Saturday, January 14, 2017

Who wins at Christmas?

After my first Christmas abroad, I couldn't resist. Because competition is what Christmas is all about, right??

Decorations/lights in cities: better in France

I'm so impressed by how ALL OUT cities in France go with the Christmas lights. Of course big cities like Paris look amazing, and Strasbourg, which is famous for Christmas celebrations, is a winter wonderland... but even small towns make an effort. There are pretty lights in big cities in America, but the smaller cities around where I live don't do much of anything.

Lights in David's hometown.

Paris and Strasbourg.

Decorations/lights on houses: better in America
Even though lights in French cities are elaborate, most people don't do much to decorate their own houses. *Insert socialism joke about letting the French government do everything for you here.* If you drive through a residential neighborhood in France during the Christmas season, you're probably not going to see anything special. This is partly because so many people live in apartments. 

Last year for David's first American Christmas, we drove around Candy Cane Lane in Milwaukee; a neighborhood famous for their cute lights.

This was the only light display put up by an individual that I saw in Mandelieu.

My ideal world, of course, would be to combine the French city lights and the American house lights and just go crazy.

Christmas markets: FRANCE
Hands down my favorite thing about the Christmas season in France!!! Even if you just window shop and don't buy anything... it's still so much fun to walk around and soak up the ambience. There's hot chocolate, other tempting treats to indulge in, Christmas music playing, people watching, dogs in sweaters watching, and shopping. Most Christmas markets I've been to are mostly handmade gifts, Christmas decorations and ornaments, and food/drinks.

I hope someday this catches on more in America. I've started to see a few little markets popping up here and there. I don't know if it can ever happen in Wisconsin, though. It's pretty typical to have single digits around Christmastime (and that's in Fahrenheit, people). Not exactly strolling through outdoor markets weather.

Christmas food: America
Well, considering foie gras (goose/duck liver) is a major Christmas specialty in France, America wins this competition by default. I almost gagged just walking by the foie gras display in the grocery store.

Americans (in my experience) usually have ham or turkey for the main course on Christmas, along with at least some of the typical Thanksgiving-ish side dishes. I lucked out this year because David cooked a whole American-style dinner on Christmas day. No foie gras for us :)

Also, we have Christmas cookies. Soft cookies don't exist in France. Only hard, ouch that hurts my teeth cookies. I mean, if it has chocolate I'll probably still eat it, but it's not quite the same.

Christmas chocolate: France
I was in heaven when the holiday chocolate displays went up in our grocery store. There were rows and rows and rows of delicious and pretty chocolate boxes. The fact that I only bought one small one for myself is one of my proudest accomplishments of 2016.

Christmas music: America
At EVERY Christmas market and shopping mall I went to in France during the holiday season, they were playing American Christmas music. I personally think several Christmas songs sound pretty in French (I like Oh Holy Night, originally called Minuit Chr├ętiens)... but I guess the French themselves prefer American Christmas classics, so I have no choice but to give this prize to my countrymen. This is kind of a rule in general too. I always hear a lot more American music in France than French music. Probably has something to do with the fact that there's just so much more American music out there.

All in all, the holiday season is pretty fun in both places. It's Christmas, what's not to like (besides foie gras, obviously). I still think there's no place like home for the holidays, but I'm sure I'll enjoy spending future Christmases in France with my markets and chocolate.

Still counting my blessings that I didn't end up with in-laws from some boring state instead.

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