A Christmas story filled with French words
choper la creve

A Deeply Meaningful French Word

Provencal shelter (c) Kristin Espinasse
Stripped of decorum, this old shed still offers shelter against the biting wind.

Have you ever heard an old word as if for the first time? Your ears ring and you are seized by meaning--when a humble old mot causes a lump in your throat.

mangeoire (mahn-zhwar) noun, feminine

  1.  trough, manger (animals) ; feeding dish (birds)
  2.  crèche (Christ child's crib)

Audio File 
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           Cheval affamé nettoie sa mangeoire.
            A starving horse cleans its trough.


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Reading to my Francophone children in their native tongue is a humbling, sometimes humiliating experience—not only for the "pronunciation pause" (kid-issued breaks in which I must stop reading in order to repeat a French word that I have tripped up on), but also for the words that I still do not know, both French and in English!

Thankfully, not all readings are cause for reprimand. De temps en temps, there are eye-opening moments when suddenly, more than a word making sense, the world seems to take on new meaning as well.

It was while reading a chapter called "The birth..." or "La naissance de Jésus" to my daughter that I suddenly felt a lump in my throat and a sting in my eyes. An English word with which I've had but a yearly encounter—usually during the holiday season—suddenly defined itself as its French counterpart moved up my vocal chords and exited in a French chorus of sound and meaning. The text preceding the word (indicated in bold, below) only served to set the dramatic stage:

Là, dans la saleté et entre les animaux, elle mit son bébé au monde. Puis elle l'enveloppa chaudement et, comme il n'y avait pas de berceau, elle le déposa dans une mangeoire pour qu'il puisse dormir...

"There, in the filth and between the animals, she brought her baby into the world. Then she wrapped him warmly and, as there was no cradle, she put him down in a feeding trough so that he could sleep."

Replacing the word "manger" with "feeding trough", its equivalent, gives the account an even more heartrending effect: "manger" is poetic... while "feeding trough" effectively evokes the brutal bed that was the only resting place for the delicate newborn.

                                        *     *     *

As for those instances of humiliation—whether in fumbling through French text before a ten-year-old... or in the stories I have lived that will never be told—my mind now calls up a peaceful bergerie, wherein an unspoiled baby would come to suffer all humility—this, instead of me.


French Vocabulary

de temps en temps = from time to time
La Naissance de Jésus = The Birth of Jesus (from the book "Grande Bible Pour Les Enfants," Chantecler edition)
la bergerie (f) = shelter (sheepfold)
une étoile = star 

Listen to A French Christmas and "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 

kaki or persimmon tree (c) Kristin Espinasse
The kaki, or persimmon tree, at Cousin Sabine's. We're on our way there now to celebrate Noël.

Peace on Earth--sometimes it seems like an impossible dream. If you are reading this note, join in now to strengthen this universal wish for peace.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Nancy from Michigan, USA

Nice story of "une mangeoire" for this Christmas morn....had to share with my family! Joyeux Noël à vous et votre famille!!

Judi, Washington DC

Thanks Kristin, that was a lovely story with which to begin Christmas morning. Wishing you and your family Joyeux Noel and much happiness in the new year.

Sarah LaBelle, near Chicago

Joyeux Noël!

Leslie NYC

Paix dans le monde. . .
Joyeux Noel pour vous tous. . .

Derry Hennessy

A Christmas message with meaning. You have a way with words. Happy Christmas from Ireland.

Ellen from B.H.

Wishing you, your beautiful French and American families, and all your loyal readers a warm and contemplative Christmas. It is a gorgeous day in Paris, where my daughter and I are fortunate enough to be today: shining sun, cool breezes, and the new great bells of Notre Dame ringing and ringing down the small side streets. Joyeux Noel a tous!


joyeux Noel!

Nancy Mulloy-Bonn

Lovely, Kristin. A beautiful day to you and your family.

MJH DesignArts

Thank you, I am finally being filled with the true meaning of Christmas. Blessing to all of you. Mary

Jackie Layton

Joyeux Noel!

Thanks so much for this blog. I hope you have a blessed day celebrating the birth of Jesus!


Thank you for this lovely story. Have a beautiful Christmas day with all your loved ones.

Nancy,                     Cambridge

Merry Christmas from Boston where it is very cold, and we have leftover clumps of snow. Yes, thank you, Kristin, for the gift of your blog to the world; it brightens many lives.

Lyn Cooke

Beautiful, Kristin! "An unspoiled baby would come to suffer all humility—this, instead of me." Thank you for these amazing words!


Merry Christmas/ Joyeux Noel chere Kristin. Thank you for sharing your life and all your wonderful stories which have enlightened and brightened my days throughout the years. Bonne Annee for 2014.

Pat Cargill

Joyeux Noël, chere Kristin et famille!

Chris Allin

What an extraordinarily beautiful Christmas message.

Peace be with you and your family, Kristin.


Thank you. As if taken from Isaiah 53.


Bless you for your beautiful gift this morning! As we awake here on our sleeper sofa in front of our Christmas trees loaded down with pretty, thoughtful gifts (our daughter and her husband are still asleep in our room) my husband and I are given your lovely gift about what this day is all about. Peace on Earth is such a tall order but hopefully peace in each one of our hearts can help make a bit of an inroad!! Mercie beaucoup et Joyeaux Noel a vous et a les votres!


Thank you for sharing the reason we celebrate, dear Kristin! Joyeux Noel et Bonne Annee! xoxo

Judi Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

P.S. I meant to comment also about the beautiful picture of the cabanon - it looks like a watercolor. Makes me want to paint! Oh that I could!!

Denise Southwick

Joyeux Noël...your stories are always great ...wonderful to share with my students...Bonne Année...


Joyeux Noel to you and your family as well as to all your readers. Another beautiful story, beautifully told and I am once again having to wipe away tears! :) Thank you for all the lovely posts with which you provide us and all the things we are left to think about. !Y Feliz Navidad a Jules! :)

Maria Cochrane in Balsam, NC

So glad you directed our attention back to why Jesus came. The book of Hebrews talks about his willingness to be incarnated and suffer the pain of separation from his father on the cross, bearing our punishment - for the JOY set before him. We're that joy! He came to earth to gather un troupeau d'agneaux - smelly, foolish lambs who couldn't find their way out of an open barn if they had to, he made a way for us to be with him and the rest of the happy trinity in the pure environment of a holy heaven.

So grateful this day!

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Merry Christmas and thank you for the heartfelt stories and wonderful photos!

Happy New Year!

Be well,

catharine ewart-touzot

what a very lovely, and surprise, Christmas message..think I shall send it on to others today also..a very Merry Christmas to your family and to all your fans.


I never associated the french word,manger, with the song or story! I thought the manger was the name for the building...Bergerie! Yes...it's quite an "ah ha!" moment, indeed. Mangeoire! Merci! Two new words for me.
Great holiday piece and Peace to you and yours.

Cate Salenger

Joyeux Noel, Kristin to you and your beautiful famille. Such a wonderful photo of that little farmhouse. Gorgeous.

Eileen deCamp

Joyeux Noël

Patience T. In L.A.

I join with all your fans in a big Thank You for all the sharing, thoughts,and learning you bring. Quel plaisir each time there is a post. Each one is a gift. Happy Holidays.


Thank you,dear Kristi,for this beautiful gift to us today.You captured the meaning of this glorious day with humility,simplicity,and reverance and once again expressed just how
you so wonderfully paint pictures with your words.
Joyeux Noel,dear friend,blessings always to all of you.
Natalia. xo


Well done dear Kristin. Well done!


Merci Kristin,

You conveyed the meaning and message of the day better than all but one of the many Christmas sermons I recall in my 50 years of living

Joyeaux Noel a vous et a les votres!
God bless

Keith in Michigan

Thanks for sharing this with us, Kristin, and for helping us focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Joyeux Noël!

Dawn Johnson

Beautifully put, yes it takes other translations to really get the picture of the very humble way our Lord came into this earth. Merci, et Joyeux Noel a votre famille.

Diane Young

Joyeux Noel a vous et votre famille. Our message at church last evening was that Jesus' birth was announced first to the shepherds who, unlike our fantasized versions, were actually pretty far down on the socioeconomic ladder and yet were first to hear the angel's glad tidings. As the song says, "let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me".:La paix du le bon Dieu soit toujours avec vous.

Mara in Wisconsin

I do not care to admit how old I was--and how many years I'd studied French--before I caught on to the connection of manger, "to eat," with the Christmas manger, a food trough. It's now 40+ years since my year in France, and I still have those aha moments. I'll bet we could come up with quite a list among us.

Joyeux Noël à tous.

Mara in a "White Christmas" Wisconsin

Elaine Mayo Poynter

Kristin, thank you for the beautiful Christmas message. May Jesus be praised, and may we be his hands and feet to bring peace and good will towards men in our corners of the world. Christmas blessings to you and yours!
Elaine Poynter
Jonesboro, Arkansas

Pilar From NY

Dear Kristen, when I was a kid and growing up in Spain,we would make our own " mangeoirs" with clay, greens, and whatever our imagination would tell us...
To this day and as an adult, everytime I see
A nativity scene, there is a special connection and
Feel in my heart the true meaning of Christmas. You
Have touched many hearts today with this special message. I'm sure. God bless you and your
Family, et Joyeux Noel!!


"this, instead of me" Well said Kristin.

Joyeux Noël a tous!

Cheryl in STL

Thanks for this post! And Joyeux Noël à vous tous.

When I would teach the verb "manger" I would always mention the Christmas story and remind them that Jesus was born in a manger and that it was a feeding trough....Not many opportunities in a public school to mention Jesus, but "manger" provided me with one!

Maureenann Hilton

Merci beaucoup! Joyeux Noel.

I adore the picture of the shed! At first thougt it was a painting and wanted to ask if I could buy it! really love it. Can you forward to me the picture from your camera? I could have it enlarged...si'l vous plait??
Also, would like to show you a picture of my manger given to me by my mother. It was a gift to her at the age of 5 yrs. from a priest at her Catholic church. It is rustic and I believe was made by him.
thank you
Maureenann Hilton

Carolyn Dahm

Thank you for this beautiful story on my late Mom's birthday...Peace and love to you Kristin...and all of your readers.

Jean-Marie Mider

Your story touch my heart, and showed the belief in our faith the birth of Jesus Christ.
I’m a displaced person, so let me send my greetings from the three countries i have lived:
Wesołych Świąt!
Joyeux Noël!
And finally Merry Christmas !

Robert Wade

What an inspiring story. Thanks so much and Joyeux Noel. Robert Wade, Richmond, Va. USA

Margaret Webb

Dear Kristin, Your Christmas message was a blessing to me. Thank you so much for sharing your faith in our Lord and Savior in such a beautiful way. Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année. Margaret Webb, Jackson, Mississippi, USA.


It's even more staggering when you consider the symbolism. This child who was laid in a "mangeoire", a feeding trough, later told His disciples they must eat His body and drink His blood if they wanted to have Life in them. Even as an infant He was showing us the way!

David Rhum

You said: "...or in the stories I have lived that will never be told—..."

How could you know that, and think that, and be able to anticipate what you will think when you are 80 and find it becoming sort of important to you, it is a lesson that reminds that insight and intellect and empathy are our better condition and, if you don't mind my saying so, a reminder that my stumbling on your website some years ago was a very fortunate circumstance. Best to you,
David Rhum


True. I would agree with David Rhum. Perspective shifts often. Sometimes sooner than we wish it or ready for. The challenge then is to stay balanced.. and Graceful.. no matter what :-) .. Kristin has mastered this art.

Happy New Year to all!

Anne Gilman

Lovely post and magnificent photo. Looks like a painting.
Merci mille fois!

Fotograf Nunta Bucuresti

Lovely. Thank you for this!

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