By Carolyn Davenport-Moncel
I am African American and my husband is French American. After almost 15 years of marriage we've had to make a conscious commitment to blend our two very different cultures together so that our two daughters have a more complete appreciation for the Christmas season. In the beginning while living in the United States, blending those traditions wasn't very hard to do. However surprisingly, living overseas (first in France and now in Switzerland) has made this commitment a tad more challenging. For one thing, we are both traditionalists so we had to learn how to compromise. Below are some areas where we had to find common ground so that our children could enjoy two cultures and understand just how blessed they are to have an opportunity to experience both.
A Blending of Food
When we moved to France from Chicago almost ten years ago, you would have never met a woman more frustrated than me. I couldn't find baking soda for gingerbread cookies or sweet potatoes for pies. My mother-in-law had to explain to me that "condensed milk" (Eagle Brand) was actually "evaporated milk" (Milnot), and what I really wanted was "lait sucrée." Whole turkey was not widely available and had to be pre-ordered months in advance; cranberries and blackstrap molasses didn't exist. As timed passed and I met more long-time residents in Paris, I began to find the actual ingredients or acceptable substitutes needed to make my favorite holiday meals. However, out of pure necessity, I learned to embrace some of foods that my in-laws considered holiday staples as well. Since that time, I've even included many of those choices into my own menu. Below is an example of a typical Christmas menu at our house:
1. Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
2. Fois Gras on Toast
3. Fresh Oysters
4. Roasted Duck or Pheasant with Cornbread Dressing
5. Macaroni and Cheese
6. Potatoes au Gratin
7. Sautéed Spinach
8. Cranberry Sauce with a splash of Grenadine Syrup and Lime
10. Sweet Potato Pie, Caramel Cake, and Tarte aux Pommes
11. Brie or Camembert Cheese
Another notable change to our tradition was to serve our big Christmas meal on December 24 (the European way) instead of December 25. In exchange, this allowed me to introduce another one of my family's traditions into the mix. We now eat Chinese takeout on December 25 instead of December 24!
Cool Things Not to Miss at Christmas time in Paris
1. Shop at the Christmas Markets on Avenue Champs Elysées (There are nine others to choose from located all around the city).
2. Shop at Galleries de Lafayette (If you're brave, La Defénse is the closest thing Paris has to a shopping mall).
3. Ice skate at Hôtel de Ville
4. Eat macaroons and drink really tasty hot chocolate at Ladurée
Cool Things Not to Miss at Christmas time in Lausanne
1. Visit Christmas Markets on Place St-François and Place Pépinet.
2. Eat roasted chestnuts (Every major street has a vendor selling them)
3. Greet Santa Claus as he arrives by boat from Evian, France to Lac Léman
4. Watch the Changing of the Clock at Place de la Palud ( Watch video )
5. Go sledding at Le Chalet-a-Gobet
Encounters in Paris - A Collection of Short Storiesby Carolyn Moncel
Life is filled with random encounters and Ellery Roulet, a 35-year-old American PR executive living and working in Paris, has experienced enough of them to last five lifetimes. When betrayal, loss, regrets and even acceptance enters Ellery's life at different times, she learns a great lesson: it is not what one experiences, but how one chooses to deal with those experiences that shapes the soul within. This bittersweet collection of tales shows just how messy and complicated life can be, and that sometimes there just aren't any neat and tidy solutions at all.
Purchase Encounters in Paris
About Carolyn Moncel
A virtual media and web consultant by day and author by night, Carolyn Davenport-Moncel moved to Paris from Chicago, her hometown, in 2001. She received her bachelor's degree in Communications from Loyola University.
Known for her online articles on media relations, Moncel owns MotionTemps, LLC, a Digital Project and Web Content Management firm with offices in Chicago, Paris and Geneva; and its subsidiary, Mondavé Communications, a media relations training and publishing company. She has written, placed articles or been featured in such diverse publications as Entreprenuer.com, Expatica.com, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Wired News, International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Bonjour Paris, Café de la Soul, PrissyMag and Working Mother.
She currently resides in Lausanne, Switzerland with her husband and two daughters. Encounters in Paris is her first work of fiction. Her latest collection is 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover - A Novella and Other Short Stories. Three works are slated for 2012: Geneva Nights - A Novel, Railway Confessions - A Collection of Short Stories and finally, and an untitled Young Adult Novel co-authored with her teenage daughter under the pen name Ella Swinton. Carolyn Davenport-Moncel Website: http://www.carolynmoncel.com
Article Contributed to Black Pearls Magazine by Minnie Estelle MillerFounder, Writer, Essayist & Humanist Mz Minerva Publishing