It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Being 5,090 miles away from home (yes, I looked it up) didn’t stop me from celebrating Thanksgiving! We planned our “Friendsgiving” meal way in advance and everyone was assigned a typical Thanksgiving dish to bring to the table. Mind you, this was everyone’s first time celebrating Thanksgiving in their life…most of them had never even tried the dishes they made, yet, they all turned out AMAZING! Francesca was so confused why she was putting sugar and marshmallows in sweet potatoes, however, her dish turned out to be my favorite!

I assigned everyone a recipe and there were A LOT of substitutions. There are several things you cannot find here in France that make up your favorite thanksgiving dishes: brown sugar and corn syrup for pecan pie; as Tatiana had put it best, “you can’t find ‘corn’ anything here”!

We cooked together all afternoon and it was just like back home everyone running around, getting dressed and taking showers last minute, Abi dropped half of her green beans on the floor, the Thanksgiving chaos made me feel like I was at home!

In the evening we all got together and invited a few other friends to celebrate! We even served everyone the amount a true experienced Thanksgiving veteran would, covering every single square inch of the plate!

I was so proud when in true spirit ; people got up for seconds!!!

This was our menu:

Turkey

Rice Dressing

Green Bean Casserole

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Sweet Potatoe Casserole

Apple Pie

Pecan Pie

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Before digging in we each said what we were thankful for which I know some people were really looking forward to taking part in this tradition *cough* Diana *cough*.

Everyone mentioned how they were thankful for this experience, for being able to experience their first thanksgiving, and having such wonderful roommates! We got a little silly and Francesca ended up having a huge list of things she was thankful for…when we went to continue going around the circle she even said, “Wait! I’m not done yet”…She really embraced the tradition!

Later in the night she even gave me her secret ingredient for her Sweet Potato Casserole. It called for pecans and not knowing the nut she grabbed walnuts… her tactic for getting us to not notice was crushing them up extremely small. It was still delicious!

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Friday we didn’t partake in Black Friday as it’s a much smaller event here, most stores offered 20% off.

Friday evening was the inauguration of the Christmas Market which the oldest most famous one is here in Strasbourg! We weathered the pouring rain to watch the lighting of the Christmas tree. It was similar to New Year’s Rockin’ Eve where they had performers before the lighting and a host with several guest broadcasters from around the country coming in to comment.

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IMG_1725-1.jpgAfter the countdown and the tree was lit we escaped the weather. On the way home, we stopped at McDonald’s as all rough nights go; comfort food when I’m missing home (or being lazy).

Saturday morning Diana and I headed to Colmar for a guided tour of their Christmas Market. The town is so cozy and beautiful; it’s a 25 min train ride from Strasbourg.

The tour took an hour and I learned so many things about Christmas traditions! Apples and Pretzels were used as decorations on the tree. The apples as a sign for original sin and the “bretzels” as they are called here a symbol of god’s eternal love thanks to their shape which resembles an infinity symbol. Also, Godmother’s and Godfather’s would hide a piece of gold inside to give to their godchildren on New Year’s to start of the year (I like this idea; nanny and parrain, take notes!)

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Did you know that St.Nicholas, the man who inspired Santa Claus, was from Turkey! His legend told here in France is that a butcher lodged three boys and killed them and cut them into pieces and St.Nicholas rescued them and brought them back to life.

Also, St.Nicholas passes on the night of December 5th, his feast day is on the 6th. Children receive presents on the 6th. He is followed by Krampuslauf (Krampus) who steals all the naughty children and puts them in his sack never to be seen again.

So, on Christmas Eve it is not Santa Claus who brings presents but Christkind, a female angel modeled after the Angel of the Lord who announced Jesus’ Birth.

Bretzels and Clementines were traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve because of tradition to not eat meat which is where we get staying up till midnight which was when they would then have a feast! Some places eat seven kinds of fish!

Furthermore, I learned that Santa Claus’ red and white suit became widely popularized thanks to  Coca-Cola!

Finally, the last Christmas Tradition I found intriguing was that Christmas Eve is thought to be a magical night because it’s a night when it was believed that animals had the gift to speak!

The tour was very interesting and our guide shared many myths, legends, and traditions of Christmas in Alsace and Europe.

Something traditional at the Christmas market is “Vin Chaud” or “Hot Wine” which I was not a fan of; it’s very thick and syrupy. It’s traditionally red wine which historically; it was the bad wine that was left over and it was heated up and flavored with spices. It ALMOST tastes good but not my favorite. White wine, apple juice, and orange juice with spices are now offered for different preferences. IMG_7455 2.JPG

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~FRANÇAIS~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Le fait que j’étais 8,191 km de chez moi (oui j’ai recherché la distance) ne m’a pas empêchée de célébrer Thanksgiving! On a organisé, en avance, notre repas de « Friendsgiving » et tout le monde devait préparer un plat pour ce repas. Il faut savoir, que c’était la première fois que tout le monde a célébré Thanksgiving. De plus, plusieurs d’entre eux n’ont jamais essayé les plats qu’ils ont préparés, mais quand même ils étaient réussis. Francesca n’a pas compris pourquoi elle a ajouté du sucre et des guimauves aux patates douces, néanmoins, son plat était mon préféré !

J’ai donné à tout le monde une recette et beaucoup d’ingrédients étaient remplacés. Il y a plusieurs choses nécessaires pour les plats, surtout pour les desserts traditionnels de Thanksgiving, qu’on ne peut pas trouver ici en France.  Par exemple, du sucre brun ou du sirop de maïs pour la tarte de pecan. Comme Tatiana l’avait dit, « tu ne peux pas trouver des choses avec du maïs ici » !

Nous avons cuisiné ensemble tout l’après-midi et c’était comme si j’étais chez moi. Tout le monde courrait par tous, en train de s’habiller à la dernière minute et prendre des douches.

Abi a laissé tomber la moitié de ses haricots verts par terre : le chaos de Thanksgiving m’a donné l’impression d’être à la maison.

Le soir nous nous sommes réunis tous ensemble et on a invité quelques amis pour faire la fête. On a servi tout le monde de portions équivalents à celles d’un vrai « expert » de Thanksgiving, couvrant chaque centimètre carré du plat.

J’étais très fière quand tout le monde s’est levé pour du rab.

Voici notre menu :

Dinde

Rice dressing

Casserole de Haricot Vert

Purée

Casserole de Patates Douces

Tarte aux Pommes

Tartes aux Pecans

Haricots Verts

Avant de manger on a tous partagé quelques mots afin de remercier les bonnes choses dans nos vies. Je sais que certaines personnes avaient hâte de participer à cette tradition @Diana.

Tout le monde était reconnaissant de cette expérience : de célébrer leur premier Thanksgiving, et d’avoir de merveilleux collocs. Nous sommes devenus un peu ridicules et Francesca avait beaucoup des choses pour lesquelles elle était reconnaissant (i.e. Pizza)…quand on a essayé de continuer à la prochaine personne elle a exclamé qu’elle n’avait pas fini ! Elle a vraiment comprit cette tradition.

Plus tard, le soir, Francesca m’a donnée son ingrédient secret pour sa délicieuse casserole de patates douces. Des pecans étaient nécessaires pour la recette mais comme elle ne savait pas ce qu’étaient des pecans, elle a acheté des noix. Pour que l’on ne se rende pas compte de son erreur, elle les a émincés très fins. Quand même c’était incroyable !

Vendredi nous ne sommes pas allés au Black Friday comme c’est un évènement beaucoup moins sérieux ici, beaucoup des magasins avaient des réductions à 20%.

Vendredi soir était l’inauguration du Marché de Noël ici à Strasbourg où se trouve un des plus vieux et plus grands en France. On a supporté la pluie pour observer l’illumination du sapin de noël en centre-ville. C’était comme New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, il y avait des artistes qui ont joué pendant le spectacle.  Il y avait aussi un présentateur avec des messages d’autres présentateurs venus d’autres régions du pays partagés avec les spectateurs.

Après le compte à rebours et l’illumination du sapin, nous sommes partis. Sur le chemin du retour, on s’est arrêtées manger à McDonald’s ; de la nourriture qui me rappelle chez moi (ou quand je suis paresseuse) !

Samedi matin Diana et moi sommes allées à Colmar pour un tour guidé du Marche de Noël. La ville est très mignonne ; c’est à 25 min par train de Strasbourg.

Le tour a duré une heure et j’ai appris plusieurs choses sur les traditions de noël. Les pommes et bretzels sont utilisés comme décorations pour les sapins. Les pommes étaient des symboles pour le péché originel et les bretzels sont des symboles de l’amour éternel de Dieu représenté par leur forme qui ressemble à un signe de l’infini. De plus, les marraines et parrains auront caché une petite pièce d’or dans le bretzel pour le donner à leurs filleuls pour commencer la nouvelle année. (J’aime bien cette idée ; nanny et parrain, notez cette idée !)

Est-ce que vous savez que, St.Nicolas, l’homme qui est derrière l’inspiration de Père Noël vient de la Turquie. La légende racontée ici en France c’est qu’un boucher a accueilli 3 petit garçons et il les a tués et découpés en petit morceaux. St. Nicholas les a sauvés et les a ressuscités.

Aussi, St.Nicholas passe pendant la nuit du 5 décembre, parce que sa fête religieuse est le 6 décembre. Les enfants reçoivent des cadeaux le 6. Il est suivi par Krampuslauf (Krampus) qui kidnappe tous les enfants désobéissants. Donc, la veille de noël, ce n’est pas le Père Noël qui amène des cadeaux mais Christkind, un ange féminin modelé d’après l’Ange de Dieu qui a annoncé la naissance de Jésus.

Des bretzels et clémentines étaient traditionnellement mangés pendant la Veille de Noël à cause de la tradition religieuse qui prohibait de manger de la viande jusqu’au 25 décembre. Dans quelques régions, 7 différents types de poisson étaient manges !

En outre, j’ai appris que le costume rouge et blanc du Père Noël est devenu popularisé grâce au Coca-Cola !

Finalement, la dernière tradition de Noël que j’ai trouvé intéressante c’est qu’il y a une croyance populaire par laquelle les animaux seraient magiquement dotés de parole.

Le tour était vraiment intéressant et notre guide a partagé beaucoup de mythes, légendes, et traditions de Noël en Alsace et en Europe.

Quelque chose traditionnelle au Marché c’est du Vin Chaud de laquelle je n’ai pas aimer ; c’est très épais et comme de sirop. C’est traditionnellement du vin rouge parce que historiquement c’était du mauvais vin qui était cuit et parfumé aux épices. Ça a presque un bon goût mais je n’aime pas trop. Du vin blanc, jus de pommes, et jus d’orange avec des épices sont aujourd’hui utilisés pour différentes préparations.

Authentic American Pancake Syrup

I’ve been busy pretty with the semester wrapping up and the holiday season approaching. So many things to do.

What I’ve been up to the past few weeks has been everything and anything.

Winter is in full-swing here in Strasbourg the average for the past two weeks has been steady between 0-5 degrees C (32-40 F). All of the winter “accessories” we put on for show in Louisiana have an actual use! Gloves are an absolute MUST! I’ve forgotten mine a few times leaving the house, and definitely felt the repercussions…biking with the wind turning your fingers purple because it’s so cold outside is miserable!

Regardless, the cold is what makes the holiday season so magical… I will die if I have a white Christmas! My roommates and I have already started listening to Christmas music and making plans! We’ve already ordered the Turkey for next Thursday and everyone was assigned a dish to bring to our Friendsgiving!

We’ve also organized a secret Christmas gift exchange!

To bring you up to date on what was happening the past two weeks here are the big things!

Last week Tatiana made Russian Dumplings with Russian Salad and a divine sauce…..she is quite the cook, it was love at first bite!

 

I visited a supermarket near me and would you believe they carried peanut butter and red beans (they’re a hit here)! Those were commodities categorized in the world food section! I had been limiting myself to the selection of the one super market I usually frequent and hadn’t really explored elsewhere.

I was very surprised at how hard it is to find red beans but now that I know where to look it’s a game changer.  The cold makes you want comfy food aka red beans and rice, however, one of the things I miss most about home is the rice cooker… I detest cooking rice on the stove.

One of the more interesting things I’ve done these past few days is visit the parliament with my Intro to European Economic Policy class! We got to meet with some of the members and sit in for the plenary session and watch the debate. It was so official; red carpet, lights, staff wearing special uniform, medals and gloves, reporters and interviews being conducted everywhere.

Coming back to the topic of winter though, one of the things that comes about in the winter season is soccer! I’m sure my soccer moms back home will appreciate a trick I learned from them! I attended one of our university club games for the boys team and as a spectator and it being freezing :

  1. I’m not sure how our parents survived all of the winter soccer tournaments
  2. I packed hot cocoa in a thermos and it gave me life!

 

The cold however isn’t all negative. One positive thing about the cold is that since I have to hang my clothes on a rack because of dryers not being too common… the winter air makes them dry SO MUCH FASTER! It’s amazing!

As for the city preparing for the winter season the start of the Christmas Market is next Friday! It’s a wonderland in the town centre! There is a huge Christmas tree, decorations, buildings with lights strung up, and more people out in the streets!

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Y’all. They have roasted chestnuts in little booths around town you can buy as you walk around… I’m in love!

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The city is becoming cozier as I learn my way around, it was a big change for me but now I can successfully get to and fro and don’t have to use google maps! (2.5 months later)

Fast forward to this past weekend now that I described a little of last week, Diana and I ran 5 kilometers Saturday morning went shopping and had the best cheesecake and coffee at Cafe Bretelles.

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There are so many quaint little shops and cafés it’s fun to try a new one and seek them out.

We then went grocery shopping. A common vegetable used here in cooking is Leek. It’s extremely common here….. like on the scale of onions and garlic for Louisiana. I wouldn’t have even known what it was had it not been for the British woman in front of me at the grocery overhearing my conversation with Diana telling her how I had no idea what it was in English! ***If this is commonly used in your household; family and friends, you have failed me, why have I never seen this before??

Today we went to the last day of the Jazz Festival for a free concert and then had pesto for dinner à la Francesca!

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It’s been so fun making new friends as all my flatmates constantly have visitors! I also get to learn new things from them. Francesca has Francesca visiting her from Vienna and Tatiana has a friend from Belgium visiting, Badoin.

I find it so difficult to follow a conversation and make connections in geography and nationality. When there are different ways to call a place depending on the language you speak it becomes really complicated.

Anvers and Antwerp are the same place. Just like Netherlands and Holland, or Deutschland and Germany. Not to mention Deutsch and Dutch are not the same thing.

And if you’re Flemish you’re a Dutch speaking Belgian.

The more you know.

Lastly, a few things to note as far as being unavailable in Europe… brown sugar and corn syrup. Y’all, any common American item is in the World Food Section (that’s still funny to me, but since we’re in Europe, America is considered Ethnic/World food). It’ll usually have a super obnoxious label with America on the front and very cheesy names like “Authentic American Pancake Syrup”….. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that one or these wonderful people!

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