Last Saturday we picked out our tree for the first time in France and went to the Christmas Tree Forest in our little town of Maisons-Laffitte. We are now all set for our French Christmas.
Preparing our French Christmas
Here we are, Christmas is coming and for the first time in many years we are going to spend the festive season right here, in France! This will be a very special time too for our little girl Aimée who is now 2 1/2. who’ll experience this French Christmas in her own way, marvelling at the lights, presents and chocolate! She’ll probably be just as excited with the wrapping paper as the actual presents! We’ve tried explaining what it’s all about … in French and English and she’s most excited by the star the wise men followed which she calls the moon.
In Australia we always had an artificial tree – it was a pretty nice one but never really cut it. This year we finally had the chance to get a real fresh-cut tree with its authentic branches which ooze the aroma of Christmas.
Picking out our tree for the first time in France was a treasured Christmas moment for us.
We went to the Christmas Tree Forest (la Forêt de Sapins) in Maisons-Laffitte to choose the right type for us depending on our personal taste and regional availability. There is more to choosing a tree than first meets the eye. In France, there are usually three types of trees sold: spruce, nordmann or nobilis (noble fir). We choose the noble fir tree as it has soft needles which don’t drop easily. This means we won’t need to spend so much time cleaning needles off the floor and should have a great pine fragrance in our home. Let’s face it we spend enough time on our hands and knees picking up Aimée’s toys!
The friendly staff at La Forêt de Sapins looked for a full, symmetrical shaped-tree with beautiful spreading branches. The tree grew in the Morvan (we were told they are several regions in Europe they compete with: the Jura mountains, Belgium and Denmark). Each year the tree farm of Les Sapins de Noël Morvandiaux set up La Forêt de Sapins on a square next to the railway station. The farm is situated in Saint-Brisson, at the heart of the protected area of the Morvan Regional Natural Park, a mountainous massif in Burgundy.
We paid for our tree, got a few extra fir branches and headed to the exit where Le Père Noël (Santa) greeted our little girl with sweets and a ticket for a free ride on the old fashioned merry-go-round in town. She was thrilled and made for a quiet trip home as she happily sucked her bright red lolly.
To safely carry the tree to our home, we brought our shopping-trolley with us. We were definitely far from the picture-perfect idea of a horse drawn sleigh but we got it home ok. In France shopping trolleys are quite ok but in England or Australia they can be considered ‘granny trolleys‘ … but they do the job and beat carrying heavy bags home from the market!
Once home, we fetched the big box of Christmas decorations from the cellar. We spent quite a lot of time arranging the ornaments and blinking fairy-lights on the tree. We are missing an ornament for the top of our tree – which one to choose: an angel, a finial or a star? We’ll have to visit a Christmas market in Paris very soon to get this final touch for our tree before this French Christmas!
The Christmas preparations in our little town are quite interesting to observe. Usually, residents in Maisons-Laffitte leave the shutters and curtains open so that all the people passing by can see their lit Christmas trees shining out of all the windows. There is a lovely atmosphere in town with people busy getting presents and ordering food but it’s not stressful and crazy like we’ve seen elsewhere. People seem to be enjoying themselves which is really nice to see. The weather has been so mild that families are enjoying the outdoors, and the town early evening is at it’s best with the shops bustling with customers and pretty lights everywhere that seem to dance to the sound of the merry-go-round in the distance which no matter how old you are always seems magical. This is going to be a great French Christmas, one to remember!
Rachel grew up in England and was always very fond of France from a young age. Childhood memories of holidays in the Loire Valley, Dordogne and Brittany framed her love of France as a child. She is now bilingual and enjoys speaking French. She has a creative flair and loves cooking and recipe testing. She writes honestly about her French experiences as an expat which can at times be quite amusing.