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Lesson Transcript

Sam: Santa, Père Noël, Saint Nicolas “He’ll Still Find You in France!” Of course, the focus is about Christmas in France. Right, Céline?
Céline: Tout à fait, Sam. Bonjour.
Sam: Bonjour. How are you?
Céline: I am fine and you know why?
Sam: Because it’s…
Céline: Christmas.
Sam: Oh yeah it’s Christmas time.
Céline: Eh oui, it’s cold, hein!
Sam: Did you get me a present?
Céline: Of course I did. I mean: Le Père Noël did, not me.
Sam: Oh I got you. So you are going to be telling us about Christmas in France today?
Céline: Tout à fait!
Sam: Okay shall we start?

Lesson focus

Céline: Allez c’est parti!
Sam: Let’s go.
Céline: So first I have to tell you that there is a legend in France. There is a man called Saint Nicolas.
Sam: Saint Nicholas?
Céline: Yes. He goes around the houses like Santa Claus but he is not alone. He is with: Le Père Fouettard.
Sam: Le Père Fouettard?
Céline: So “Le Père Fouettard” is the man who spanks the kids.
Sam: Oh kind of like a principal.
Céline: Exactly but you have this in English.
Sam: Ah like the boogeyman!
Céline: Like the boogeyman so Saint Nicolas and Le Père Fouettard are going around the houses and check if the kids were good or not.
Sam: Uh so I am guessing if they were good, they get a visit from Saint Nicolas.
Céline: Yes and Saint Nicolas is December 6th. So before Christmas.
Sam: It’s like a pre-Christmas check.
Céline: Exactement. And then comes Santa Claus but before I had to tell you that from December in France, everybody is very excited.
Sam: Why?
Céline: We are excited because the first Sunday of “l’avent” we have to prepare “la crèche”.
Sam: The nativity scene.
Céline: Yes so in France, the nativity scene has a special place in the house.
Sam: Which is?
Céline: In my house, we usually put it next to the Christmas tree.
Sam: Oh interesting.
Céline: Yeah but in the living room or... it has to be shown.
Sam: Okay.
Céline: So you do that the first Sunday of December.
Sam: Okay.
Céline: In the nativity scene, you have: les santons.
Sam: Which is:
Céline: Which is: Jésus.
Sam: Jesus.
Céline: Marie.
Sam: Mary.
Céline: Joseph.
Sam: Joseph.
Céline: Et les rois mages.
Sam: And the three kings.
Céline: Then after “la crèche” you have to put up the Christmas tree: Le sapin de Noël!
Sam: Ah about Christmas trees in France, is it popular to have a real tree or the people use plastic trees or….
Céline: Real trees are very popular but they kind of messy right?
Sam: Yeah and I am guessing expensive too.
Céline: Yes it is. My tree is white.
Sam: It is white.
Céline: And really big.
Sam: Is it real?
Céline: No it’s not.
Sam: Is it plastic?
Céline: It’s a plastic one, I am sorry.
Sam: That’s okay.
Céline: Yes okay, so this is at home. On the street, we decorate every – every building.
Sam: Wow! with red and green decorations?
Céline: Yes and lights of course.
Sam: Uh wow sounds great.
Céline: But red is a color of Christmas, thanks to you Americans and Coca Cola and in big places, we put up a huge, huge Christmas tree.
Sam: Wow!
Céline: You don’t seem interested in Christmas in France.
Sam: No it’s interesting, I am just listening.
Céline: Umm okay so now the 24th of December.
Sam: Uh Christmas Eve.
Céline: The night.
Sam: Do you leave out milk and cookies for Santa Clause?
Céline: Yes of course.
Sam: Oreo’s?
Céline: What is Oreo’s?
Sam: You know it’s a dark cookie on the outside and creamy in the middle?
Céline: Umm no I don’t think so.
Sam: Oh chocolate chip?
Céline: No we leave bonbons.
Sam: Bon bon’s or like a snack?
Céline: Yeah like snacks. So the 24th, what do we do on the 24th, we eat a lot.
Sam: Actually I was going to ask what you eat on Christmas Eve.
Céline: Ah okay, so what do we eat on Christmas Eve? We usually eat “foie gras”.
Sam: Which is?
Céline: Which is the liver of the duck.
Sam: Duck liver, uh sounds good with Ketchup of course.
Céline: Of course not. Can’t you just stop talking about Ketchup? Okay I promise Sam, we will do a culture class about Ketch up in America.
Sam: Okay.
Céline: I mean sorry, United States.
Sam: Okay.
Céline: So – and oysters.
Sam: Uh! How do you eat the oysters, fried or raw or…
Céline: Oh no, no raw oysters.
Sam: Oh wow!
Céline: Yeah but it depends on the families. Some families eat “la dinde”.
Sam: Turkey, oh wow like in America.
Céline: Yeah, yeah but some French people do. Now it’s like old fashion, we don’t do that anymore.
Sam: You deep fry it?
Céline: Oh we never. Come on, it’s a Christmas dinner.
Sam: You can deep fry turkey well?
Céline: No uff, so but usually we eat “foie gras” and beak poultry.
Sam: Turkey?
Céline: Not Turkey, poultry.
Sam: Chicken?
Céline: No, not chicken. Chicken is for everyday. For Christmas, people spend money on food.
Sam: Oh okay because this is a special day.
Céline: Because this is a special day.
Sam: You want to eat nicer food.
Céline: Yes.
Sam: Umm…
Céline: Nicer food but we eat nice food every day so….
Sam: Oh like America, sounds great.
Céline: Yes okay Sam, so but it depends on the family. For example, you can also eat seafood.
Sam: Like a shrimp...
Céline: Yeah like shrimp, like scallops, langouste.
Sam: Langouste? Lobster?
Céline: Lobster!
Sam: Oh okay.
Céline: And of course drink a lot.
Sam: Umm…
Céline: So usually the French, they eat dinner like 9, yeah 9 PM and then after that, they go to Mass.
Sam: Okay.
Céline: In my case, I don’t go to mass. We stay home and we enjoy with family because we start eating like 10 or 11 PM. So we don’t have time for mass.
Sam: Okay.
Céline: We pray at home.
Sam: Okay.
Céline: And also I think it’s really famous: la bûche de Noël.
Sam: La bûche de Noël, that’s like – I’ve heard of that before. La bûche de Noël is like a...
Céline: It’s like a bûche, a log...
Sam: It’s like cake or a roll?
Céline: Yeah it’s a roll like but a “bûche” it’s a log.
Sam: It’s kind of like a roll. A bûche is usually a log but I think maybe what you described is kind of like a roll cake or something.
Céline: No, no, no….it’s a log because it refers to Jesus Christ.
Sam: Ah!
Céline: So it’s a log, it’s not a rolled cake Sam.
Sam: Oh Céline, I was just giving a more of a literal kind of loose translation but tell us more about the bûche de Noël.
Céline: So la bûche de Noël represents Jesus Christ on the cross.
Sam: Oh!
Céline: Okay and this dessert is very simple and that too it’s rolled. You can have it with chocolate, with many, many flavors. My favorite is: Grand Marnier.
Sam: Grand Marnier?
Céline: Umm you know, the Grand Marnier is alcohol.
Sam: Ah!
Céline: It’s really good. You should try this.
Sam: Umm…
Céline: This year, tomorrow.
Sam: Tomorrow umm, can you make it?
Céline: Non. No, no, no…..We usually buy at the “pâtisserie”.
Sam: The pâtisserie.
Céline: Yes…
Sam: So that leads me to my next question. Christmas in France, does it have a religious undertone or is it more commercial or is it kind of both or…
Céline: I think it’s both but in my opinion and I think it’s the opinion of many, many French, it’s really commercial but everybody says that but everybody celebrates Christmas and we have to buy some presents.
Sam: Hmm…So there is some sort of commercial element to it.
Céline: Yeah.
Sam: Umm….
Céline: So everybody receives presents. So the kids from Santa Claus “le père Noël” and adults exchange presents.
Sam: Oh interesting.
Céline: Yes so Santa Claus comes at night.
Sam: Do you have to be asleep before he comes.
Céline: Of course but sometimes you will sit awake and Santa Claus comes to your house and you can see him.
Sam: Eating the milk and cookies, great.
Céline: Yes but usually it’s your neighbor or something.
Sam: So Céline for Christmas, do you invite family, friends, neighbors, who do you invite to your house?
Céline: Usually it’s between a family.
Sam: Immediate family or extended family?
Céline: It depends, it depends on the relationship.
Sam: So if you don’t like your extended family, you don’t invite them.
Céline: Of course not, not for Christmas.
Sam: But it’s still a nice gesture maybe.
Céline: Umm yeah.
Sam: But if you can’t be bothered by having one.
Céline: Yes.
Sam: If you can’t be bothered cooking extra food.
Céline: Exactly but you know and that’s really a superstition in France. 13 at the table, cannot be…
Sam: Bad luck.
Céline: So never 13 at the table. It’s really bad luck.
Sam: Okay. Since Christmas is the time of giving, in France, is it popular to have like soup kitchens and pass out meals to homeless or help the underprivileged especially during the summer here?
Céline: Of course, in winter, we have: les restaurants du coeur.
Sam: Restaurants of the heart.
Céline: Yes.
Sam: Kind of like the soup kitchen?
Céline: Something like that. People, they offer meals too.
Sam: And maybe volunteers come to help serve and…
Céline: Of course.
Sam: Give some words of encouragement to…
Céline: Of course, yeah that’s why I mean for me, Christmas is really sad.
Sam: I understand where you are coming from because so many people have a lot and then there is someone who don’t have so much so it seems kind of unfair.
Céline: Yeah and you are at the table, you are enjoying like really great food, la langouste, foie gras, Champagne and…
Sam: Yeah and someone else is struggling just to….you know…
Céline: Yeah just – so I don’t know, yeah. So yeah but in France, the symbols of Christmas are: La couronne de l’avent.
Sam: Oh you mean the crown of Thorns.
Céline: Yes on the table, on the door and “les guirlandes”.
Sam: Like tinsel or trimming?
Céline: Voilà. Et les guirlandes.
Sam: Uh!
Céline: And on the top of the tree, we put like a star or something, an angel yeah. No the angel is me.
Sam: Oh!
Céline: You know, in Provence, in Southern France...
Sam: Yes.
Céline: There is something really interesting. It’s called the 13 desserts.
Sam: Okay tell us more about it?
Céline: So the 13 as the last supper.
Sam: Okay.
Céline: So we – the 13 desserts are: Raisins secs.
Sam: Dry raisins.
Céline: Figues sèches.
Sam: Dry figs.
Céline: Amandes et noix.
Sam: Black almonds.
Céline: Prunes de Brignoles.
Sam: Prunes of Brignoles.
Céline: Poires d’hiver et pommes.
Sam: Winter pears and apples.
Céline: And we have many more. I am not going to tell you all the 13 but you can check on the PDF. You have the list of the 13 desserts.
Sam: Uh sounds good.


Céline: Yes. For more information about Christmas, you can check the PDF.
Sam: Sounds good. So we would like to wish all of our listeners out there happy holidays and happy new years. Until the next time.
Céline: Joyeux Noël!
Sam: Bye bye.