Le Dernier Mot: A Tree is Not Just for Christmas

Le Dernier Mot: A Tree is Not Just for Christmas

Kristin looks deep within her soul and discovers there is something a little hors norme.

Last fall, when my niece started university, one of her assignments was to share something unique about herself. Wondering how I might answer the same question, I was surprised at how difficult it was to come up with something hors norme. As the months passed, and still with no clue, I began to feel an urge to explain or even defend this apparent lack of originality. Then, a little glimmer surfaced at the start of the holiday season. Unboxing our artificial arbre, I remembered there is indeed something very curious, odd and étrange about yours truly: I leave my Christmas tree up half the year. That may not be a personality trait but it does have a way of building character – more about that in a moment.

While the traditional time to take down one’s sapin de Noël is on Epiphany, in France you have until February 2, La Chandeleur. But I’m too lazy from eating all those crêpes. Come Valentine’s Day, our glittery faux spruce really is looking out of place and I’m considering swapping reindeer and snowflakes for hearts and chocolates. But oh, la flemme! It takes a lot of time and patience to rearrange so much décor.

Santa can receive mail all year round in La Ciotat © Kristin Espinasse

Easter would seem a good moment for a straggler to get the chore done, but spring fever becomes a good excuse to put it off a while longer. This far into my délire, I have discovered an added benefit of a Christmas tree in springtime: the reaction (or non-reaction) of visitors to our home.

Watching the plumber pass by our blinking tree in May, comme si de rien n’était, makes me giggle inside… though I must admit to feeling self-conscious when my husband’s friends and their stylish wives come over. Don’t say a word, I whisper to myself. Especially don’t explain. If the awkwardness gets to be too much, I can always play the Foreigner Card: “Oh, it’s a tradition we have back home. My mom leaves hers up all year long.” And she does (or did, before moving in with us).

My grown kids handle the tree anomaly with humour and nonchalance. When posting to Instagram from our Christmassy living room in June, my daughter notes: “nothing unusual around here…” and my son keeps a running bet – un pari – with friends about just how long the tree will remain on display this year. How could I disappoint them? While a perennial Christmas tree might not be that quirky, it does build character. Each time I bite my tongue and don’t offer excuses or explanations to others, I am evolving. Though that is not unique, it feels good. As good as sitting down with an iced tea on a hot summer night to enjoy paper snowflakes and twinkling lights.

Perhaps these chocolates could transform the tree for Valentine’s Day © Kristin Espinasse

French Vocabulary

HORS NORME = out of the ordinary
UN ARBRE = tree
LE SAPIN DE NOËL = Christmas tree
LA FLEMME = laziness
LE DÉLIRE = delirium
COMME SI DE RIEN N’ÉTAIT = as if nothing were amiss
Un pari = a bet

Lead photo credit : Kristin’s salon at Easter © Kristin Espinasse

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The American-born author and photographer lives with her French husband, Jean-Marc, and their two children on a vineyard and olive farm near Bandol in Provence. She's the author of "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France" and runs the French Word-a-Day blog and newsletter.

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  •  Marilyn Cote II
    2023-02-18 03:48:53
    Marilyn Cote II
    Love it! Please write more.


  •  Donald J. Schwarz
    2023-02-15 06:27:24
    Donald J. Schwarz
    Every Christmas, my wife and I would buy a new handmade ornament for the tree. When she had dementia a few years ago, I left the tree up all year until Epiphany of the following Christmas. This is a photo of my pixie wife and the tree, IMG_0210.JPG She had a lightning-quick sense of humor. Leaving a restaurant a few years ago, the lady at the table we were passing reached out, grasping my wife's arm, and said, "My husband and I were just discussing what a wonderful couple you are." With a smile on her face and a chuckle, my wife leaned over and said, "You need new glasses." Her wonderful sense of humor is the first thing dementia took from her.