Christmas season is here. I like it a lot – as most people - but I’m not a fanatic. My tendency is to eat biscuits more than to bake them and I will partake in any snowball fight I encounter, but if there are no biscuits or no snow, I’m not going to be sad. This year marks the first advent that I spend away from Germany – and we have our finals next week, so there is really not much time to get into the festive mood.
One of the good things about Passau (the city I did my undergrad in) was the Christmas market. Very picturesque, very good mulled wine, raclette on bread – it was a dream. Obviously, it was cancelled last year, so I was looking forward to reliving the Christmas market life here in Toulouse. Sadly, the markets here are quite ugly, and close fairly early. Pro tip: It’s not a good idea to get tipsy when you still have to study for the exams later that night. Your derivatives are going to be wonky.
The weather is not very Christmassy either, basically just grey and very rainy. Sometimes, the sun will come out and grace us with some direly needed Vitamin D, but most of the time is spent indoors, escaping the wet and the cold. On the days where the sun does shine, people flock outside, and the atmosphere in the city changes. That being said, Toulouse is still quite cheerful – I’ve seen much bleaker cities in winter.
In general, Christmas in France is not that different to Germany. They have advent calendars, the most important festivity is Christmas Eve, they drink lots of liquor, and they eat lots and lots of meat. No reason not to feel at home – even though I’m a vegetarian, so the foie gras can mosey right on just like the Bratwurst in Germany (no disrespect).
I will, however, go home to my parents for Christmas. I’m excited to see them and my old friends, hike a bit in the mountains and hopefully see some snow. What is special this year is that I’m bringing a friend from my programme here home – he’s American and not going home for Christmas. I love the idea of opening this family gathering up for people that would spend Christmas alone – I’ve never done it, and I feel a bit like my family are the Weasleys and my friend is Harry Potter.
All in all, the finals really have me in their grip right now, so I’m not in a festive mood yet. I do look forward to the end of next week, a well deserved glass of mulled wine, and bringing my friend home to my parents.
December 2021 | Peter Kamal