Christmas Around the World: the South of France

‘Twas the week before Christmas when I moved into a new house a few years back. For a number of reasons I found myself home alone on the Big Day unpacking boxes (with a glass of champagne to hand, naturally). It was a lot of fun but many (including the removal man) were appalled that I chose to spend the day on my own.

Advertising around Christmas-related products and services begins in early autumn in the UK. Planning (travel, food, gifts and sparkly clothes) and the related over-spending has been developed to an unrealistic level of ‘normal’. Now, a little sparkle goes along way in the dark winter months, but by mid December it can be hard not to feel like the ‘odd-one-out’ if you’re not seen to be tearing your hair out in a frenzy of anxiety over Secret Santa at the office, gift-buying for the family, and stuffing the turkey. And, as the marketing campaigns indicate, your calender must surely be choc-full with a host of fabulous parties to attend.

In a new series, launching today, I aim to explore the fact that Christmas is what you choose to make it, a family affair or something entirely different. Whether you push the boat out or spend the day in bed, there are no rules. Over the next six weeks I ask some of my favourite Instagrammers around the world… How do you spend the Holiday Season?

Emma Kershaw, Languedoc-Roussillon

Emma Kershaw is the owner of a wine and food school, La Maison du Rire, in the south of France. Emma is passionate about the wines and food of the beautiful region and believes in following the seasons, and buying local from small producers. She is the author of two cookbooks. The first is on the wines and food of the region ‘A Taste of le Sud’, and the second is a bilingual family cookbook of international recipes ´The Day Louis Was Eating’. Emma is married to artisan, Chris, and is mum to adventurer and gastronome, Louis.

So early riser or late lie-in on the big day?  I’m usually an early riser as there’s too much to do.

Dressing up. A glittery dress – it’s Christmas after all – or your favourite Santa jumper? Dress up definitely, it’s a special day after all and needs to be celebrated. 

“I like that in France Christmas is more about the food than the gifts!”

A festive lunch with all the family or a late romantic supper for two? We have two very different Christmases depending on whether it is just the three of us, or if one of our families are with us. If the English family is here we do the English Christmas meal but with a French touch. So some sort of soup or shellfish starter, followed by a roast foie gras canard, cheese and Christmas pudding. If it is just us we will have oysters, roast guineafowl followed by cheese and some special dessert, but not necessarily a pudding.

Decorations up from 1st December, complete with flashing reindeer on the roof, or a last minute discreet sprig of holly? Growing up we were never allowed to put the decorations up until after the 10th of December which was my father’s birthday. A tradition that I carried on until his death in 2016. Since then we decorate on the 1st. I hope he has forgiven me! We have four trees as our house is quite big. Two are wooden that Louis and I made and which we reuse each year. The other two we cut down from the woodlands here. It is a family tradition to go out and choose a tree and chop it down. It is hard not to get too ridiculous and we sometimes come back with something far too big which outside looked quite small. Louis usually likes to have a little tree in his room too.

Gift giving. It’s ‘the thought that counts’ or ‘any excuse to splurge’? A thoughtful splurge! I don’t like receiving or giving unwanted gifts and try to buy from small businesses but it is nice to give and be generous if possible. That said, I like that in France it is more about the food than the gifts!

Do you have your own Christmas traditions that make the season particularly special for you and yours? Cutting down the tree and then putting on some Christmas music and drinking bubbles whilst we decorate the trees. Rural French villages don’t tend to decorate their houses in the same way as the UK so it can seem a little somber. We like to go to Narbonne as it is very pretty and atmospheric. The famous undercover market is busy and bustling, there is a live band and everyone is shopping for food and eating in the many restaurants and bars. In France we spend more money on the meal than on gifts. There is an ice rink, a ménage, fun fair, Christmas market stalls, a crèche with animals and Santa’s Grotto. There is a parade with floats too. Last year it was cancelled due to Covid. But it is a lot of fun. On Christmas Day, at some point, we go for a hike.

Favourite festive film or TV special? No TV, chez nous.

“We have a family celebration whenever possible which it isn’t always when living far away. Even if it’s just the three of us though it will be a festive long lunch followed by Lego construction and games!”

Emma Kershaw, wine educator and food writer, on the Festive Holiday.

Has the pandemic changed how you will be celebrating the festive season, and if so, how? Two years ago we planned on going to the UK for Christmas. We hadn’t been for many years as our different families had come to us. However, as my sister, who lives in the States, wasn’t able to make it we thought it would be better to wait until the following year, to be all together. By then Covid had hit so that was the end of our plans for that year. This year we’re booked but have taken refundable tickets as nothing is sure, so we will see nearer the time.

Slideshow. Images from the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Photos Irene Caswell

Find out more about Emma’s wine and food courses and books Follow Emma on Instagram @lamaisondurire.

Next week travel writer, Nina Tobin, talks about how she spends the holiday in New South Wales, Australia. Catch up with more festive interviews using the link below (from next week!). Share your own traditions and festive photos on Twitter and Instagram #christmasaroundtheworld and link up with a tag @hashtagtravelin. And if you enjoyed reading this blog feature please ‘Like’ below so I know you’re out there!

However you choose to spend the Holiday Season, I wish you peace and joy.

Postscript: As part of a group press trip in 2019 I spent an afternoon with Emma Kershaw at her home where she cooks up the most delicious food, served with fabulous regional wines.

The Ancestral Nomad geneaology.

Discover more in the Christmas Around The World series… read on

One thought on “Christmas Around the World: the South of France

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.