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Spending the holidays in France

In December in France, all the streets are decorated with Christmas lights. The houses, however, usually aren't. All of the stores make magnificent window displays and the indoor mall that is close to where I'm living put out several displays as well. The shopping frenzy is the same. During the news, they showed all the last-minute shoppers on Christmas Eve, which was just as many people that had been there all through December.

A lot of Christmas films pass on the TV, the majority are American films. I can't give any examples of a French Christmas story because I didn't see any. The Friday before Christmas break at school we had a Christmas party. I found this different, because at Mount Si we aren't allowed to have Christmas parties because not every one celebrates Christmas. During the day of the party we wore costumes, had a breakfast with our class and sang karaoke.

Christmas is done differently in every family in the United States, and the same in France. Here at the Monet family's house we celebrated differently than I do with my family at home. On Christmas Eve, we had dinner around 9 p.m., starting with appetizers and ending with the French Christmas log cake. Every present under the tree had a number, and everybody had a list with the numbers of the presents they had given and who they were for. Throughout the meal we would pick a number from a bowl, read from our lists who it was for and open each present one at a time. The point was to enjoy each present that everybody got. This lasted until 2:30 in the morning.

On Christmas Day we had a big lunch as well. This is not typical of all French, though. I have the impression that most people here, as in the United States, open their presents on Christmas morning. For New Year's many people have dinner parties. While Pauline and her friends were trying to find a house to have our New Year's at, the problem was that most parents were having dinner parties. We did end up finding an apartment right outside of Paris.

We ordered dinner plates from a really chic restaurant, 21 euro a plate (the cheapest plate) and instead of sparkling cider, real champagne. We started our meal around 9 p.m. and ended around 11:30 p.m., just in time to get ready for the countdown.

Happy New Year's 2007.

Kathryn McFarland is a Mount Si High School senior living as an exchange student in France.

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