Christmas in France, as in the Philippines, is about family. Christmas trees can also be seen in French homes, as well as in shops and public places. Beautiful ornaments, real poinsettias, and blinking lights become a common sight during Christmas in France. While carolers and Christmas songs 24/7 (besides starting in September) can add up to a signature Filipino Christmas, France has its own special ritual in the form of a traditional French Christmas feast.
Christmas feast in France, in the Lacroix household in Montagnat specifically, starts on the evening of December 24th with a fresh serving of oysters in vinaigre sauce or freshly squeezed lemon juice, accompanied by slices of pain du seigle (rye bread) with butter, and a glass of Champagne. After a soft sip, I highly recommend a pause to smell the spirit of Christmas gently wafting in the winter air. Exchange gifts happens the morning after and the family lunch that follows can extend until dinner time. I was charmed by the ceremonious feast that I volunteered to do the decor and table set-up the following Christmas.
Christmas reminds me of gold and glitter, something I see a lot in Philippines during Christmas, which I hardly see in French decorations. It was a great opportunity for me to deal with my homesickness so I decided to give the decor a golden touch. Instead of toning it down (Filipino Christmas decors are never toned down, please), I put the glitz above the dining table, the only place where it can be noticed but not be constantly seen by subtle-comfortable French eyes. I placed glitter-covered plastic leaves in the brass lamp, and the hanging strips of golden paper completed my Filipino Christmas-inspired theme.
Watch what happens next.
The French eats in course menu. The meal starts with apéro, which involves a nice drink of high alcohol content taken in small quantity and slowly. I notice it warms people up, which creates a relaxed dining atmosphere.
There’s a long list of apéro drinks (pastis, pinot noir, Alsace white wine, fruit-flavored rhum from Martinique, and those treats from Mâcon are some of my favorites) but for special occasions, Champagne is the only drink of choice. Did you know that Champagne is a region in France and it can only be called a Champagne if it was produced in this region? Otherwise, it has to be called by another name like brut or bubbly wine.
Apéro is short for aperitif or starter or appetizer. We call it pika-pika in Filipino and it does include finger foods, French style.
The description just got started, and I already need wine!