Ho, Ho, Ho🎅🏽
After our second 2+ month-long lockdown of the year, it’s finally the holidays in Paris and 2020 is soon coming to an end…
Frankly, I think most of us have seen better days. I know I have lots to be thankful for (good health and a roof over my head are always important and easy things to be grateful for)…but to say that 2020 has been a difficult and confusing year would be one of the biggest understatements of the year. That being said, I think holidays during a pandemic can still be a time for some wonder and cheer, albeit in a different way than many of us had hoped for. I can’t fly back to California this Christmas to see my family there, but I thought it’d be fun to reflect on how holiday traditions have changed for me and my loved ones over the years, especially after I moved to France!
ps: I am writing this article as part of the linky for expat bloggers organized by the blog Expat in France by Guiga. She shares useful advice about living in France, navigating French red tape & bureaucracy, and understanding French culture…so if you’re interested in relocating to Paris, she’s a great resource! 🙂
Multicultural Holiday Traditions
Growing up in a Taiwanese-American household in California, our holiday celebrations were quite different than some of my peers. During Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’d eat buffets of festive Chinese & Taiwanese cuisine (my fam loves steamed seafood, dumplings, and noodle soups) alongside classic American Thanksgiving dishes (my faves are smoked ham with gravy, macaroni salad, and pumpkin pie). The day is spent cooking, picking up orders from Chinese restaurants, hosting a meal at our house, then driving to another family or friend’s house to eat more, and repeat.
Also although my family loves Christmas decoration, listening to carols, and watching holiday movies all season long, from as early back as I can remember, my brother and I both knew that the big red Santa Claus was fictional and that our presents were purchased by our parents with their hard-earned salary. But I have to admit that didn’t stop my dad from dressing up as Santa Claus one year in an attempt to prank us when we were tiny.😂
When I left home to attend Boston University, it was the first time I felt really homesick during the holidays since it was too expensive for me to fly home to California from Boston just for Thanksgiving break! Since then, I’ve often spent Turkey Day in different cities with friends from around the world, who adopt this celebration as a new cultural experience. This year, my mom and I made Taiwanese beef noodle soup over Facetime together (her in California, me in Paris) and it was a delicious success.😋
Holidays in Paris: My 3 Favorite Things
Since moving to France in 2016 with Will, the holidays have become another kind of celebration for us. I find comfort in knowing that it’s almost the norm for fellow expats here to have diverse international holiday celebrations. Over the past 4 years, Will and I have spent Christmas in 3 different continents: North America, Asia, and Europe. Whether it’s San Jose, Taipei, or Paris, there’s always family and delicious food involved. The holidays have always been a really happy and nostalgic time of year for me, and that’s become even more true as an expat.
Due to the fact that I’m so far away from my family in both California and Taiwan, the quality time we spend together in-person are some of my most cherished moments. I still experience cultural barriers after 4 years of living here, but France has slowly felt more and more like home, so I actually feel most “normal” here and more like I’m on vacation when I’m visiting my hometown. One of the things I love most about calling Paris home is how we celebrate the holidays! Of course, COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of most outdoor events and indoor gatherings in France this year, but here are some of my favorite things about spending the holidays in Paris over the past few years:
1) Christmas Markets
Every holiday season, Christmas markets pop up all over France, selling everything from artisanal goods, mulled wine and cider, pretzels, raclette, and desserts, to every kind of pâté you can think of. There are sparkling lights & ornaments, cozy cabins, fire pits, and rustic French countryside decor all over. Big or small, it’s always a wonderfully convivial atmosphere filled with excitement and yummy comfort foods, making it the perfect place to stroll through with friends and family. We didn’t really have anything like this back in the Bay Area, so these markets are an exciting cultural tradition for me that I now look forward to every year in France. Of course this year almost all Christmas markets have been canceled due to COVID-19, but Will and I have brought the market vibes home with raclette dinners, seasonal music, and putting up the xmas decorations early!
2) Speaking Of Raclette…
OMG. Raclette is one of the first things I fell in love with from France, right after crispy baguettes and my fiancé. Imagine…savory melted cheese that you pour right over hot potatoes and your favorite charcuterie. Paired with the crunch of tart pickles–I’m literally salivating while writing this–and crisp white wine…it’s truly a foodie’s dream come true. The flavors and diversity of cheeses in France are things that I simply could not find back in California (and on the flip-side, it’s just as difficult to find good avocados in Paris lol 🥑). If we are to move away from France one day, my heart will ache for raclette the most during holiday seasons. What can I say? I cherish my cheese.🧀
3) Next-Level Christmas Decor
The city of Paris takes its Christmas decor very, very seriously. Every holiday season, families, businesses, and entire neighborhoods put up ornate installations of string lights, garlands, and sparkling decor in their homes, shops, and throughout the streets. From Galerie Lafayette near the Palais Garnier to Le Bon Marché at Sèvres Babylone, department stores transform their interiors and display windows into wintery wonderlands, with a distinct new theme each year. Honestly, Paris is already beautiful with its historical architecture, cultural hotspots, and romantic parks…but add Christmas spirit to the mix and–voilà–everyday locales can truly become magical places to be.
Although we’ve had a hell of a year so far and I know some have lost more than others, I hope this post helps remind us that things are going to be okay in the long run. Even if we couldn’t celebrate the holidays with all the people we wanted to, it made what we could do this year more special and cherished. More than ever, I’m looking forward to being able to celebrate these traditions again with friends and family, here and abroad. Koi, Will, and I wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holidays, wherever you are in the world!
Click the image above to explore Guiga’s blog Expat in France for useful advice about moving to and living in France!