Thursday, December 15, 2022

A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories

🎄 A compilation of fourteen Christmas-themed short stories from ten of French most prominent authors, classics as well as contemporary. Old tales as well as modern portrayals of Christmas, are packed into one collection to lift up your holiday spirits. Here are the fourteen stories:

🎄1. The Gift - Jean-Philippe Blondel
An lonely old man who loathes Christmas, unexpectedly met an old crush during a family Christmas dinner (where he's ignored by the family members), and believed that she was sent by his late wife as his last Christmas gift.

🎄 2. St. Anthony and His Pig - Paul Arène
St. Anthony (the Saint himself) tells some children of his temptation story on Christmas Eve. In a vision of lavish pork dishes (black pudding, roast pork and gravy, sausages, etc.), the devil tempted him to kill and cook his only friend, a pig called Barrabas.

🎄 3. The Louis d'Or - François Coppée
A gambler who's lost all his money on Christmas Eve, found a louis d'or (golden louis) inside a sleeping child-beggar's shoe. He stole it to gamble and won back his money, all the while ensuring himself that he's doing it for the child's sake. An interesting story with a touching ending.

🎄 4. Christmas in Algiers - Anatole le Braz
An ex-soldier is reminiscing the Christmas Eve he's spent in Algiers during war, where he was drawn by Arabic chant, and entered a mosque. During the prayer, visions of Christmas in his fatherland and of his lover appeared vividly before his eyes. A story without a plot.

🎄 5. The Wooden Shoe of Little Wolff - François Coppée
A kindhearted little orphaned boy (Wolff) who is treated wickedly by his aunt and bullied by his rich friends gives his wooden shoe to a barefooted child out of compassion, and must bear his aunt's wrath for that, but what a rewarding ending!

🎄 6. Christmas Eve - Guy de Maupassant
A hilarious story of a man who hates Christmas Eve due to an unpleasant event occurred the year before. He invited a stout street girl to supper with him at home. It turns out she's not curvy, but pregnant! She gave birth that night, and the man must bear all the consequences...long after.

🎄 7. Christmas at the Boarding School - Dominique Fabre
The title promises a jolly story, but it's not. It's a stream-of-consciousness styled story about mixed-race Senegal boy, Joseph aka Black Jo, whose parents sent him to France due to "events" (what does it mean?) Homesick and doesn't get along with other boys, he's devastated when he can't come home for Christmas.

🎄 8. Salvette and Bernadou - Alphonse Daudet
A sad Christmas Eve at the hospital for two wounded infantry: Salvette and Bernadou. Salvette spent his last money to grant Bernadou's wishes of celebrating Christmas with wine and bread... just in time! A sad but sweet story.

🎄 9. A Christmas Supper in the Marais - Alphonse Daudet
A seltzer water manufacturer in Marais lives in an old mansion which was formerly Hôtel de Nesmond. On Christmas Eve ghosts of its old time guests arrive with their splendor, partying until morning light creeps upon them. A charming ghost story!

🎄 10. A Miracle - Guy de Maupassant
It's a miracle story that happens on Christmas, when a woman was possessed after eating an egg her husband found mysteriously laid on the snow. A priest then celebrated eucharist, and raised the holy communion over the possessed woman until the devil surrendered. Well, it's not an unusual "miracle", and not really Christmassy!

🎄 11. I Take Supper With My Wife - Antoine Gustave Droz
A middle aged wife arouses a Christmas spirit long forgotten in her husband by giving him a proper Christmas supper, where they are reminiscing their fifty years of marriage. A sweet little story, written in stream-of-consciousness style.

🎄 12. The Lost Child - François Coppée
The best story of this collection, of a millionaire banker whose life is centered upon moneymaking, and only realizes that love is much more important than money when his beloved son is lost, then found, on Christmas Eve. Loving and inspiring!

🎄 13. The Juggler of Notre Dame - Anatole France
A non-Christmas story of a skillful but ignorant juggler who is devoted to the Holy Virgin, that he becomes a monk. Eager to use his talent to praise the Holy Virgin, he performs his juggling before the altar of the Holy Virgin, to the consternation of the other monks.

🎄 14. Noel - Irène Némirovsky
The last story of this collection is the most poignant of all. It shows how Christmas is celebrated by a disintegrated family with a forced artificial joy. It is written as if we are watching disjointed but chronological snippets from movie scenes. A great warning of Christmas spirit which has sadly faded from our world...

🎄 My favorite is The Lost Child, it's the only one of the whole collection which connects itself with the real Christmas. The beautiful ending, in particular, is quite heartwarming:

"...I am compelled to attribute this miraculous event to the influence of the Divine child who came down to earth nearly nineteen centuries ago to command men to love one another."

🎄 On the whole, what a refreshing Christmas read 
this has been!

Rating: 3,5 / 5


  1. I read this some time ago, and I liked it very much.

  2. Oooooh, I need to find this! Maybe for next year...

    1. You can't say no to some of French greatest authors in one book! And telling interesting Christmas stories too!


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