I found my first Christmas in France to be a bit gloomy. Alsace is famous for its Christmas markets and decorations, and Paris at Christmastime is a sheer delight. I, however, was living in Albi, and Southwest France in 1990 didn't seem to have much Christmas spirit. I missed Christmas lights on houses, Christmas music and Christmas cookies. The very term "Christmas spirit" was untranslatable, and nobody seemed particularly merry.
Now, as I drive through my village and see the significant number of houses decked out with Christmas lights, or as I do my grocery shopping to the tune of "Jingle Bell Rock" or "Let it Snow", I feel a certain ambivalence. The season is indeed a bit more jolly than before, and I do like Christmas lights and Christmas carols! But this rampant Americanization of French customs can't help but be alarming. If the French put as much energy into resurrecting some of their own customs as they do in buying up American traditions, Christmas could certainly be a lovely time here, while remaining French.