Noël en France

Bonjour à tous et bonne année, I hope you all had a great holiday! Before going back home to Scotland for the winter break, I had the chance to experience a little snippet of Christmas in Toulouse so it is only fitting to dedicate a blog post to the festive season.

The first signs of festivity commenced on the 26th November, with the opening of the Marchés de Noël in le Place du Capitole, the main square of Toulouse city centre, and the first appearance of belles lumières adorning the city streets and buildings.

Bien sûr, I had to visit the Christmas markets and it did not disappoint. Like most Christmas markets, there were many stalls selling hot chocolate and mulled wine, or vin chaud as they would call it, which was perfect because I am told it was a particularly cold winter in Toulouse this year. They also had burgers, crepes and waffles, similar to our markets, but here are some snacks that I had never tried before.

First up we have Saucisse de Toulouse, a fresh sausage made from pork, salt and pepper and often has wine and/or garlic incorporated to create a rich flavour. I enjoyed this served in a baguette with caramelised onions and, while it may seem simple, it was all it needed. This sausage is also more commonly used in another Toulouse specialty called Cassoulet, which is a delicious stew made from meat and white beans.

Then we have my favourite discovery: Aligot. This fondue-like dish is composed of cheese blended with mashed potatoes and is a specialty of Auvergne in the Aubrac region. It is a very hearty dish that is loved by the French and I would say that it is a must try!

My friends and I enjoying aligot
This was the petite size and cost €6, it was very filling!

Like any good market, there was a la patinoire so, of course, we had to try it. We paid €5 for 50 minutes on the ice and, as you can see, some fared better than others…

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am spending my year abroad working in collèges and I noticed something interesting to take note of. During the lead up to Christmas in Scotland, it is common for lessons to have a festive theme and for Christmas decor to appear around the school, however, this is not the case in France. This is because of Laïcité, a principal on the separation of the Church and the State, which was signed into French law in 1905. This means that everyone has the freedom to practice their own religion and the government remains neutral in terms of faith, so that all are treated as equals and respected before the law. As a result, religion is banned in state matters and public schools.

Having spent every Christmas in Scotland so far, I was very grateful that I could have this new cultural experience elsewhere. Now I have a question for you: out of all the food and drinks that I enjoyed at the Marchés de Noël, is there anything that you would like to try for yourself?

As always, don’t hesitate to use the comment section for any questions that you may have or any subjects that you would like me to touch on for future blog posts. I hope you enjoyed reading and have maybe learned something that you didn’t know before!

A bientôt 🙂

Vocabulary:

  • Bonne année – Happy new year
  • Marchés de Noël – Christmas markets
  • Belles Lumières – beautiful lights
  • Bien sûr – of course
  • Vin chaud – mulled wine (lit. Hot wine)
  • Saucisse de Toulouse – Toulouse sausage
  • Petite – small
  • Patinoire – skating rink
  • Collèges – high school (first few years of secondary)
  • Laïcité – secularism
  • À bientôt – see you soon

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