Based on this past week, I have a feeling the rest of my December will be characterized by many a night with Straight No Chaser holiday harmonies blasting through my loft bedroom as I dream, not of sugar plums, but of Frankenstein’s monster evolving into rhinoceroses and being forced to take the Bac in Breton. ‘Tis the season, I guess you could say!
Rennes has been preparing for months, putting up the city’s glowing jellyfish decorations, strings of lights, seizure-inducing flashing circles in the mall and slowly constructing the various marchés de Nöel. Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and December is finally here, the 66 inhabitants of Villa Alvarez (aka l’école americaine) have joined the ranks of Rennais in welcoming Christmas with open arms. At least I have… The day after Thanksgiving, even without the Black Friday sales goading me on, a couple friends and I commenced Christmas shopping, picking up a few things on our lists, both for ourselves 😉 and for others.
After that, there was no stopping the tide of Christmas spirit that enveloped the week after what would have been Thanksgiving back in the States. Advent calendars commenced, secret Santa names were drawn and holidays cards were created. Midweek, my host family got their Christmas tree and I did some holiday crafting at a retirement home. Nothing like a little Christmas decorating to put everyone in a good mood!
My friends and I followed our first Christmas outing with an end of the week visit to the main Marché de Noël. Armed with hot cider and freshly made churros, we made the rounds, stopping to admire the various stalls offering up artisanal jewelry, Briton souvenirs and of course, lots of food.
Overcome with all this Christmas spirit and tasty food, my friends and I endeavored to celebrate with a classic gingerbread cookie baking party. We ended up with ginger flavored, cookie-shaped baked concotions covered with a easily melting mixture of butter and sugar that tried valiantly to be considered icing. Apparently mollasses is very key to gingerbread… Nevertheless, we had a fabulous time jammin’ out to classic Christmas tunes, dancing around the kitchen, sipping homemade hot chocolate that was so rich we considered using the cold dregs as a substitute icing (not one of our best ideas…)
All this Christmas cheer has me both searching frantically for a cheap tacky Christmas sweater and realizing that it’s truly December. Hitting home the fact that I’ve been in Rennes for over three months already, my classmates and I spent a full day this week in a French lycée. Ideally, they tried to place us with our host siblings but my host sister’s high school wasn’t on board with the idea so I spent my day with five other classmates at Jean Macé, the high school next to the American School where I often eat lunch.
Sophomore year at a public French high school was not at all like I expected. Based off of my previous two weeks of French middle school experience, I was prepared for the two hour lunch break and the late dismissal. On top of that however, I got to participate in a history course taught in Breton, the regional language of Brittany. Although the majority of the details went over my head, I still managed to grasp enough to make out that the class was about Ancient Rome. I also met some really neat new people. The whole day just seemed like an appropriate summation of my first semester in Rennes: surprise freezing temperatures, new friends, a quick snack break downtown, lots of French, and a dash of regional tradition.