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Blending Franco-American Traditions in 2013 and Beyond

January 10, 2013
Christmas tree or hannukah bush? Unclear

Christmas tree or hannukah bush? Unclear

I’m a bit late to the reflecting and resolving that happens this time of year and I really prefer to avoid trying to dissect the successes and failures of the closing year. But a recent conversation with Frenchie had me thinking about the future, and I suppose a new year is as good a time as any for that.

Frenchie and I have spent the last few Christmases with my family on Long Island, and we’re just back from another trip. It’s a simple affair comprised of family, food and a little too much wine-fueled fun. But it’s distinctly ours, and we fiercely defend our traditions, from the hodgepodge of toddler-made ornaments on our tree and cheesy Disney-themed stockings, to the seafood-heavy meal and Italian fried appetizers.

Just as Hanukkah and Christmas traditions have fused in my childhood home (the result being a clearly conflicted tree), I imagine that our future Franco-American household will be host to an amalgamation of French and American traditions. On most issues I can easily imagine a middle path. Foie gras and shrimp scampi on the menu followed by a buche de noel? Why not?

But this year, a discussion with our cousins revealed a tradition clash that might not be so easy to negotiate. Preparing themselves for a sleepless night, they anticipated that the pitter-patter of their 7 and 9 year old girls would commence as early as 4 am, as they routinely checked if Santa had arrived and begged their parents to let the present-opening begin.

Frenchie shared that at his home in southeast France, Santa visited at midnight while the children were kept in a separate room until Santa had left and they were free to open their presents, thereby eliminating the early morning Christmas rousing.

I can’t even fathom the challenge of sending little ones to bed after they’ve gained access to their bounty of toys. But the discussion revealed Frenchie’s steadfast determination that this tradition be carried on in his own household, asserting that he had no desire to awake at the crack of dawn and that parents made the rules (channeling Bringing Up Bébé, maybe?). Any pitter-patter of little feet in our home is a long way off, but it got me thinking about how challenging it might be to find common ground when it comes to traditions we can’t bear to part with. Can we really mash all of our beloved holiday rituals into a Franco-American hybrid?

I’m sure we’ll meet somewhere in the middle on this as we’ve done on all other things, and as countless couples have done before us. As 2013 kicks off, this conversation reminded me not only of the hurdles we’ve already conquered, but also what lies ahead to navigate. Since it’s too early to plan for conflicting parenting styles, I’m setting just a few resolutions for my hybrid life this year.

  1. Read in French – I’ve been switching to English way too often when I’m thwarted by an elusive word and it’s time to find a way to refresh my vocab. I’m challenging myself to read three pieces of French lit this year. Any book recommendations?
  2. Connect with the community – The best place to find France in a new city? With the French expats, bien sur. We’ll be making a concerted effort to tap into the French scene here in Chicago. Of course, the French are notoriously hard to make friends with, so we’ll see how well we do.
  3. Reflect more often – I set out to use this blog not only to find French culture wherever I am, but also to be an outlet for thinking about how straddling two languages and cultures has enriched life, created unexpected experiences or presented unique challenges.

Not lofty, but certainly achievable.  Hope 2013 is off to a great start for everyone. In the meantime, I’m starting a new tradition for our life in Chicago – an annual raclette party (assuming I can find a converter for my appareil). Bring on the cheese!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2013 11:14 am

    Happy New Year!
    I have a few recommendations for your “Read in French” resolutions:
    – To start easely, I recommend Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt who is easy to read. Especially Oscar et la Dame Rose and Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran.
    – La carte et le territoire de Michel Houellebecq. Prix Goncourt de 2010. It’s a longer book but not too complicated to read.
    – Yasmina Khadra is also a very interesting author. I recommend L’attentat which is an hallucinating novel about religious conflict in Israel. And also Les hirondelles de Kaboul.
    – Une éducation libertine de Jean-Baptiste Del Amo. Une plongée dans le Paris du 18eme siecle, fascinant. Mais peut-être un peu compliqué, je conseille de commencer par plus simple.
    I hope you’ll have a great time reading French books!

    • January 15, 2013 12:47 pm

      Thank you Eugenie – this is amazing! I’m always so lost trying to find good, but accessible French books. Can’t wait to get my hands on these and will let you know how it goes. Bonne annee a toi aussi!

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