And any day now the pavements of French towns and villages will start being blocked by Christmas trees. It’s a lovely festive touch but rather pedestrian-unfriendly as you have to step out into the road to navigate round them! I moan about it every year, I know, but I’d miss the trees if they weren’t there.

It’s very nearly time to put the tree up. We have an artificial one – into its seventh year now. We always had real ones in Ireland. It was a big part of the Christmas celebrations to head off as a family to the Christmas Tree Man at his farm and choose one that seemed to grow on the way home and was often too tall by the time we arrived. I loved the smell of the pine trees but they never lasted very well. Maybe we got our too early, always the first weekend in December.

But which is the best sort of tree to have carbon footprint wise? According to Ruadhri’s newspaper, Mon Quotidien, it’s natural trees and France produces 80% of its own. The paper further says you should go to your nearest Christmas tree seller and ask to buy a local tree, so saving as much fossil fuel as possible in both your journey and the one the tree took. Obviously the trees are helping to fight against global warming while they’re growing and they’ll biodegrade once they’re finished with. However, there’s still a carbon footprint so long-serving artificial tree (3 years plus) works out to be on a par. I think we’ll stick with our tinsel tree for a while yet. It does the job nicely plus we’re a bit short on space and real trees tend to be quite wide and sprawly.

On the subject of trees, do go and vote in the ‘nicest tree in France competition’. The website is here.

The current winning tree

The contest, in its third year now, is organised by Terre Sauvage magazine and the Office national des forêts. You need to vote before 1st June 2013. So OK, there’s no rush but vote now before you forget. Go to the website and vote for your favourite of the 23, one for each région of France, that have  been selected by the jury. Trees are selected for their beauty and form but also for their history and the relationship locals have with them. In 2011 the winner was the Giraffe tree in Finisterre and this year it was a pistachio tree in Haute-Corse. At the moment, this fagus from Nord pas de Calais is in a runaway lead.

I shall try and remember to submit some photos for next year’s competition. We have some wonderful old trees around here and it has to be said the Limousin’s entry this year isn’t massively impressive, but being partisan, I voted for it anyway!