this account of an internship at famed pâtisserie Un Dimanche à Paris.
- Discover what it’s like to be an expat during the holidays with this article from The Guardian.