The Christmas Catalog – in French, no less

This holiday season got me thinking back to a few years ago when we lived in France.  Thought you might enjoy some of those holiday experiences…

9 December 2002

The Christmas catalog from Cora et moi (Cora and Me), the big mall over near Creil arrived in the post box this morning. This is the first Christmas shopping information I have received. (You can see the catalog at <>.)

The first thing I noticed in the catalogue is that even though it is a year since the introduction of the Euro as the currency for Europe, everything is listed both in Euros and Francs (the old French currency).

You can buy books about horses ($30) and African drums for as low as $22.90. There’s a CD-Rom ($74.99) that gives you a tour of Louvre Museum.

There are elaborate red and pink holiday decorations for sale. You can buy an electric fondue set ($44.99) and a variety of crepe makers ($44.90-74.99) There is an aluminum looking thing called a “Presse Agrumes” but I don’t have a clue what that is used for. It looks like an orange juice presser my mom got when she got married, but it isn’t. Christmas lights seem outrageously priced from $29.90 to 44.50.

The real bargains are chocolates and wines. I am totally convinced that the government must subsidize these industries because they are practically giving the stuff away. You can buy good French wine for $3.50 a bottle.  The cheap wine is $1.90. A box of really great chocolates starts at $5.97, and the box is so beautiful with the Champs-Ellysees on the picture that you won’t want to throw the thing away.

On page 28 is a “Pocelet moule sous vide Dapac”. It weighs a little more then 2 lbs. and looks vaguely like a little pig. I don’t want to know what it is, but it’s right next to the frozen “escargot” (snails) in their shells stuffed with some green stuff.

There are a few blue, silver or gold decorations for sale at the big grocery store on the edge of town, and the small grocery store downtown. Yesterday I noticed a few purple ones. There are lots more toys for sale then normal.

When we visited Germany two weeks ago the shelves were loaded with decorations and poinsettias all just waiting for someone to buy them. We bought small wreaths made of boxwood ($8 each) and a one-foot tall Weckmann (Veck man) bread man. He is holding a small clay pipe in one arm and a red lollipop in the other (he looks more like a gingerbread man). No one could tell me anything about him but I liked his looks. We dried him to set him up on one of our mantels. He looks mighty good sitting among some pine branches, pine cones and three tangerines Monique brought me from Corsica that are poked full of whole nutmeg.

The little towns around here have just put up their elaborate street decorations. The Chantilly street decorations stretch from one side of the street to the other overhead of the traffic. Each string has a two-foot tall green pine tree at either end, two twig trees and a big evergreen ball in the middle.

In Senlis there are giant stars formed by strings of large plain white light bulbs strung across the streets. Some of the shops downtown covered their awnings in white quilt batting so it looks like snow dripping. On top of the “snow” they created a scene with twig reindeers. Evergreen trees with white, purple or orange bows on the branches are nailed to either side of the walls on the fronts of many shops.

This weekend there is a community orchestra concert and a St. Nicholas Day parade. St. Nicholas, looking very thin and poor will walk around town giving out candy to the children. On St. Nicholas Day (December 7) the children put their shoes outside their doors before they go to bed. St. Nicholas comes in the night and leaves little trinkets and cookies or chocolates.

Even though there are lots of things I don’t understand. Even though I often don’t have a clue what someone is saying. It doesn’t matter because I can see that this holiday season will be an adventure, and I am going to savor every moment.



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Jay and Annie Warmke run a sustainability center in southern Ohio that features an Earthship (a passive solar home made of tires and garbage), straw bale buildings, various critters and more. Find out all about it at

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