Today's post was written by Concordia Chaplain Rev. Patrick Runk. Concordia's Chaplaincy Department actively contributes to our residents' well being, especially around this time of year. Enjoy!
As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, let us reflect upon the enjoyment of this holiday season in another part of the world.
In the southern part of France, amidst the countryside of wine vineyards, small towns with their bakeries and family owned clothing shops, the gray December days of winter become magically transformed by beautiful colors as Christmas approaches. Homes with roofs covered in snow, snowmen in the yards.... it's roads and shops decorated with bright colors and sparkling lights....it's the hot chestnut seller in the streets....it's the inside of houses decorated with bright colors, holly, ivy, Christmas trees, garlands, candles... it's a nice fire in the hearth, lots of gaily, colored presents under the Christmas tree, and a table laden with lots of lovely things to eat...!
The towns in southern France burst into color with lights and decorated Christmas trees before that special day in December. Schools are decorated and have Christmas events for their students and parents to enjoy together.
In each town, residents contribute to the decorations of the town streets to provide a festive atmosphere. These are handmade decorations of stars, snow flakes, candles, crowns, holiday symbols and messages, and the hanging of multicolored lights. By day, you don't see a lot, but when it's twilight, the streets and towns light up and come to life.
All of a sudden, the town changes, hundreds of lights envelop its streets. Even the bare branches of the trees are decorated with lights of all sorts of colors! Shop windows are transformed where each shop presents a Christmas theme featuring its products and decorations. Little shops decorate their windows (vitrines) in a simple way.
Sometimes towns and villages hold competitions to choose the best decorated shop window. There are miniature scenes of snowy forests, frozen lakes with ice skaters; snowy mountains with skiers; the Three Kings traveling to Bethlehem; the manger with Baby Jesus. Even the owners of houses do their part towards the Christmas decorations. For example, folks have a tradition of constructing window boxes, outside of their windows, over time, consisting of full, brightly colored flowers and geraniums which trail from one window to another and from floor to floor during the summer months.
At Christmas, the flowers are replaced with branches, and colored lights, baubles, garlands and other decorations. Inside their homes, the children put their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts and candies, toys, to be found when they awake on Christmas morning. Families have a tradition of placing nativity scenes on low, constructed French armoires, in their living or dining rooms, consisting of small, clay figurines called 'santons' or 'little saints.' These figures are made by the local craftsmen where the 'santons' are made from a clay mold and hand painted.
On the twelfth day of December, there is a custom in French families to bake a Three Kings Cake where the chef places a bean inside of the cake while it is baking. As families enjoy this wonderful dessert together, later in the evening, the who finds the bean in their slice of the cake is considered the King or Queen for the day. On Christmas Eve, dinner starts after the midnight mass called "reveillon" which means Midnight supper. The menu for the feast depends on varied, culinary traditions based also on location of where you reside in France.
In a town called Alsaec, it's goose or duck liver, in Burgundy it's turkey with chestnuts; other locations might serve oyster with pat de foie gras. Other dishes served are smoked salmon, ham, lobster, salads and much more. For the desserts they have cheese, cakes of different flavors, 'La Buche de No