The Daily Diary of a Wandering Restaurateur
Christmas Eve

It's a short day in the 'hood. In France, the big celebration is on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day so the market closes early along with most [all?] of the shops. The market opens again tomorrow afternoon but I don't know what to expect from the various shops and restaurants. So today has been about stocking up on food for a couple of days just in case. If the buildings stay lit after the market closes, Margene promises she'll take the magic stroll after it gets dark.

But it's Christmas Eve, and that's when it all happens in France. Needless to say, I'm no expert on local Christmas traditions, so I am once again borrowing from the Lingo Lunch blog which seemed to have it dialed in.

Trust the French to have a million different types of Christmas dishes. But what constitutes a typical Christmas dinner? After midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the French gather to eat a feast called le Rveillon which basically translates to Christmas Eve in English. And boy, is it a feast! It consists of oysters, snails, seafood, smoked salmon, caviar ... basically the works! Following that, they bring out the bird. Most popularly the French eat a goose for their Christmas dinner, which happens at around 1am not very good for the waistline, perhaps, but who's to argue with tradition?

Beside this typical Christmas Eve two-course meal, the French are able to offer us many many more hours of eating in the form of a third course. A third course multiplied by three. They have thirteen desserts that are classical for the Christmas party. They are as follows and, I understand, are eaten in order (though the choices may vary):

Not much of a dessert you may think; quantity over quality, right? But the thirteen desserts are symbolic, representing Jesus and the twelve apostles. (They are also peculiar to the region. The list above is from Provence.) They're traditionally set out on the 24th and remain on the table until December 27th. Why? Ask a Frenchman. If it's anything like the Bulgarian tradition, then the food is left out for the dead to feast on or in case Mary and the baby drop by ... but something tells me the French aren't this superstitious.

The most common Christmas dessert all over France is known as Bche de Nol which means the Yule log. Not surprisingly, it looks like a log. Very creative, these French! It is basically a type of roulette filled with butter-cream or booze or coffee or whatever you'd like. Very tasty. So yes, Christmas in France seems delicious, what with all the oysters, wine, cheese and geese not to mention THIRTEEN desserts, all at one in the morning? Sounds like a party to me! (Alas, nobody invited us to join them ...)

There won't be much in the way of photos today ... at least nothing you (and I) haven't seen of Colmar already. But since Bche de Nol may be new to you, here's an example of what some of them look like sitting in the window of a patisserie a few doors down from the apartment. As you can see, Bche de Nol comes in dozens of different styles, some looking far more log-like than others. I was tempted to pick one up, but even a small one would have been too much for the two of us. Next time we'll have to come back with a few friends. Wanna come?

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