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French Christmas Traditions

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Tradition… tradition!   (cue the “Fiddler on the Roof” music)

No matter where you live or what family you live in, traditions will always be present. Having spent the past 12 years in southern France, we have had the opportunity of observing and participating in a host of events that help mark time in our part of the world.  As we come into the Christmas season, I thought I would open our door and allow you to peek into an area tradition that we wholeheartedly embrace & enjoy. 

In France, Christmas dinner is served on December 24 (Le Réveillon de Noël) and is a tradition in and of itself.  It will last for hours into the night, providing the hostess an opportunity to display her delicious specialities for the entire family to see.  However here in the South, the long meal is followed by the observance of serving a variety of 13 desserts, which symbolizes Christ and His 12 disciples.  That’s right… count them…. Thirteen desserts to choose from.  These desserts will be a mixture of nuts, berries, nougat, pastries with the capstone piece being the “bûche de Noël. 

But amongst these 13 desserts, there is one that always captures John’s and my attention.  It is not the flashy mousses or pastries that do us in. No, it happens to be the unpretentious chocolate disk called the “mendiant.”  This little chocolate delight’s origins go all the way back to the Middle Ages where it represented the various monastic orders and the colored robes the monks would wear.  Here where we live, one will normally see an almond, a hazelnut and a pistachio on the top of this delicious disk.  Interestingly, the translation for “mendiant” in English is “beggar.” The monks would live a charity-based life and this traditional morsel has lived on throughout the generations, representing their life choice.  

For me, as I gladly take part in embracing this yearly tradition of buying the Christmas mediant, I sometimes think that I too, am like a beggar - humbly sitting & watching as another Christmas goes by and thinking of my God’s generous love for me.  He left the throne room of heaven to come here to earth as a baby, so that one day we could live for all of eternity in His presence. Yes, I will gladly relate to the analogy of this mendiant or beggar who freely & wholeheartedly rushes to the Father’s feet to receive His mercy and grace.  In fact, that's the whole point of the entire Christmas story - our desperate need & our Savior's lavish love.

So as I sit sipping my afternoon coffee & finishing off my Christmas mendiant I think, “Traditions are never out-of-date or even boring when they involve spiritual reflection & chocolate!” 

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