Monday, 23 December 2013

Joyeux Noel!

At the beginning of December it looked as if we would be back in England for Christmas. We started looking forward to mince pies, Christmas pudding and seeing friends and family. The engine and the weather however, had other plans.

This is our first Christmas in France. We will be introducing some French traditions in addition to enjoying many British things.

Christmas markets are very popular. The one in Brest is very pleasant to stroll round. With the usual wooden shacks the area is decorated with twinkly lights, giant furniture and there is an all pervading aroma of ginger and hot wine.

Advent stockings slowly telling the Christmas story.
Lighting up trees in the towns and burning logs are part of the traditional French Christmas. In years past, a log would be set on the fire on Christmas Eve to burn for a few days. The remaining shards would be collected and kept safe through the year or nailed to the family plough to bring luck. This is represented now in the tradition of a chocolate log as dessert and possibly has it’s roots in Pagan ceremonies. A decorated tree in the house is less likely to be found, the Manger complete with Santons (little Saints or nativity figures) traditionally makes the centrepiece of decorations.

We have decorated the boat with our collection of baubles hanging in the cockpit. We try and find something new to add to them every year . Our tiny tree is on the coffee table this year the youngest deckhand made us a  new, and very glittery, star for the top. The advent stockings hang across the saloon slowly revealing the Christmas story day by day. There is also tinsel. Lots of tinsel. We have been fortunate to receive some real cards which have been strung up, reminding us of family at home and new friends we have met.
A few of our Christmas baubles decorating the cockpit.

We got some solar powered LED lights this year which were hoisted up the mast along with our Santa. Suffering from light envy, our neighbours went shopping and found some pretty lights. Then the bug spread and there are now several sets of lights illuminating masts around the marina which looks very pretty and festive each evening.

Lights in the marina.

In France many families will attend the Midnight Mass. Many then go home to enjoy their feast (le réveillon or ‘wake up’ meal) which will be very large and involve all the family. The meal will vary from region to region but is likely to involve speciality wines. In Brittany, buckwheat cakes with sour cream and crepes may well be on the menu. Special extra seafood sections have been set up in the supermarket with salmon, oysters, leg-waving crabs and langoustine amongst many others. Apparently French A&E departments can get busy with people injured whilst shucking oysters on Christmas Eve!
A visit from the jolly man in the red suit will be longed for by many children and our ‘Santa please stop here’ flag will be hoisted on the port spreader. Whilst the French children will leave out their shoes, our deckhands will be putting their stockings on the end of the bed. We will have to wait and see if Papa Noel leaves sweets on our tree…..

Papa Noel climbing the rigging.

 From all the crew of Tarquilla - we wish you a
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
To see what we got up to for Christmas last year in Spain click here:

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