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Pin: A Provençale Christmas story

Braveheart (c) Kristin Espinasse

Just back from a doctor's appointment in Marseilles (Youpie! No need for elbow surgery--just a lot of kiné, or physiotherapy visits to repair my coude. Today's photos , and the following post, are from 2 years ago. Meantime, it is not too late to enter the drawing for a one week stay in this Provençal village home.

The other day, while Smokey and I waited in the school parking lot for Jackie, kids filed past our car, occasionally stopping to point and laugh: "Mais regarde sa langue! Just look at his funny tongue! Ahahahaha!"

Laisse tomber! Don't worry about it, Smokey. They don't know your story and there are so many stories out there. The holidays are a time to open up our minds and our hearts. Joyeuses Fêtes.

le pin (pahn) noun, masculine 

: pine tree


le pin d'Alep = Provencal white pine
le pignon de pin = pine nut
la pomme de pin = pine cone
le code pin, le numéro pin = pin code, pin number

AUDIO FILE:  listen to Jean-Marc read todays word, phrase, and example sentence: Download MP3 or Download Wav

Cette année, notre sapin de Noël est un petit pin d'Alep.
This year our Christmas tree is a Provençal pine.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

When Jean-Marc suggested hunting for this year's Christmas tree in the forêt behind our house, our daughter wrinkled her nose. Now there was a grimace I could translate in French or English: it said that all her friends probably had REAL Christmas trees, the kind on display at the mall!

Our daughter's reaction made my husband even more determined. It was high time to lift the consumer veil from our children's eyes: A true arbre de Noël didn't always come from the checkout lane! Not this year anyway--not when a forest dense with pines crowded our back yard.

Allez! Jean-Marc persisted, dragging our Christmas tree snob off the couch.

I hid in our room, where I'd taken refuge from all the holiday frenzy. There, in the quiet, I heard the crunch of leaves as my husband, our teenager, and the dogs crossed over the boules court on their way to la chenaîe

Not 10 minutes later and they were back. Strange.... They must have encountered les chasseurs and had to postpone their search. I sank deeply into my bed, wondering just when the tree chore would get done! Why didn't I keep the ugly plastic tree of yesteryear? It had been so easy to part with it, while cramming the contents of our lives into two economy trucks last September. What a bad decision that was! (the tree, not the cheap movers. Not one lamp broken in the deal!).

But what was the deal with our tree? I threw back the covers and got out of bed. In the living room I found Jackie back on the couch, watching TV. 

"Well, what happened?" 

My daughter smiled. "Rien". 

"But did you find a Christmas tree?"


"Well, do you like it?"

"Oui," Jackie nodded, and the stars twinkling in her eyes were proof of that. I felt a bit star-struck myself, bewildered by the peaceful atmosphere. Wasn't tree-shopping supposed to be chaotic? Et bien, we had skipped the commercial venture this time!

My daughter followed me into the entryway to our home, where a rustic fireplace and two felt-covered fauteuils have become a favorite resting spot.

There stood our Christmas tree, between the cozy sas and the dining room. Jackie knelt down on the ground to arrange the area beneath the tree. "Papa collected some mousse in the forest," she explained, as she borrowed some of the characters from the crèche, setting them on top of the deep green ground cover.

The door opened and Jean-Marc came in, his arms full of firewood for the cheminée. "Alors? Ça va l'arbre? Your daughter cut it down."

"It's beautiful!" I admitted. "What kind is it?"

"Un pin d'Alep."

I ran to my dictionary to look up the term. Un pin d'alep is a Provençal pine. What could a hopeless Francophile want more than a French Christmas?

Un Noël Provençal

And what more could our daughter want than a real arbe de Noël? From the sparkle in her eyes, it was clear: this year she got her wish.


Bonnes fêtes! Happy holidays dear reader. May the spirit of the season grab you... filling you with peace, love, and forgiveness. 




French Vocabulary

allez! = come on!

la forêt = forest

un arbre de Noël = a Christmas tree

allez! = come on!

la chenaîe = pin oak grove

les boules = the game of Pétanque, read Gary's story

le chasseur = hunter

rien = nothing

le sas = (a synonym for sas is chambre, or room, but here it refers to a small entry way)

le fauteuil = chair

le papa = dad, father

la mousse = moss

la crèche = nativity scene

la cheminée = fireplace

amicalement = warmly


    French christmas music
French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Sainte Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 
Order CD here.


Smokey has taught himself how to eat, despite his handicap. And he has a trick or two for keeping his nerve-damaged tongue in place.... So if you see him walking around town like this, he's not snobbing you--he is only trying to hold himself together!

May you, too, hold yourself together this time of year--doing whatever you need to do to enjoy the moment. Not everyone will understand your position (just look at Smokey's!), but that's not your problem. Ce n'est pas ton souci :-)

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