Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Le pere Noël

We spent the Christmas holiday in the Alps with C's brothers & sisters and their families, and I actually ended up being a bit disappointed in how un-Christmas-like it was.  They weren't into my holiday music or Christmas movies, there were few decorations besides the tree and we didn't have an all-out Christmas dinner like most French families do.  My Christmas cookies were poo-poo'ed (though they did end up liking them in the end). The whole thing just seemed more like any-old weekend than the festive holiday get-together that I was hoping for.   But I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, my in-laws are all very non-traditional and not at all into commercial celebrations.  I just thought that things would be a bit different now that there are young kids in the family...

This was our first Christmas celebrating with C's family though, and I love finding *the* perfect gift for people, so I put a lot of thought and effort into present shopping, especially for the kids.  After opening the gifts, one of our nieces was playing with a gift we gave her, and I started telling her mother where I found it and why, and she interrupted me and said "You mean where SANTA found it".  And I was like - "No, this was a present from us".  And she said "No, you mean from Santa" a little more forcefully. 

I was confused, so once the little one had left the room, I asked what that was all about, and she explained that the kids thought all of the presents had come from Santa.  I couldn't really understand why Santa had to bring every single gift - but her rational was that the kids wouldn't believe in Santa anymore if some gifts came from other people.   But it went as far that even gifts from the neighbors or from the grandparents a few days after Christmas were also from Santa, with the explanation that "Santa made a mistake and dropped them off at our house for you".  I tried to explain that made the whole Santa theory even less credible, because come on - the guy's been delivering presents for millions of kids around the world for years, and he's still making delivery errors??  But she wasn't having it.

I guess my whole problem with this theory is - why it would be so bad for the kids to thank whoever gave them the gift? Growing up, in my family, we had a few presents from Santa and the rest from family members, and we had to go around and say thank you to each person and give them a hug.  And that seems like it would be much more in line with the French obsession with politeness.  Kids are taught to do the "bise" before they can even talk, and "hello, goodbye, please and thank you" are drilled into them once they do start talking, so what's wrong with showing gratitude for a gift? 

We had a NYE party at our place last night, and one of my French friends confirmed it was the same in her family, and said again "But they wouldn't believe in Santa if we didn't do that".  So I'm curious how things are done in other French families and if it is a French tradition I just haven't come across yet?  I guess there are still things for me to learn about French culture even after 12 years here!  I'd also be curious to hear how things are done in other countries that celebrate Christmas (or other bi-cultural families in France), so please leave a comment below.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I told you this on Twitter, but J's family does the same as C's. I asked them about it this year and if it was a family thing or a French thing. They were basically like "How could it be any other way?" and gave the same sort of "reasons" that you had. And every year, we have to go to other people's houses and say "Santa left this at our home." I just don't get it.

My family was the same as yours growing up as were all of my friends' families. I never questioned if Santa existed. It seemed normal that Santa brought some presents and people gave/received from others. At my (Catholic) school, there was always a sort of Christmas sale so that we could buy small surprise gifts for our parents.


January 1, 2015 at 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and I forgot to add that I've already decided that if we have kids, they will be thanking individual people for gifts. Everything will not be coming from Santa. The others will just have to deal with that fact.


January 1, 2015 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Leesa said...

Ohhhh BROTHER! So much for intellect!!

Not knowing how old the kids are, but just the commercial thing of toys and presents being tossed around through out the season, or maybe THAT isn't done HERE and presents are uhm, only handed out by Santa on the 24th or 25th. But, WHOOOO do they think buys all the TOYS and presents from the SHOPS?

January 1, 2015 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger Canedolia said...

Understanding Frenchman's nephews and nieces get all their presents from Santa (although the oldest, who's 8, knows it's just a story now). They seem to just accept that Santa goes to our house, or granny and grandpa's to drop of the presents, and you get them when you go there. We do get thank-you too though, so it doesn't come across as them being ungrateful or anything. And I guess that by the time they're old enough to actually understand the thought that goes into buying presents, they've stopped believing in Santa anyway.

My family was the same as yours: presents in our stockings from Santa and the rest from real people. I remember kids at school who got all their presents from Santa though.

January 1, 2015 at 9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a lot of deception, though I know they don't see it that way!

I didn't grow up with Santa Claus because my parents didn't either. We knew who our gifts were from, and it was still magical.

January 2, 2015 at 5:57 AM  
Blogger Gwan said...

Ugh, that would annoy me. In my family, Santa just brought the stocking with little things like chocolate in it. The main presents were always from my parents (or other relatives). I think it helps with gratitude and also understanding that everything doesn't just magically appear. I remember one year my parents said we could get a trampoline, but it had to be a joint present with my brother and sister. In the end, we couldn't all agree, so no trampoline!

January 2, 2015 at 6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With G's youngest, they did both Santa AND other gifts and it was never a problem. Usually they spent Christmas at his sister's on the Cote d'Azur, and the "tradition" was that while the boy was in his bath, Santa would "arrive" and leave the presents! Every year the boy would try to hurry through his bath to try and catch Santa, but he never could do it. LOL I assume that with the older kids they did something similar, having gifts from both Santa and other family members. I agree with you 100% that it's better for kids to appreciate that we give gifts to each other at this holiday because we care about our loved ones - and Santa isn't the most important part of the holiday.

January 3, 2015 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Blondering Girl said...

My husband is Santa during the meal on the 24th, and he gets lots of thank you bises from the kids, who only get their presents after ensuring him they were good, lol. I had to awkwardly ask everyone after who gave what to bébé this year, but I might not next year, since part of the fun I think is the grown-ups giving without looking for thanks. It's the joy of giving!

We have a few more years to think about how we'll do it when bébé is bigger, but in my family, almost everything was from Santa, since we did the whole letter writing thing, and one or two little things from my parents that weren't on the list. But my aunt and uncle would bring their gifts over, so those were obviously from them. And my birthday presents were from people not Santa, since we tried to keep Christmas and birthday as separate as possible despite being the same day.

January 3, 2015 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger L said...

I totally get you on being disappointed with the non-Christmasy feeling. I tried to do mulled cider once with Christmas music and it was a huge flop. The Christmas meal is basically no different from the Easter meal, or the Mother's day meal or any other big family celebration.

As for presents, "Santa" knocked on the door from the garage into the living room while my nephew was getting changed into his pyjamas and then hurried away. (When hubby was a kid his parents sent him to get more firewood and when he came back all the presents were there). All the presents where from Santa, although I kind of didn't realize that when I added my present for my nephew to the pile. All the adults were winking and commenting on how nice their own gifts from Santa were (like my gift to my sister-in-law or her gift for her sister). My experience was all the weirder though because the 24th was with my sister-in-law and her parents and sister and her family is Jewish. The Jewish grandparents were all into Santa and I didn't know what to say!
On the 25th we ate with different family and I forget the excuse that was given for why there were more presents from Santa.
One of the funniest things was the comment my nephew had for his presents: "Je le voulais!!" when it was something from his list and "Mais j'ai pas demandé ça!" when it was something else. My brother and sister in law had to come up with some explanation for why Santa chose presents that weren't on the list.

As for my own presents as a kid, we had a few small gifts in our stocking (I remember nail polish or hair accessories when I was teenager), and then presents under the tree. Of what my parents bought, 75-80% was signed from Santa, and the rest was presented as from my parents. The gifts from other family members were presented as such.

January 3, 2015 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger Bee Ean said...

I had many discussions with my husband about this. He insisted that we follow the family tradition : every gift to my daughter is from Santa. It was extremely inconvenient to have to hide things from her. For example I was making photobooks and she saw those photos I chose. Or while doing shopping I had to hide what I buy. It sounds like cheating and I really don't like it. But I have to respect the family tradition.

January 3, 2015 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Pierre said...

In my family, all the presents were coming from Santa, so we were given the same excuses on why some gifts for us were actually sent to our uncle's or aunt's, but I remember labels on the gifts with a "Pour Pierre, de la part de grand-mère". That way it was still cmoing from Santa, but you knew who to thank for that beautiful itchy sweater... ;)

Sorry to hear you are in a non-traditional family, because Christmas time is actually a pretty good memory for me at any age, especially now I live in Asia where no one gives a fuck about Christmas!

January 6, 2015 at 10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always seen it done as you describe in France. In my 'belle-famille' pretty much everyone/couple is expected to give a gift to everyone else, including children.

My personal preference would be to have stockings or smaller gifts from Santa and the rest from 'real people'...

We actually do 2 Christmases more or less. Since my parents send gifts for my kids, but not our nephews on my husbands side, we save 'our' gifts for the girls for our house, generally after we've done Christmas with the inlaws (stockings too). Otherwise it isn't fair to the nephews as the inlaws is the only Christmas they do...

January 14, 2015 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger Jacquelyn Lacy said...

I am SO SO SO happy you are back blogging! I check your blog everyday and thought that you had given up! My Sam is back! :)

January 18, 2015 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Alisa said...

It's the same here. People are shocked to learn my kids don't still (and never have) believe in Santa. None of our gifts come from Santa, actually. But we are careful around other people's children, since we prefer to keep our friends.

February 13, 2015 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Jadie said...

It's funny how cultural differences can suddenly zoom out of nowhere, and smack you right in the face! Maybe most of all when old family traditions are ignored. I remember having to work this out with my husband, even though we were from almost identical backgrounds. His family opened presents on Christmas Eve, what?! Mine on Christmas morning.

February 14, 2015 at 9:20 PM  
Blogger Joan said...

Wait for it... the Easter bells will be delivering chocolates soon!

March 22, 2015 at 6:39 PM  

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