Christ­mas Crack­ers

De­spite be­ing se­ri­ously out­num­bered, Ian Moore does his best to keep one Bri­tish tra­di­tion alive in the midst of full-on French fes­tiv­i­ties

Living France - - Property Sale -

Tra­di­tion is im­por­tant. Take Shake­speare for in­stance; Shake­speare plays should in­volve ac­tors in tights, ruffs around their necks and be per­formed in the lan­guage the play was writ­ten in. I want none of this ‘based on…’ stuff; no leather jack­ets, pierc­ings or mod­ern slang. I want to see tra­di­tion. I’m the same with Christ­mas, Christ­mas is all about tra­di­tion and what’s be­come a fes­tive tra­di­tion since we moved to France is that Christ­mas is al­ways chez Moore.

On the face of it that may ap­pear quite daunt­ing. My wife’s French fam­ily is big­ger than if all the Wal­ton chil­dren had gone on to have really, really big fam­i­lies – there’s lit­er­ally hun­dreds of them – and Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day can see any­thing be­tween 20 and 30 de­scend on us for a couple of days. That’s 20 or 30 peo­ple, who aren’t shy about their opin­ions on food; nervewrack­ing days in­deed, which means that when­ever I put a plate out in front of the throng, I feel like a con­tes­tant on Masterchef, ner­vously await­ing the ver­dict.

Christ­mas Eve in France takes some get­ting used to. It al­most takes pri­or­ity over Christ­mas Day in terms of im­por­tance, and my the­ory for this is that, as usual, it’s all about food. The Christ­mas Day menu is pretty much de­ter­mined by tra­di­tion – and all the bet­ter for that ob­vi­ously – whereas Christ­mas Eve, the réveil­lon, can be any­thing and, there­fore, seems to gen­er­ate more ex­cite­ment. Now that’s all very well, but the prob­lem with the réveil­lon is that it never ends! Guests will gather from all over the coun­try and so din­ner very rarely starts be­fore 11pm and – this be­ing a French meal – goes on for hours, se­ri­ously eat­ing into ‘Fa­ther Christ­mas’ time. By four in the morn­ing, ‘Fa­ther Christ­mas’ – chores fi­nally done and young chil­dren at last asleep – is a bro­ken man and des­per­ately in need of a lie-in, which he isn’t go­ing to get ob­vi­ously.

Christ­mas Day is slightly dif­fer­ent. Per­haps it’s guilt at hav­ing kept the host and host­ess up so late, or maybe they just don’t trust my cook­ing, what­ever it is they all pitch in. Some­one will bring oys­ters com­plete with a team del­e­gated to open them; the salmon will be brought by some­one else and pre­pared; my wife will have made the foie

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