A socially distanced Christmas in France

Hello, Emily here – ready to celebrate the holidays! We were supposed to be spending this Christmas on the beach in Australia (where I am originally from) but with travel not possible, we’ll be spending it at home in Paris. Holiday traditions in France are so different from Australia (the weather for a start – it was 39ºC/102ºF in Brisbane the last time we spent the holidays there) and I’ve had a wonderful time discovering French holiday customs over the past few years. The food, the wine, the decorations, the language. Oh, and did I mention the food?!

This year we’re in semi-lockdown and with most of the activities on my Things to do in Paris at Christmas list off-limits it’s the perfect time to finally try all those creative projects that I never get around to. The Christmas carols are on repeat, we are staying home en famille (with our family), counting our blessings, and beginning to get festive.

Last weekend I simmered some spiced vin-chaud (mulled wine) while we decorated our Sapin de Noël (Christmas tree). The smell of cardamom, cloves and oranges wafted through the apartment as we unpacked our decorations, each one holding sentimental memories. I added some new ones to represent our 2020; a paintbrush and wrench, to remind us that we did a full renovation, during a pandemic, while I was heavily pregnant, and a personalized ornament for our baby girl who we welcomed in July (mid-renovation – it was a lot!). My daughter and I picked the biggest tree we could find and now it sits, quietly dropping its needles on the floor, by our window so the neighbors can enjoy it as well. We are taking bets on who will attack it first – the toddler or Noisette, our dog.

We’ve cracked open the chocolate advent calendars and light an advent candle in the evenings. Each year I also print out a selection of photos of especially funny and memorable moments from the year, my daughter decorates some envelopes they go into and at breakfast my husband opens them day-by-day. They hang along a strand of tinsel until at least the end of January and then we bundle them all up and they go into a memory box, along with the ones from previous years. 

I have a list of Christmas baking projects lined up; Spicy gingerbread men, pistachio and almond nougat made with wild honey (done!), ice-cream (for the first time, I’m starting with vanilla) and finally getting the hang of my Nanna’s golden dumplings, that are my family’s traditional dessert at every birthday and Christmas in Australia (recipe below). I have steamed a Christmas pudding, mastered a decent croissant (which took me four attempts) and am shaking and stirring my way through Drinking French. Having been without a fully working kitchen for a good part of 2020, I’m so happy to be able to cook for my loved ones.

I taught my daughter how to knit herself a scarf, our homemade wreath is on the door (we used eucalyptus leaves for a touch of Australia), and now it’s time to plan and prepare our Christmas menu. Everything I’ve learned about Christmas traditions in France has come from my French mother-in-law, who effortlessly keeps the fête (party) going for days when we visit. This year, I’m in charge, and upon dutifully doing my research, I’ve discovered that traditions vary widely between regions and families.

Here is our family’s version of a French Christmas!

Le Réveillon De Noël (Christmas Eve) in France is my favorite. There are platters of smoked salmon, oysters, prawns and bulots (little sea snails) all washed down with cold, crisp champagne. The anticipation in the air is electric and the kids don’t stray very far from the tree, waiting for permission to open some of the beautifully wrapped gifts. We do small family presents on Christmas Eve and Père Noël (Santa) visits overnight, leaving gifts for sage (well-behaved) children to find on Christmas morning. Sometimes Père Noël leaves gifts when families are at Mass on Christmas Eve, some children leave shoes out instead of stockings, and poor Père Noël never gets cookies but might get some whiskey if he’s lucky.

I have pre-ordered a seafood platter from our local fishmonger, who always does an impressive presentation with crushed ice, seaweed, and lemon wedges. It will be collected late afternoon on the 24th and stored in the bathtub until we are ready to eat. To make enough space on the table we put our platter on an upturned vase, so it sits at eye level. There will be homemade shallot vinegar in little ramekins and a loaf of dark rye bread to accompany it, smeared with salted French butter. Perhaps we will have a small dessert, but this night is usually a light introduction as the main event is yet to come.

On Christmas morning (even at the in-laws) I wake up early to pop a tray of cranberry and orange buns (that I have been proofing in the fridge overnight) in the oven. In the time it takes to warm up the coffee machine and set the table, we have fresh breakfast bread ready, with colorful glazed icing. The kids also have hot chocolate, which leads to sticky handprints everywhere as they discover what Père Noël has left for them, but we don’t mind (as much) because it’s Christmas!

My mother-in-law always cooks a chapon (a rooster, traditional in France) for lunch on Christmas Day. This will be my first time cooking one and I think I will stuff it with brioche, chestnuts, dried figs, fresh thyme and maybe a touch of lemon zest. I’m imagining it roasted on top of thinly sliced potatoes that will cook in the fat from the bird, then sprinkled with truffle salt. Some still-crunchy green beans (the French prefer them very well cooked) will go alongside nicely, as well as roasted sweet chestnuts and a gravy made from chicken stock I made and froze in advance, that’ll be reduced down with a splash of port until it’s silky and thick.

Now does all this need an appetizer beforehand? Of course! Foie gras on toasted brioche (I tend to burn the first batch of brioche toasts every time I make this) with a dollop of onion confit, a few token salad greens, and pomegranate seeds scattered on the plate for a pop of color.

Following the main course there will be a selection of French cheeses: A small, hard goat cheese, which is my daughter’s favorite, tomme de savoie (a mild, semi-firm cow’s milk cheese) wrapped in dried alpine flowers, comté (a mild cheese made from unpasteurized cow milk) aged for 36 months (it develops little crunchy crystals when it is aged this long) and a rich creamy brie, all on fresh baguette. This cheese course cannot be rushed so it’s best to have a cold, already-prepared dessert so there is no stress on timings.

I’m planning to make a simple Bûche de Noël and use all my tricks to make it look fancier than it is (I’ve already bought some sparklers to light and stick in it as I present it to the table). We may also order something from the local patisserie as their treats look too good to pass by.

Boxing Day (December 26th) is one of my favorite days in Australia (usually spent eating leftovers at the beach, with more champagne) but in France I have found it is not a ‘thing,’ nor a public holiday. This year it falls on a Saturday so we will definitely be continuing the festivities and I’ve pulled out the Raclette set from our storage under the stairs in preparation. Raclette is a Swiss dish, also very popular in France, where you heat cheese and scrape off the melted part onto ham, potatoes and cornichons (tiny pickles). I laughed at my husband when I first saw he had an electric raclette set but had to eat my words since we use it quite a few times each winter and I LOVE it. I have pre-ordered both my cheese and my ham at the local market and will go by on the morning of the 26th to pick them (and other provisions) up.

Here are some other things I am doing this year.

I have a wonderful WhatsApp group chat with some fellow Australian ladies here in Paris and this year we are doing a postal Secret Santa. The group has been a place for us to share, vent, encourage, and be reassured over the past year. Even separated under lockdown, we wanted to celebrate together. I plan to gift French-themed decor and ornaments.

My brother and future sister-in-law were meant to be visiting us a few weeks ago from the UK but with the renewed lockdown and all travel cancelled, it didn’t happen. They were feeling down so I sent them a bottle of wine to arrive when they would have been visiting and they said “it was the nicest thing anyone has done for us in a long while.” Knowing someone was thinking about you and wanted to do something solely to brighten your day is a lovely gesture, indeed. I also plan to bake some easily postable treats and send them to the people in Paris who I would usually invite over for our annual Christmas drinks.

Every year I buy so many holiday cards to send out and on December 24th most of them go into The Drawer (you know the one…) for next year. So this year, I’ve actually sent some, in the hope of bringing people a little joy in the post. Nothing like a good old-fashioned tradition to bring a sense of normalcy and connection this year. These ones can even be personalized for an extra touch and these are perfect if you just want to say bonjour. In France, Christmas cards are not very common and traditionally they send cartes de voeux (best wishes cards) in January, for the new year.

With three small kids, the only way I will be awake at midnight on New Year’s Eve is if the baby needs a feed. But I have set aside some time early in the evening on the 31st for the whole family to get dressed up and take some time together to reflect on the year, the challenges it has brought, and how it has made us stronger. Put on your best outfit, pour a nice glass of chilled champagne (maybe I’ll try a French Manhattan) and get ready to welcome 2021 and all that it may bring!

As 2020 draws to a close, although I am far from (my original) home and family, I plan to celebrate as much as possible this festive season and invite you all to embrace the spirit with me. My hope is that in making an effort, the rituals will bring extra meaning to the occasion, and any excuse to open a bottle of champagne – comme les français – is very welcome!

I know it is tempting to just hunker down and let the holidays pass by this year but I hope you will try and make them special. It is important, even in tough times, to punctuate the year with celebrations, no matter how different they may be in 2020. Please let me know in the comments below or on Instagram (@thereal_emilyinparis) how you plan to spend the festive season.

Happy holidays to you all! – Emily

 

Nanna's Golden Dumplings

Serves around 6 (in our household).
Course Dessert

For the dumplings

For the sauce

  • 2 cups water (470g)
  • 1 cup sugar (250g)
  • 2 tbsp butter (40g)
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup (50g)
  • pinch salt
  • Set the oven to 160C/320F
  • Rub the flour and butter together until they resemble breadcrumbs
  • Mix through the milk and egg and roll into golf ball sized balls, then place into a baking dish (mine is 23x33 cms/9x13 inches but yours doesn't need to be exactly this size)
  • In a saucepan, melt together the water, sugar, butter, golden syrup and salt until it just boils
  • Pour over the dumplings and bake until golden brown, approximately 25 minutes

Notes

Serve hot, with vanilla ice cream or custard.

A socially distanced Christmas in France

74 comments

  • December 16, 2020 3:28pm

    Hi Emily from a fellow Aussie in France, but down in the Loire Valley. Enjoy your Christmas. I’m off to pick up our fresh foie gras tomorrow from a local producer. Then I’ll salt cure it ready for Christmas Eve, when our tradition is to have it with seared hanger steak. I’ve also made British style Christmas puddings this year, which I rarely do, so we will have one of them on Christmas Day, along with a guinea fowl. No oysters for us this year, as last year we got the gastric upset, along with about half of France. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 7:57pm

      Hi Susan,
      Foie Gras and steak has got to be one of my top dishes of all time! Have a great time, Emily Reply

  • Tomese
    December 16, 2020 5:22pm

    Oh how lovely to have such a lovely celebration! A vicarious celebration for me here in Louisville, KY, but I’ll happily take it! Joyeux Noel! Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 7:58pm

      Joyeux Noel over there Tomese! Reply

  • December 16, 2020 5:37pm

    American in Brooklyn here – my roommate and I are also staying put because of the pandemic, and to add insult to injury I am recovering from a broken knee. So my roommate and I are downscaling the usual Christmas observances by…rather a bit.

    But I couldn’t NOT cook SOMETHING. I am cheating with some of the baking and using premade mixes for the cookies – forming balls of dough and plunking a Hershey’s kiss on top if it is something I can still do on one leg, and I’ll just vary things with different kind of kisses. My roommate is getting a small tree; and I’ve found a couple of easy-but-indulgent things for me to make on Christmas day. We aren’t doing any planned sit-down meal; rather, we’ll have a big breakfast casserole to dip into in the morning, and then sometime mid-afternoon I’m going to make the British rice dish Kedgeree, mainly because I’ve always wanted to try it. We’ll also have lots of random cheese trays and chaucuterie and nuts and cookies and chocolate things, both premade or store-bought, laying around to just graze from. We each have a couple zoom calls with respective family members throughout the day as well. …Honestly, the knee is the thing that’s hampered me more; if I were more able-bodied I’d be getting way more elaborate with the meal. Oh well. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:00pm

      Hi Kim,
      Sounds like you are still going to have a nice time and the elaborate meal can wait until next year. Hope the knee recovers quickly, sounds like you have had a rough time of it. Hope you and your roommate have a nice time! Reply

  • Naomi D.
    December 16, 2020 6:30pm

    Lovely. Thank you for this writing. It is a piece of dreams. It’s chilly here in New Orleans (yes, the forties in Fahrenheit is chilly when the houses can’t hold temperatures above sixty), but light shows happened nearby, Reveillon is to-go from restaurants, and neighbors all around are baking. You’ve inspired me to get to baking too. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:01pm

      Hope you bake some nice treats and have a great holiday. New Orleans is definitely on my “to visit after the pandemic” list. Reply

  • Georgeann Brown
    December 16, 2020 6:40pm

    We have just found out about a serious health issue but we will celebrate with duck pate, a rack of lamb, various sides, (easy peasy) Yule Log cake and plenty of champagne with abandon. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:06pm

      Sorry to hear about the health news. Hope you have a wonderful holidays and keep the champagne flowing! Rack of lamb is the best! Reply

  • Judi Suttles
    December 16, 2020 6:50pm

    Emily,
    This was a lovely Christmas letter. This has been a year like no other and your letter really lifts the spirit. We, here, in Texas are on semi lock-down which is challenging. Your tree and decorations are so festive and happy.
    Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:07pm

      Hi Judy, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you in Texas! Reply

  • Wendy R
    December 16, 2020 9:33pm

    Before reading this, I didn’t know my life goal was to have a Christmas in France. It sounds amazing! I also have three small children, and I’m in awe of the amount of cooking you’re going to tackle. We’re taking every opportunity to look at Christmas lights, and I’m baking tons of cookies. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:07pm

      Hi Wendy, hope the cookie baking is going well. Here’s to Christmas in France for you in the future :) Reply

  • Jimmy Jaksic
    December 16, 2020 10:12pm

    Love it. Thanks, Emily! Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:08pm

      Thanks Jimmy! Reply

  • Sandra Alexander
    December 16, 2020 10:48pm

    Greetings from steamy Sydney! Lovely to see your grandmother’s dumpling recipe – and in her own handwriting I guess? Something to do with the can of golden syrup I picked up from Aldi earlier this year, in a fit of nostalgia. The can still looks the same! Christmas morning here in Clovelly starts with a bizarre and possibly unique surf club ritual. They colour the water in the bay bright green with vegetable die. Meanwhile, all the local kids are locked in the surf club building. At 10am precisely the doors are unlocked and the kids, a couple of hundred of them, pour down the steps and dive into the water to collect the hard boiled eggs the surf club parents have hurled into the bright green water. As each kid collects an egg, they’ll bring it to the shore and swap it for a piece of ice cream cake. The whole community gathers to cheer them on. After that we’ll join our friends for Christmas lunch which this year will feature a new star – a buche de Noel made with mango ice cream. Yes, we are out of lockdown, and no I don’t know what happens to all the eggs. Happy Christmas to you, your family, David and Romain from Down Under. Reply

    • Sandra Alexander
      December 18, 2020 11:11am

      Update – the egg thing not happening this year because of Covid con webs Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:10pm

      Hi Sandra,
      I love Clovelly, such a wonderful part of Sydney. Shame about no egg/surf club/green water tradition this year but maybe we will check it out in 2021! Mango buche de Noel sounds magnificent. Happy Christmas Reply

  • LH
    December 17, 2020 8:25am

    We just moved down to the Loire Valley from Canada/US and our first Christmas in France! Thanks for explaining all of their traditions etc.. We’re in the middle of major renovations so our menu will be scaled back considerably this year :) I have seriously been hunting for Christmas cards all December, this explains why! Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:11pm

      Yes it took me a few years to figure out the card thing and I always got funny looks when I gave them to people :) Good luck with the renovations -we just finished ours! Reply

  • Susan Goldberg
    December 17, 2020 12:03pm

    What a delightful and poignant post. We celebrate Chanukah and had our son and daughter and their partners for a brunch last Sunday. Smoked salmon, sablefish, bagels, frittata, latkes, and homemade jelly donuts made by my daughter’s college roommate. Lots of cookies and chocolates too. We don’t celebrate Christmas, but since my husband Is Chinese, well get a roast duck and some other Chinese bbq in Chinatown and make side dishes to eat with the meats for Christmas Eve. We can’t be with our usual friends for Christmas dinner, so we will make something festive—just haven’t decided yet. Wishing you and your family a safe and festive holiday season. Really loved reading your post. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:13pm

      Sounds like an extremely tasty holiday season for you! Wishing you a safe rest of 2020 :) Reply

  • Kayla
    December 17, 2020 12:24pm

    I am completely impressed that you are managing such lovely cooking, baking, gifting and decorating with three small children! Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:14pm

      Half of it is to keep them entertained – the teenager is finally showing an interest in cooking and the toddler loves to bang on the pans :) Reply

  • Linda
    December 17, 2020 3:20pm

    Sounds lovely! I also make the breakfast buns every Christmas morning! Delicious! I might have to try Nonna’s recipe this year, too. Happy holidays! Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:14pm

      Happy holidays to you Linda! Hope the breakfast buns and the dumplings go well this year :) Reply

  • Michele
    December 17, 2020 5:19pm

    Thank you for sharing your Christmas traditions with us, Emily! They sound warm, festive, loving, and delicious. Your children will have wonderful memories and traditions to enjoy and pass on when they grow up. (Love the idea of photos shared in a hand decorated envelope each morning and then displayed. So sweet.) I am in Los Angeles and missing my parents and siblings in Maine and Texas, but we have an epic text thread going in which we share our daily bakes (I’ve started making the old world potica of my husband’s Slovenian grandmother thanks to David’s interview with Michelle Polzine) and excitement over the puppy arriving at my parents house right before Christmas, so the season still feels special. Wishing you and yours—and David and his—all the joys of the holidays! Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:16pm

      Oh a puppy and potica – sounds like the best text thread! Happy holidays to you and your whole family. Reply

  • Karen L
    December 17, 2020 6:33pm

    Wonderful, warm, traditions adjusted for stay-at-home. I really like the idea of revisiting favorite pictures from the year and then saving them in a memory box for you and your family. We’ve been to France many times and would like to enjoy a holiday season in Paris in the not-to-distant future. Happy Holidays and a healthy new year to us all. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:17pm

      Hi Karen, hope you can make it to France again soon. Happy (and healthy) holidays! Reply

  • Kim
    December 17, 2020 6:40pm

    What a beautiful post! Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:17pm

      Thank you Kim :) Reply

  • Lisa
    December 17, 2020 6:44pm

    Thank you so much, Emily. Your account of celebrations and meals to come over the holidays had me in Paris almost smelling some of the eucalyptus leaves and the syrup dumplings baking.

    Merry Christmas and all the best to you and your family, and to you, David and Romain. Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2021. Reply

    • Jennifer
      December 17, 2020 11:38pm

      Thanks Emily from a fellow Aussie (but in Switzerland!). Love the raclette reference!

      Golden syrup dumplings were a favourite dessert at girl guide camps, cooked in the coals. Will definitely try it out again but this time in the oven!

      You have also inspired me to make my own Eucalyptus wreath. Thank you again and have a wonderful Christmas!

      P.s. no boxing day test match? Reply

      • Emily Cunningham
        December 20, 2020 8:20pm

        Hi Jennifer – hope the wreath was a success. Will think of you when we make the raclette. Merry Christmas!
        P.s. No boxing day test match as my husband already thinks I am odd enough :) Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:18pm

      Happy holidays you and yours Lisa! Reply

  • Mrs Gloria Miles
    December 17, 2020 7:10pm

    Yes your writings of Life in Paris are so lovely. We live in the Vendee much further south than Paris and Christmas will be so different this-year, just my husband and I due to the restrictions with Covid but we are determined to make the best of it and I am going to try your breakfast buns,
    Thank you for such a lovely piece of writing. Happy Christmas to you and your family. Stay safe and lets hope for a better 2021 Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:21pm

      Hope you and your husband have a wonderful day together and that you can be with your family again soon! Reply

  • Pam
    December 17, 2020 9:07pm

    Thank you Emily. So lovely. The photo tradition is especially sweet; your children will cherish this forever. One of our traditions is to find new recipes to try each year, which involves reading other people’s traditions as part of our tradition. Especially this year, reminders of other people, even if we can’t be with them, is even more special. I’m sooo looking forward to decorating and cooking (and making cocktails from Drinking French!) Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:44pm

      Hi Pam,
      Hope you found some great new recipes to try this year and enjoy the cocktails! Reply

  • myrna
    December 18, 2020 4:15am

    Thank you for the beautiful post. Its been a year like no other and this post is a gift. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:45pm

      Thank you Myrna Reply

  • Paul
    December 18, 2020 4:58am

    Emily, here is the Persian version of nougat, quite tasty:
    https://cookpad.com/us/recipes/12832274-classic-gaz-recipe-persian-nougat Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:46pm

      Thanks Paul – will try it out! Reply

  • December 18, 2020 6:49pm

    You, and this blog, and your books are such wonderful gifts to the world. I’m so glad to have “known” you for many years. This site is like sitting at a friend’s kitchen table with a cup of tea when feeling down or a pitcher of cocktails when feeling festive. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:47pm

      Tea and/or cocktails are the answer to most things. Happy holidays Molly Reply

  • Be in Portland
    December 19, 2020 6:44am

    Your post was a real treat to read (and a bit of therapy as well!) as the dreadful year 2020 is finally coming to an end here in the United States. Thank you so much and I hope that you have a very happy holiday season with your family, and the same for David and Romaine. Cheers and onward to 2021! Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:48pm

      Cheers to you and roll on 2021! Reply

  • Jean Peterson
    December 19, 2020 6:59pm

    What a fun post! I love reading about Christmas traditions around the world.

    Jean P Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:48pm

      Thank you Jean Reply

  • judy b keathley
    December 19, 2020 7:49pm

    this is so lovely, so touching. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:48pm

      Thank you Judy Reply

  • Paul H.
    December 20, 2020 1:51pm

    Thanks for that great post. I’m especially impressed at all you have accomplished, especially with three children. We live in a suburb north of New York City and have been trying to be as careful as possible. Our daughter has been just as careful and will come up from Arlington, Virginia for the holidays (luckily, she can telework). But that will be it for gatherings for us, although we will celebrate Christmas, and the end of this bizarre year. All the best in 2021. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:49pm

      Hope you have a wonderful time and all the best to you and your family in 2021 Reply

  • STEPHANIE HANSON
    December 20, 2020 1:53pm

    Simply a lovely post. Thank you for sharing your Christms traditions with not only your family, but with the rest of us as well. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:50pm

      Thank you Stephanie Reply

  • Lucy Burdette
    December 20, 2020 1:58pm

    thank you Emily. You have such a warm spirit, it helps the rest of us feel less glum. May the new year bring every bit of family and friend time that you’ve missed! Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:50pm

      Thanks Lucy and hope 2021 brings wonderful times for you as well. Reply

  • eileen
    December 20, 2020 3:12pm

    Thank you David for giving Emily an opportunity to post on your blog! I enjoyed reading it and I now have your daughter’s fave cheese on my list. That cheese is beautiful! Just a lovely post! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to both of you and all of your readers. 2021 here we come. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 8:51pm

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Eileen and enjoy the cheese! Reply

  • Fran
    December 20, 2020 5:23pm

    Dear Emily, I so enjoyed your post. I lost my husband in January 2020 and am finding it difficult to celebrate one of my favorite holidays. Your wonderful post has put a spark back in the season. I will be spending my Sunday here in the California coast decorating my mantle. and putting the family angel on top of my Christmas tree. Our traditional Christmas day dinner consists of enchiladas (a recipe my Grandmother got from her Native Indian neighbor in the 1940’s) and chili rellenos. In the best of times, both my husband’s and my adult children with their families would be seated around the table. Presents were exchanged after dinner and we would all join in popping our Christmas crackers and wearing our paper crowns. Of course with the lockdown in California, this year will be much different. Thank you once again for your wonderful post. Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years! Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 9:05pm

      Dear Fran, I am so sorry to hear but thrilled that the post gave you a spark of joy in this difficult year. Christmas crackers are a part of our day too and everyone has to wear their paper crown. What a great Christmas menu!
      Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I hope you can see your family again very soon for happier times. Reply

    • Susan Hill
      December 20, 2020 9:28pm

      I’m sorry about the death of your husband. I remember how hard the first Christmas was after my husband died. I hope that keeping some of the traditions around food will help. Reply

      • Fran Stewart
        December 21, 2020 2:05am

        Thank you for the kind words, Susan Reply

  • Jean
    December 20, 2020 6:53pm

    My husband and I will have quiet celebrations in Boise, Idaho. I have decorated outside a little and will put a few things out inside, too. I will have a charcuterie board for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and nice dinners for Christmas day and January first. Nice wines will accompany the meals. Reply

    • Emily Cunningham
      December 20, 2020 9:06pm

      I love outside Christmas decorations and always appreciate people who put them up. Happy holidays! Reply

  • Faye
    December 20, 2020 10:10pm

    Greetings from the Bay Area in California. Things are very grim here with COVID cases rising daily and another lockdown to endure. I usually visit Paris every year and was disappointed to miss the trip this year. Your post is like a bright light in a tunnel. Thank you for bringing a little of Paris to me when I really needed it. Reply

  • Rob
    December 21, 2020 1:42am

    My grandmother used to make Apple Dumplings – haven’t thought about them in years, but they were a real favourite when I was a child. I remember a friend asking her for the recipe as he wanted to make them & take them to work for lunch, so as to impress his workmates – we thought that was the craziest thing….! Reply

    • Rob
      December 21, 2020 1:43am

      Thanks for the memories : ) Reply

  • nins
    December 22, 2020 12:43am

    I just wanted to say thank you for a fantastically uplifting post. Joyeux Noël! Reply

  • Barbara
    December 22, 2020 9:22pm

    I’ve been lacking in holiday cheer, and this is such a lovely reminder to do *something,* even if it’s not what you originally planned or hoped for. My tradition is to make chocolate-covered almond toffee & limoncello to give as gifts, & that’s still happening. Now I’m thinking some smoked salmon w/creme fraiche on toast could be a *very* nice Christmas Eve supper, with champagne. I appreciate the inspiration! Reply

  • DD
    December 28, 2020 4:35am

    Joyeux Noel to the real Emily in Paris…

    Enjoyed reading about your Christmas traditions which sound delightful!
    I shall try the dumpling recipe.. our traditional sweet is a delicious orange & custard tart that my mother made each Christmas. Let me know if you would like the recipe!

    From the real Donna in Brisbane Australia Reply

  • Smith
    April 6, 2021 4:26pm

    Hello,
    I didn’t know my life goal was to have a Christmas in France. It sounds amazing! I also have three small children, and I’m in awe of the amount of cooking you’re going to tackle. We’re taking every opportunity to look at Christmas lights, and I’m baking tons of cookies. Reply

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