All posts tagged: laïcité

Better Know a Frenchman: Jules Ferry

Once you’ve wandered through enough cities in France, you begin to notice some similarities beyond cobblestone-lined quarters and fragrant boulangeries. Just as we do in the US, the French name their streets and schools after their most impressive men and women and many of them crop up over and over again. After a while, my friends and I began to joke that France must not have enough famous people, because there seem to be a list of maybe 20 names you can reliably find in any city of a certain size. Charles de Gaulle is basically a given, and Victor Hugo shows up almost as often (Although, sorry France, no matter how you spell it, “Léonard de Vince” is simply not French). To pack an extra punch, they’ve also named several roads after the entire country: Rue de la République ran behind my house in Chambéry, just as it is a major thoroughfare of Lyon and an avenue in Paris (incidentally, the address of Lycée Voltaire). After meeting several of these “grands hommes” all around the country, I realized I …

All of the Lights: Christmas in “secular” France

The Christmas season arrived swiftly in France. Although the French are as unaware about Thanksgiving as the rest of the world, they – just like any self-respecting American should – waited until all the parades and football games were over before blasting carols and decorating trees. The Friday night after T-day saw the illumination of hundreds of lights strung through the streets of Chambéry and that weekend the Christmas market opened! From what I can tell, there is a Christmas market in virtually every single French town of a certain size (I’ve seen them in Chambéry, Lyon, Grenoble and Montpellier), and there are certain elements that make every Christmas market: Dozens of tiny wooden cabins, called chalets, which serve as the individual stands of each vendor At least one chalet, but usually more, serving vin chaud (hot mulled wine – delicious!) and churros and marrons chauds (roasted chestnuts – also delicious!). A chapellerie, or a hat vendor. I don’t know why, but every Christmas market I’ve seen has at least one. Vendors of regional products: sausages, …