Friday, January 6, 2012

Joyeux Noel!

   Every year, prior to this year, I saw a perfectly artificial, tall and fat Christmas tree, colorfully lit up in the house across the street every time I looked out my window throughout the month of December. In my own home, we’ve always had real trees but I’ve always liked that my friend could keep hers up all month and use heavy ornaments that don’t risk breaking the branches. 
Part of what’s so cool about being an exchange student is living the way another family does and getting to do things in a new way. In this case, I got the fake Christmas tree that I always found so fascinating. 
   Yeah, yeah, I know, having a fake Christmas tree instead of a real one isn’t exactly a drastic change, though I find it significant and representative of the different kind of Christmas that I experienced this year.
   We put up the Christmas tree, more out of tradition than actual need as we were leaving the next day for a week in Paris and spent Christmas at my host mom’s sister’s house in Versailles. Trees here are a lot smaller than what we use back home but other than that the custom of Christmas trees and decorating is pretty similar to those in the U.S.
Me and my host sister setting up the branches!

Putting on the finishing touches
   And so is the present opening ritual, from 8 to 10 on Christmas morning, wrapping paper was being violently torn up and thrown everywhere as everyone opened there gifts at once.
My parents had sent a big box of presents for everyone in my host family and for me (THANK YOU) and the same friend whose Christmas tree has always been the first sign of the holiday on my street sent me a whole season of one of my favorite TV shows, Modern Family! (warning to any prospective AFS student, sites like hulu and Pandora for streaming music and TV shows don’t work outside of the U.S!)

   After some time, everyone's appetite for gifts had been satisfied, but not so much for food; my cue to go pick up the bread and food orders from the bakery, with my host cousin. We walked the dog down the street and joined the line of people who had come to pick up their oders of buches de noel.
   We walked home with our arms full and then watched a few episodes of Modern Family (with French subtitles for my host sister) before we were called down for lunch. Well… lunchtime turned into dinner time and no one had left the table. We ate and ate and ate some more. My host uncle is actually British so along with all the traditional French food, I got to try English food too! (ie, Christmas cake, that had been made three months in advance). See how well traveled and experienced AFS makes you?

   Later in the day I skyped with my family back home to wish them a merry Christmas and thank them for their gifts.
   Although I was advised not to skype my family during the holiday and warned by multiple people, on multiple occasions that this would be a very hard time for me to be away from my family, I didn't hesitate to click the phone button. I felt so content with my holiday and host-family that I went with my instinct, which was telling me that seeing my familie's faces wouldn't do any harm. And I have no regrets. I would have felt weird not having seen them on Christmas and it was really great to have everyone together in one room, where as I normally have to send a mass e-mail to seven different e-mail addresses just to share something with all the people I love.
   I didn't shed a tear on Christmas but instead enjoyed every moment of the most wonderful time of the year, in the most beautiful country in the world.


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