Sunday, December 05, 2010

Repas de Noel

By Harry P
Forum Leader for France

Our invitation arrived in the post, inviting us to attend the "REPAS DE NOEL"

"REPAS DE NOEL" is a Christmas dinner offered to all citizens of the village who are 70 years of age and older. We were looking forward to it as we had been invited to last years occasion and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The snow was still on the ground, making it quite dangerous underfoot, so we weren't sure if it might have been cancelled. However, when we arrived there were quite few cars so we knew it was still "on".

We were the only "English" couple to attend, which didn't worry us as we were the only English people there last year and the reception we had, from the local French people, was fantastic.

We walked into the hall, there were about 50 people milling around. Not quite sure what to do, we hesitated, looked around for a familiar face, then decided to hang our coats up. I helped my wife take her coat off and was just about to hang it up, when came a tap on the shoulder, I turned to see the ruddy face of George and his wife.

"Hello my friend, we thought you might not come because of the bad weather" he said, smiling his head off and offering his hand to be shaken. All this was said in French, and my French isn't that good. His wife came up and offered her cheeks to be kissed, THREE times, that meant - you have been accepted. My wifes turn next, and the ice was broken, nearly everyone in the hall shook our hand and welcomed us. We really did feel "at home" with our French neighbours. We sat down at 12.30 after being pulled this way and that way by friends wanting us to sit with them.

An aperitif arrived, a duo had set up their gear and were playing music as we sipped and chatted. Then came the "entree" with a glass of wine to complement it. The duo were getting into their stride now and playing those songs that everyone sings along with. Another course arrived, with wine to complement it. More music, more courses and more wine to complement each one!

EIGHT courses and five hours later, the coffee arrived, all now had the blush of either satisfaction, or alcohol on their faces. The food was excellent, prepared by local people in their homes.

Looking back on it, I was amazed at the number of people that came up to where we were sitting and chatted with us. Some we knew by sight, others we had never seen before, and those that could speak a few words of English just had to try it out on us, smiling with pleasure as they did. But nobody, apart from my wife and I, could speak, conversationally, so it was up to us to speak THEIR language. By the time we came home my head was buzzing with the exhaustion of translating English to French in my head, but it was a very satisfying and worthwhile exercise.

The day was memorable, and await with eager anticipation, for an invitation to come in the post for next years gathering.

If you have any questions regarding life in France please visit our French Forum where you will also receive a warm welcome!

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