French Lesson: Saint Nicolas Day in Lorraine, France

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French Lesson: Saint Nicolas Day in Lorraine, France

Saint Nicolas de Myre antique postcard

Antique postcard with images of Saint Nicolas de Myre, patron saint of Lorraine, France.

This is the second of two lessons. Please read Part 1 for the vocabulary.

Here’s another lesson that includes realistic French dialogue you might hear during the holiday season. If you don’t speak French, below I’ve listed some expressions that may come in handy around the holidays. If you’ve had some French before, even if it was a long time ago, this will be a fun refresher.

    French Holiday Dialogue

    Camille : Bonjour Patrick, ça va ?

    Patrick : Salut Camille, ça va bien, et toi ?

    Camille : Très bien merci. Dis-moi, qu’est-ce que tu fais pour Noël cette année ?

    Patrick : Noël est une fête très importante pour ma famille. Et toi ?

    Camille : Ben, chez moi, c’est tout le contraire. On n’est pas du tout pratiquants, et en fait, on ne fête même pas Noël.

    Patrick : Pas de cadeaux ? Pas même un sapin de Noël ?

    Camille : Quand mes neveux étaient petits, ma mère décorait un grand sapin. On avait un sapin artificiel, et elle le couvrait de guirlandes et de boules multicolores : une fois, elle a même mis une guirlande électrique clignotante autour de la maison !  Mais maintenant que tous les enfants sont grands, on ne se réunit plus jamais pour Noël et on n’échange plus de cadeaux : mes parents envoient des chèques quelques fois, et puis on fait une réunion de famille autour de la Saint Nicolas.

    Patrick : La Saint Nicolas ? Vraiment ? Alors là, tu m’étonnes ! C’est une assez vieille tradition française, non ?

    Camille : Ça dépend d’où tu viens ! Ma famille est d’origine lorraine, et là-bas, Saint Nicolas est encore très fêté. De la même façon que Noël se fête différemment en Provence, avec les santons et la crèche, et le gros soupers et les treize desserts.

    Patrick : Ah d’accord, et alors, qu’est-ce que vous faites pour la Saint Nicolas ?

    Camille : Nous, rien de traditionnel ! La Saint Nicolas c’est la nuit du 5 au 6 décembre : en faisant une réunion familiale autour de cette date, on évite l’éternel conflit des familles contre belles-familles : “et vous allez passer Noël chez qui cette année ?” Ça arrange tout le monde ! Et puis le 25, on s’appelle quand même pour se souhaiter “joyeux Noël !”

    English translation

    Camille: Hi Patrick, how are you?

    Patrick: Hi Camille, all is good, and you?

    Camille: Good, thank you. Tell me, what are you doing for Christmas this year?

    Patrick: Christmas is very important for my family. And you?

    Camille: Well, in my family, it’s quite the opposite. We are not at all religious and in fact we don’t even celebrate Christmas.

    Patrick: No gifts? Not even a Christmas tree?

    Camille: When my nephews were younger, my mother used to decorate a large Christmas tree. We had an artificial tree, and covered it with garland and multicolored balls. Once, she even put a flashing light garland around the house! But now that all the children are grown, we never get together for Christmas anymore and we don’t exchange any gifts. My parents sometimes send checks, and then we hold a family gathering around Saint Nicholas’s Day.

    Patrick: Saint Nicolas? Really? Wow, I’m really surprised on that one! This is a very old French tradition, right?

    Camille: It depends where you come from! My family is from Lorraine, and there, Saint Nicolas is still worshiped‑in the same way that Christmas is celebrated differently in Provence, with the figurines and the nativity scene, and the big dinner and the thirteen deserts.

    Patrick: Oh I get it, but then, what do you do for Saint Nicolas Day?

    Camille: We don’t do anything traditional! The St. Nicolas celebration is held the night of December 5 to 6, by holding a family reunion around this date, we avoid the eternal conflict of family against in-laws: “and you will spend Christmas with which family this year?”… It works for everyone! And then the 25th, we still call each other to say “Merry Christmas!”

      Camille Chevalier-Karfis lives in Brittany and she’s been teaching today’s French language to adults around the world for over 19 years with her company, French Today. Please click on her name to learn more about her by reading her complete profile.

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      Although born and raised in Paris, Camille lived in Boston for 16 years and has been teaching today's French language for 20 years to adults around the world in person, by phone and through Skype. Repatriating to Brittany, France, in 2008 to be closer to family and to practice a balanced lifestyle, Camille created French Today, offering original audio novels and audio courses based on the adult student needs and interests, and written and recorded using the modern French language. She is the author of a full French audio method called “À Moi Paris” comprised of 4 audiobooks for the French beginner and French intermediate learner. She is also the author of more than 15 other audiobooks and audio lessons on grammar, modern pronunciation and vocabulary. In October 2014, Camille was also chosen to be the About.com French Expert, the largest French web site in the world.

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