|Photo credit : Lexpress.fr|
In my family, it used to happen this way; on Christamas day my mother wakes up my sister and I as early as 6 or 7am to start cooking even though we attended midnight. We are in the kitchen all day, sometimes we do not even have the time to have our bath. We also never get to eat at the dinning table this day and when we eat, we rush it up, not because we are hungry but because we need strength to clean up when the party is over. It's impossible to have appetite on days like this because the smell of the food fills up our nostrils and lodges in the brain, my stomach is empty but my brain tell me it's filled up.
We hardly have time talk to cousins, aunties and uncles who come for the Christmas party because we are busy serving them. I often wished that they would all just sit in their homes during Christmas so that we ourselves can relax.
It's better on the 1st of January because we go to big mummy's place (my father's elder sister) for the New Year party. The party is always as big as grand pa's rememberance which holds every 5 years. I never met this grandpa; he died before I was born.
While my mum fries chicken, cooks vegetable soup with cow legs and fresh fish stew accompanied with jollof rice, fried rice, amala and eba etc for the Christmas party, big mummy kills a whole cow. Her parties are always huge, she hires cooks who come all the way from Ibadan to do the cooking.
The party takes place in her big compound and we get to run around, taunt the dogs in their cages and fight for a sit on the swings and over how long each person has to swing. We get to drink as many bottles of coke and Maltina as we want and we get to go home with enough food to last the week.
Yes, that's what my Christmas was like growing up.
But today, married to a French man it's different, a new way of life a different culture which sometimes leaves me longing for the Christmas as a child... only my mother is dead and big mummy is too old for all thess kinds of large family parties.
In France, these parties are known as Réveillon. There are two types of réveillon.
- Réveillon de Noël, which holds on the night of 24th December
- Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre, which holds on the night of 31st December
The French say Bon Réveillon to one another from the morning of Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
The Réveillon is often a long elaborate dinner or a party which starts in the evening of Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, until after midnight. The name of this dinner comes from the word réveil which means "waking"/"waking up"/ "awakening", because the French people stay awake until midnight and beyond.
The French people often have family over for the Réveillon de Noël and friends for Réveillon du premier de l'an.
On the 24th night, the dinner could end before midnight and if it last till the 25th, there'll be shouts of « joyeux Noël » when it's 12 midnight. Some Catholiques go for midnight mass "la messe de Minuit" which holds between 6pm and 10pm. The family Christmas dinner holds thereafter. Some stay home to watch live on tv the Mass celebrated by the pope in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.
On the New Year's Eve, the French Président shares a New Year message from the Élysée palace at about 8pm to wish the French a happy new year.
The dinner or party certainly would not end before midnight because a bottle of champagne has to be opened when it's exactly 12 midnight. When everyone starts shouting "Bonne année", similar to the chorus "up nepa !" we hear when electricity returns.
Glasses clinking, kisses, hugs, laughters, dancing and sometimes, fireworks. French people often spend cross-over into the New Year with friends.
What you find on the table during a French Révellon :
On these days, dinner is luxurious. The French spend a lot to make these dinners memorable
|Frog tighs ©Super Toinette|
|Snails ©F rench Moments Blog|
|Chapon rôti ©Meilleur du Chef|
For dessert, fruit preserves, tiramisu, exotique fruit salad, and a lot of cakes such as king cake, bûche de Noël, frangipane, etc,
|Bûche de Noël ©Maratinage|
|Galette des Rois|
In the Provence southeastern France, the tradition of 13 desserts is very common. in memory of Jesus and his 12 disciples.