Here for the Holidays: French student finds joy in Christmas

Friday, December 26, 2008
Amandine Toffaloni is a foreign exchange student from France attending Jackson High School.

Through the month of December, exchange students in Southeast Missouri will share what Christmas is like in their native country and how it is — or isn't — different from American traditions. This week, Amandine Toffaloni, a student at Jackson High School, describes how the French celebrate the season.


Christmas starts when the city puts the lights on the streets. You start to see green and red, gold and white everywhere. There is a smell of chocolate on the street because we have a lot of small shops that sell some.

Christmas is also the time of the year where you watch a lot of Christmas movies when you are decorating the Christmas tree. Fake or real, it doesn't really matter. After that, you just have to wait until the 25th to open all the presents that Santa Claus brings us.

But Christmas Eve is what I enjoy the most. In my family, it is the time to be together in front of a funny movie, eating salmon and foie gras (duck liver) toasts. My parents also enjoy oysters, but frankly, I never enjoy sticky stuff.

We also enjoy snails and frog legs. I am sure some persons are disappointed to hear French people do not eat that kind of meat every day.

And, then, the wonderful dessert: la Buche. I tried to find how to describe this cake, and finally I found the translation. So, that cake is called a Yule log. To be honest, I have no idea if that cake is French or not, but it is the Christmas dessert we eat. All the pleasure lies in the fact that every pastry chef tries to make an original Yule log. Last year I tried a mix of cinnamon, whipped cream, chocolate and gingerbread, and it was just delightful.

At nearly midnight, some people go to the church, and others just stay at home.

The 25th is in general the day we can open our presents and the day of the huge meal with the rest of the family, because Christmas is a family matter after all. It's all about the joy of the family around the Christmas tree.

Amandine Toffaloni, 18, is a foreign exchange student at Jackson High School from Villerupt, France.

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