Oh boy, it’s the Christmas season. The ads on telly began a week or so back. When we were in Limoges at half term collecting Benj, the Christmas lights were being put up. Gueret and Boussac have theirs in place now, and so does Nouzerines, but only because the glowing light tube on the church stays up there all year!

The first of the Christmas catalogues

The Noël catalogues are arriving too. Ruadhri has made his choices from them by circling roughly half the items! We’ve tactfully suggested he makes a list for Santa to choose from.

I’ve been going ‘bah’ and ‘humbug’, grumbling because it seems far too early to think Christmas yet, but yesterday, with time to kill in Gueret post haircut (one of my twice-yearly treats!) and pre collecting Caiti from lycée, I bought cheap festive wrapping paper from Carrefour, and a few pressies from Gifi. Yep, I’m a hypocrite.

Actually, it is exactly the right time to be doing the Christmas shopping. Ideally I’ll have all the parcels deposited into La Poste’s trusty hands by the end of this month. I’m usually very late sending my parcels and the postal service in every country tends to fall apart after mid-December. A couple of my packages last year didn’t turn up at their destinations until late January. Whoops.

Time to do the Christmas cooking too. It’s not easy making Christmas cake and Christmas puddings in France. The essential ingredients just aren’t available. I used to ask visitors to bring packets of suet and muscovado and pots of black treacle with them, but I don’t bother any more. I use the nearest French approximations I can find. The end results seem to taste equally as nice.

Festive occasions are where being an ex-pat has its bonus. You get multiple celebrations. In our case, we have three sets since we’ve brought Irish traditions with us too, as well as our native English ones and our newly acquired French customs. At Christmas we have English Christmas cake, Irish layer cake and French bûche Noël. We observe Boxing Day as a special day, whereas the French don’t. We have an Irish knees-up at Halloween and an English celebration on Bonfire Night. We get Irish St Patrick’s Day and French Bastille Day. We get three cultures’ worth of festivities! Pas mal.

Returning to Noël, the one thing that I do miss are boxes of Christmas cards. You know, the big, cheap boxes you get from supermarkets or charities of frankly rather naff cards? Certainly when I was little, everyone bought them. At school you could tell what someone really thought of you from what card they gave you. If you got the ghastly Victorian-esque scene of carol singers or the bauble on the Christmas tree, the two duds in every box of cards, well, you knew that friendship was doomed. France goes for tasteful, aka expensive, small packets, but is  more interested in New Year’s cards than Christmas ones. We usually  make our own. I think we’ve done llamas in the snow enough times now, so we need a new image for this year! Time to  head off with the camera …