Saturday, February 06, 2016

Le nouvel an

Sharing wishes for the new year is important in France.  Here's a simplified schedule for a typical January:

Midnight, January 1st: Send a text message to all your hip friends who are still awake. If you are still awake, that is.  Why does it get harder with each passing year? Watch B-list celebrities watching magicians and cancan dancers on television and wonder why it is you don't have anything better to do.

Noon, January 1st: Watch the Vienna New Year's Concert on television, then remember to call grand-mère.

Morning of January 2nd: You're all out of the only thing that sounds good to eat after a week of culinary excess, something like plain white rice or minestrone soup.  Good thing the supermarket is open again today.  Run into a neighbor on the street and wish them bonne année. Oh that's right, it is the new year already! Smile broadly and congratulate yourself on remembering.

First Monday back at work: Scrupulously say bonne année to everyone who crosses your path, in the hallway, at the coffee machine, in the parking garage. This is the one day of the year you are unlikely to avoid cheek kissing, so be warned.

First two weeks back at work: Try to remember who you haven't yet corresponded with in the new year so you can append flowery well-wishes to your emails accordingly.  Wish happiness and success.  If success seems unlikely, emphasize good health.

Sometime after January 6th: Your boss brings a galette des rois, or kings' cake, to work.  If you find the fève in your slice, you'll have the headache of choosing a king or queen to reign with you from among your unenthusiastic colleagues while you calculate how soon you can get away with taking off your paper crown.


Your boss doesn't bother to bring a galette this year, and you're unreasonably resentful.  After all your hard work it's the least he can do.  Plus you love almond paste and puff pastry and can never get enough of it.  You'll just have to pick one up on the way home and split it with your family. You're hungry, so you pretend the only ones left at the bakery were for eight.

Sometime after January 20th: What, another galette? Seriously?  Does no one have any better ideas for dessert this month?

January 15th: You've wished bonne année to approximately half the people you know, at work, in your apartment building, at your children's school, and now you can no longer keep track.  Do you risk wishing someone happy new year twice?  Or does it make you look worse if you forget entirely? When in doubt, mumble something unintelligible and then ask if they have any plans for the February school vacation.

January 25th:  The month is almost over and you increasingly suspect you've never managed to exchange bonne annnées with your next door neighbor.  You sneak out of your apartment in the morning like a thief after listening behind the door, call for the elevator with a glance behind you, and hope you can make it to February without any social awkwardness.

January 31st: You finally run into your neighbor and they apparently can't remember either. You both laugh and present your excuses and talk about the weather.

February 2nd: January is over, finally.  Now it's la chandeleur, and you get to eat crêpes.  This year your even manage to flip them one-handed while clutching a two-Euro coin.  Some traditions are easier than others.