A little Christmas tale....

As a child, I lived in Aix-en-Provence and I loved reading the Contes of Alphonse Daudet on Christmas day. But one of my favorite Christmas tale is the beautiful and touching memory French writer, Jean Guéhenno narrates about Christmas Eve in his childhood. Born in a modest family in 1890, the writer recalls these faraway times when one received a beautiful orange as a Christmas gift.

Here are some excerpts of the text in the original language, followed by a very free translation I did yesterday, for my English speaking friends. I beg the purists (in linguistic) to forgive me for my approximate translation as English is not my native language.


"Le soir de Noël, quand j’avais huit ans, je courais quelques sous en main donnés par ma mère, à la rencontre d'une épicerie.

Mon trésor ne devait payer que la plus belle orange. Je bondissais chez Fichepoil, courais chez Ealet, revenais encore chez Fichepoil. Qui dira ce que peut être dans un enfant l'intensité du désir et sa certitude de toucher bientôt au bonheur ? C'est ce désir et cette certitude qui ne doivent pas être trompés, et un Dieu naissait cette nuit-là précisément pour les combler.

Je revenais un peu avant minuit portant dans une main une admirable orange enveloppée d'un papier de soie, dans l'autre un sac de chocolats à faveur rose.


Je regardais ma belle orange, ajoute-t -il. Et voici ce qui, rituellement, arrivait: ma mère la tirait de son papier de soie; tous deux nous en admirions la grosseur, la rondeur, l'éclat; (...)

Pendant des mois, elle nous assurait par ses belles couleurs que le bonheur et la beauté étaient de ce monde. Quelquefois je la palpais, je la tâtais. Il m'arrivait d'insinuer qu'elle serait bientôt mûre.

- Attendons encore! répondait ma mère. Quand nous l'aurons mangée, qu'est~ce qui nous restera ?

Nous attendions.

En avril ou mai, il fallait la jeter, parce qu'elle était gâtée. Je n'ai pas de souvenir d'avoir jamais mangé l'orange de Noël.

Triste fin pour cet objet de désir et de convoitise !

.. toujours, dans ma pensée, la nuit de Noël devra sa grandeur à ces souvenirs que j'ai rapportés, et il m'arrive encore de songer au bonheur comme à une belle orange de Noël qu'il faudrait partager entre tous les hommes pour que réellement ils la mangent."

extrait de Changer la vie, mon enfance et ma jeunesse

"On Christmas Eve, when i was 8, I ran to the grocer’s with a few coins my mother gave me.

With my fortune, I was only allowed to buy the most beautiful orange. I dashed to Fichepoil, then Ealet then came back to Fichepoil again. How can one describe the intensity of desire in a child mixed with the certitude of reaching happiness? This desire and certitude cannot be deceived indeed and some God that night existed to fulfill these wishes.

I would come back a little shorter before midnight, carrying in one hand a beautiful orange wrapped in silk paper and a bag of chocolates tied with a pink ribbon in the other hand.


I looked at my beautiful orange. And this is what usually happened : my mother would unwrap it from the silk paper; we both admired its generous size, its roundness and brightness (…)

For months, its vivid color and luminosity reassured us that happiness and beauty were part of this world. At times, I would feel it, touch it with my fingers. I would hint that it would be ripe soon.

- Let's wait a bit more ! my mother would say. For what would be left of it once we eat it ?

In april or may, we had to throw it away because it was spoilt. I never recalled having eaten the Christmas orange.

What a sad end for such a coveted object of desire !

….always in my thoughts, Christmas Eve owes its magnificence to these memories and I sometimes visualize happiness as a beautiful Christmas orange which men would have to share it together in order to really have a taste of it."

from Changer la vie, mon enfance et ma jeunesse (Changing the life, my childhood and my youth)

My lovelies, I wish you all a very merry Christmas !!!

Peace and love to you

xoxo Lala

pics : I was a bit in a rush this year to prepare the traditional 13 Provençal desserts so I just laid out some tangerines and dattes. Got to go baking now !


Merry Christmas, Lala. Been thinking of you, too. Hope your holiday is filled with beautiful moments. (And your table is gorgeous.)
Catherine xx
Relyn said…
Happy baking, dear Lala. What wonderful images. Gorgeous! Here it is Christmas Eve and I have a pile of things still to do. Before I don my little elf hat and get busy, I wanted to stop by and wish you and yours a very merry Christmas. May this holiday season bring you much joy and laughter. May the gifts you give be received with delight and may you know how very much you are loved. Merry Christmas, my friend.
Marilyn said…
A lovely story. Merry Christmas to you.
Simply Mel said…
Oh Lala, what a wonderful tale! Thank you for sharing. And the photos are amazing - simple perfection of Nature's winter offerings.

Merry Christmas to you and your moncheri!

TheChicGeek said…
Oh, LaLa, what a beautiful story and images. You are a true artist! I am so happy to know you.

Merry Christmas to you and Yours, LaLa!
Many Blessings
Sara said…
I love your beautiful and unique and artistic table arrangement. Beautiful oranges and tangerines and golden coins....and dates. Simple but lovely. And perfect, of course, for the delightful story you shared with us. And thank you for the English translation; I would have been lost without it...

Merry Christmas.
David Engel said…
Hey Lala!

Thanks for the lovely tale,the beautiful pics, and for stopping by Global Around Town. I was making Pomander Balls earlier. They smell beautiful! Also went shopping for Stilton, Scallops, Shrimp, Taleggio, Lamb Shoulder Chops, Chestnuts... It should be a delicious Christmas. I hope yours is grand!


kendalee said…
A lovely story, thank you. Merry Christmas Lala - wishing you much joy! :) K xx
Yoli said…
Merry Christmas to you and that sweet man! Those pictures and story are beautiful.
studioJudith said…
Such beautiful images and a perfect reminder of oranges as a Christmas treat. When I was a child, there was always an orange in the toe of your Christmas stocking, for these fruits were not as easily available as they are today.

Hugs to you, dear Lala -

Diana said…
How lovely, thank you, as always, and Merry Christmas!
Linda Sue said…
Beauty does not last forever- other beauty takes its place and so goes the way of the orange...enjoy your oranges while you may- there will be berries in the spring.Chocolate is non seasonal - good thing! Love your bright table of oranges! We have gone through three bagsfull of tiny ones already! They are called "cuties" and you can easily fit five of them in your hand at once.
Kitty Shepherd said…
Merry Christmas Lala, I picked up your message on the phone over a week ago. I hope you are alright in the big weather we are having right now!
Oh Lala...thank you...that was just perfection!
Oranges at Christmas - I think they make the most beautiful decorations. I buy huge bags of them and put them everywhere. An added bonus, they make the house smell wonderful! Thanks for sharing the lovely story! Love your photos Lala!
Happy 2010!
Italo said…
Un très joli post Lala. Je te souhaite un 2010 plein d'amour de joie et d'amis qui te font rire.
Oh it brings tears to one's eyes. Thank you for the translation.

Happy baking my dear and thank you so much for your good wishes. Have a great New Year!
xxx DJ
Anonymous said…
Beautiful, beautiful pictures and words!
Mélanie said…
J'ai souvent entendu ces histoires d'orange ou de fruits qui étaient le plus beau cadeau de Nöel . Mon père notamment adore me raconter cela à propos de son enfance
rochambeau said…
How lovely,
Thank you!


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