It is Christmastime in Paris. How do I know this? My local farmer’s market on the Boulevard Raspail is filled with fishermen shucking sea salty oysters, butchers hawking creamy foie gras, and bakers selling the tiniest of toasts baked and cut specifically for Christmas party canapés. Pastry shops across the city have begun taking orders for their infamous “bûche de Noël”, a rich, chocolaty confection enjoyed by all of France on the 25th of December. The smell of pine wafts through the air—fancy flower shops and my local Franprix alike have begun selling the pointy green trees. Fairy lights have been hung across small side streets, casting warm glows onto the beige Haussmanian buildings. At night—if one is feeling particularly nosy—one can peek into apartment windows and see the majesty of beautifully decorated Christmas trees, proudly on display. It is a magical time of the year, with Parisians young and old bustling about in preparation for the big days ahead. Even despite the grève, the citizens of Paris seem to have banded together in solidarity and have taken to walking everywhere, Christmas presents in tow.
I have always loved this time of year, as it serves as a reminder to share our gratefulness and fortune with both loved ones and strangers. The spark of excitement that whirls through the air is infectious and it seems that no matter what kind of day you’ve had, it always stands to get a little bit better. Even in the midst of a very, very busy finals week, I have found myself taking the time to appreciate the sights, smells, and tastes (!) of a pre-Christmas Paris, embracing the cheerful niceties of the season. However, once the semester has finished, I myself will join the masses in the Christmas rush and attempt to purchase a small pine tree to adorn the window in my small apartment (here’s hoping it fits!). I will order my bûche de Noël and stock up on tiny toasts—with or without the appropriate accompanying canapé topping. And, perhaps most importantly, I will take the time to properly reflect on just how grateful I am to have been able to spend the past five months in Paris, studying at Reid Hall and the Sorbonne, making new friends from around the world, and calling the beautiful city of Paris home. Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays!
Texte et image Antonia Bentel - Barnard College