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French Pressed: Jan. 29 edition

Submitted by Pauline Mothu on January 29, 2014 – 12:28 pmNo Comment


Pauline Mothu

The year 2013 is now over, and everybody is getting prepared for this new year by adopting new resolutions.

New Year’s Eve is considered a major social event for many Americans, and so it is for many French.

Unlike Christmas, which is supposed to be celebrated with family, New Year’s Eve is usually spent with friends around a nice dinner, at a soiree dansante (a ball), or in public places like the Champs-Élysées or under the Eiffel Tower. Moreover, it is rarely spent with the same friends or at the same place.

Despite their diversity, all New Year’s Eve celebrations have several things in common. The first one being having fun. The second one is abundance: plenty of food such as salmon and foie gras (which is goose or duck liver) and plenty of drinks, like champagne. New Year’s Eve also includes music, preferably music that has a good beat that you can dance to. The atmosphere is supposed to be colorful and accompanied with confetti, party streamers, and party hats. Some would rather spend New Year’s Eve in a more sober and elegant atmosphere, but this does not exclude a little touch of craziness.

Once it is midnight, the party stops and we wish everyone a happy new year with a kiss -either on the cheeks or lips depending on the relationship. We also try to call or text our family and friends and wish a new year filled with good health, success, and happiness.

Although fireworks used to be a tradition, it is no longer the case in many cities; and contrary to what many think, no fireworks are organized around the Eiffel Tower. However, it is tradition to make a lot of noise at midnight using car horns or firecrackers. This tradition comes from old beliefs that noise would afraid demons and evil spirits that were supposed to be more dangerous during this night.

At midnight, French -like most of Americans- announce their New Year Resolutions: losing weight, saving money, having a new hobby… and some decide to drink less alcohol after the hangover they have from New Year’s Eve.

On New Year’s Day, it is time to write cards to the ones we did not get a chance to call. However, it does not have to be done on the first day of January; the French believe that we can wish a happy new year until the last day of January.

No one knows if the President of the French Republic celebrates the New Year the same way as the French population, but he sure send his best wishes from the Élysée Palace to the French people. This happens live on TV every year at 8 p.m. on Dec. 31.

The last tradition associated with New Year is what we call le don d’étrennes. It consists of giving a little money to children, but also to the postman and the firemen who come giving calendars. It also refers to the extra money or gifts that employers give their employees.

The holiday season ends with the Epiphany on Jan. 6 when French eat the traditional galette des rois -a sort of King’s cake- in reference to the Magi’s visit to Jesus after his birth.

One interesting fact about New Year’s in France is that it has not always been on Jan. 1 . During the sixth and  seventh centuries, it was celebrated on Mar. 1, whereas in the ninth century under Charlemagne, Christmas was the first day of the year. It was then moved to the day of Easter in the tenth century, and to April 1 before the sixteenth century. Finally, it is said that Charles IX decided that Jan. 1 would be the first day of the year. It has not changed since then.

I hope you all had a good break. Happy New Year and good luck with this new semester!

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