La Saint Sylvestre

Le champagneThere will be few fireworks in France this New Year’s Eve. In light of recent events, festivities are curtailed and firecrackers forbidden. Terror is still vivid in the hearts and minds of people here, not just in Paris but in remote corners of province. Restaurant takings are down; shoppers have been staying home. Traditionally the most fêted of the French holiday calendar, le réveillon du 31 décembre this year will be ‘en demi-teinte’ – a subdued affair.

But it will be celebrated. Ringing in le nouvel an in style is dear to French hearts. A party of some kind is called for – preferably fancy dress or at least ‘tenue de soirée’. Champagne corks will fly. In Paris people will flock to the Champs Elysées, along with more than the usual number of police.

Over the years in France we have celebrated le réveillon de la Saint Sylvestre in many different ways and places, with family and friends, at quiet dinner parties and more boisterous celebrations.

We recently watched an old VHS videotape – digitized through the wonders of modern technology – of a New Year’s soirée hosted by my in-laws in their suburban Paris home shortly after we were married. It was the late eighties, so the hair was big and the shoulders were wide. There were a dozen convives (guests) in sequinned evening wear – neighbours, colleagues, long-standing friends.

Things were rather formal at first, as we all sat in a circle and made polite conversation. They began to loosen up as the first flutes of champagne were served. We took our places at the table and the meal began with oysters, followed by foie gras. Various white wines were served, then things got serious with the Bordeaux. I believe we ate game of some kind. Then came cheese, an impressive selection of raw-milk fromages from Normandy to Roquefort. By the time we got to dessert, we were back on champagne. Then the real party began with a lot of frantic bobbing around on the dance floor. Thankfully the video was there to prove we were all still standing – things became a little blurry that point.

One memory stands out in my mind from that night, though. When the clock struck midnight we all embraced and exchanged our ‘voeux’ for the year ahead. The French make quite an art of this and I remember feeling rather limited in my repertoire of well wishes. But my Beau-père’s wish was simple, and sincere. He embraced me with a double-cheeked kiss and whispered in my ear: “Un petit garçon pour cette année!”

Our son was born the following September.

This year we are celebrating la Saint Sylvestre as a family in the Alps. There is not much snow, and we’ve had a few hiccups in terms of our health, but our spirits are high and we will see the new year in with joy.

What shall I wish you for 2016?

20 thoughts on “La Saint Sylvestre

  1. We had already noted that Noël was a rather more muted affair down here than usual – and we are right out in the sticks. But we shall be spending le réveillon with French friends, everyone bringing a dish. You obviously didn’t waste any time granting your Beau-père’s wish!

    Peace and fulfillment in 2016.

    1. How lovely! I like the idea of everyone bringing something, which is very common in Canada but not so frequently seen in France, at least in my experience. As for the wish, my best calculations are that it was already ‘en route’. Très bonne année to you and the SF, Nessa!

    1. Lucky you to enjoy a white réveillon – we are in Le Grand Bornand and there are only a few ski runs open with the mountain tops barely frosted. Please send some snow our way! A very happy and fulfilling new year to you and Pierre.

  2. Rather sedate this year we will be just The Husband, The Me and The Bean but we will exchange our wishes at midnight just the same. I wish you and those you love the happiest of Happy New Year’s and I wish everyone what I always wish for – love, laughter, unity and content.

  3. Happy new year from the banks of the River Thames, which I spent with a French friend. Temperatures were mild and the fireworks wonderful. Wishing you a creative and productive year.

  4. je te souhaite une excellente année, bonne santé et tonnes d’inspiration, ma p’tite MELewis! ❤
    * * *
    guess what: our son was born in September, too… but it was our wish and decision! 🙂

    1. Ours too, although I would never have dared speak of it before it was a ‘fait accompli.’ Seems we share a great deal more than an adopted land, chère Mél@nie! May your fondest wishes come true in 2016!

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