Une saccade + Tic Talk: Let's talk about tics (did you know "Tourettes" is named after a Frenchman?)
The French Cure + vitamins and supplements + the expression "tant s'en faut" (find it in today's story)

Faire le Sapin, "la flemme" and The Spirit of the Season

Christmas tree sapin de noel in the port of Bandol France
A giant sapin de noël in the Mediterranean port of Bandol, south of France.

TODAY'S WORD: la flemme

    : laziness, reluctance 

Consider all these translations for "j'ai la flemme":
I don't feel like, I'm too lazy, I'm not motivated, I can't be bothered, I don't even care, I haven't the courage

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

French pronunciation MP3 file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
“For the joy it brings”

As I look up to the highest cupboard in our house, guilty thoughts permeate my mind: What if we skip the tree this year? Would anyone notice or care? Is it a crime not to deck the halls at Christmastime?

Recognizing the lassitude as one big bout of holiday flemme, I had a little pep talk with my inner flemmarde:  It's time to prendre du poil de la bête! Time to pep up, se requinquer! and the only way to do it is to move it. Move that energy. Start by moving the tree!

Ni chaud ni froid?
Dragging a bistro chair over to the mile-high cupboard, I retrieved our sapin artificiel and began decorating it, beginning with la guirlande lumineuse. I began to think about why I had been so reluctant to trim our tree: Was it indifference (ça ne me fait ni chaud ni froid?) Or lack of novelty? (Our Christmas tree lingered until Easter last year...) Or was it because no one was participating this time—does my family have la flemme too? I tested the theory when my son returned from work: "Max, help me put some ornaments on the tree?" 

"Désolé. Trop occupé!" Jean-Marc was busy, too, with les cadeaux de fin d’année (delivering wine to Toulon, to Aubagne, to Marseilles...) and Jules was in her studio, keeping warm under a pile of blankets (Smokey being part of that pile). Jackie would have helped faire le sapin, but she moved out last week--which brings me back to Pourquoi?

Pourquoi faire? What's the point in decorating? Who am I doing this for anyway?

From flemme...to flamme!
Once the fairy lights were on the little tree I stepped back and, Holy Flamme! There it was: une étincelle. A spark in my heart...and then another. I hurried over to get Mom and drag her with me into The Spirit of Christmas, as it moved through our home--an Eternal Flamme overcoming la flemme.

"I'll be there in a minute," Mom said, putting on her lipstick.

I ran back to the house to put on some Christmas music and light a pine-scented candle (the best friend of a faux sapin). When I turned I saw Mom at the glass door. Those same sparks in my heart were now in Mom’s eyes which were lit with excitement. Even Smokey had the spark, bark! bark!

The mixture of surprise and delight on Mom's face as she discovered the lighted Christmas tree put an end to a nagging question—Pourquoi?

The answer was so simple now: for the joy it brings! Pour la joie que cela procure!

la flemme = laziness, reluctance 
J’ai la flemme = I don’t feel like it
le (la) flemmard(e) = idler, lazybones
prendre du poil de la bête = to bounce back
se requinquer = perk up, pep up
le sapin = fir tree, pine tree
artificiel = imitation, fake, ersatz
la guirlande lumineuse = Christmas-tree lights
ni chaud ni froid = indifference
Ça ne me fait ni chaud ni froid = I don’t mind either way
désolé = sorry
je suis trop occupé = I’m too busy
le cadeau de fin d’année = year-end gift clients give each other
faire le sapin = to put up a Christmas tree
pourquoi? = why?
pourquoi faire = why do it
pour la joie que cela procure = for the joy it brings

...a few words missing from the soundfile
une étincelle = spark
une flamme = flame
un faux sapin = fake tree
Smokey and the Christmas tree Noel 2021
Bark, bark! 12-year-old Smokey beneath the fairy lights, doing his best impression of Le Flemmard, or Lazybones.

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Decided to just put out our Santon Village this year. It does remind us of the Advent word….HOPE.

Perhaps, it’s the dragging on and on of the pandemic that has taken the pleasure out of just doing things.

Joyeux Noël.


Bonjour Kristi,

I just LOVE this post today and I can totally relate...I was asking myself, "what's the point" .... our kids are not coming and why bother but I bounced back and perked up! I put on some Christmas music, bought a little tree from the Boy Scouts in our town and got to decorating. A spark of joy ignited and turned into a flame!

My daughter called and told us she is coming home for Christmas after all! YAY!

Merci for this post which also brings joy to me!

Kristin Espinasse

So happy you will see your daughter, Eileen. Good for your for putting up the tree. It reminds me of the famous line, If you build it they will come!

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
What a sweet, inspiring post. You have a gift for reflecting on the meaningful at just the right moment.

We have reached the point of reluctance at putting up a tree just for the two of us. Last year we decorated our tree with only lights. But you have prompted us to remember what it represents. Yes, it does bring tremendous joy. Thank you for the reminder…

Chris Allin

So happy to see the sweet endearing photo of Smokey! 💙


Bonjour Kristi,
I caught this little spelling error because I was thinking "yep, c'est moi" J’ai la flemme = I don’t fell like it...s/b "feel".

Thank you for the little spark..."étincelle". 🥰. and for the adorable photo of Smokey💗

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Chris! A Christmas tree with lights only is so pretty and peaceful. P.S. I am glad you like the photo of Smokey 💕

Kristin Espinasse

Lorinda, This is so helpful. Merci 🤩 

Susan Boehnstedt

RB, I needed that kick in the seat this year. It will be the first time Ian is not with us in 20 years ...it's been a super tough 20 months of work and personal life as you know and I thought FORGET it ...don't have the time or interest this year......BUT I LOVE this time of year, I love the white lights, I love the smells, I love the "home" coming feeling. I love getting up in the early hours of the morning and sitting by the tree in the dark with prayers, thoughts and wishes for family/friends and it GIVES ME a boost into the next year. It's for ALL these reasons RB that I will DECORATE this year. MAYBE not a tree but white lights will be up and I do have a super tiny tree I will decorate if nothing else. Thanks for the boost! XOXOXO RB Long overdue for a call. Let's set one up.

Kristin Espinasse

RB, I am sorry Ian will not be with you this year. Bon courage. Thank you for the idea of getting up early to sit beside the tree lights in the dark, with prayers, thoughts and wishes. Talk to you soon 💕

Marianne Rankin

For years, we put up a real tree with lights and ornaments. But later we got cats, who climbed the tree, knocked it over, spilling water and pine needles and breaking ornaments. So we went with a large artificial tree for a while, with preinstalled lights. But it was hard to get the four sections of that tree, especially the very wide bottom section, up in to our attic via a pull-down staircase. I eventually gave the tree to our neighbors. Now I have several small artificial trees, a couple of feet high, and each one has a "theme," for the kind of ornaments on it: religious, animals, handmade decorations, etc. We also have some White House ornaments, sold in our town as a fund-raiser for scholarships. Now that it is just my son and I in the house, I've had the "Why bother?" feeling on occasion. But last year when I had to go out of town to help my brother, and got back very close to Christmas, I missed some of the holiday activities. This year may be the last Christmas that my son is living in my house, so I want to go "all out" with decorating.

Every year I also set up a Nativity set, made of white clay by a family friend, with marvelous detail, including expressive faces. It reminds us of the reason for the season.

I encourage folks to decorate a little for whatever their tradition is, which could be a menorah, for example, if they are Jewish. If you aren't religious, decorating with greenery might still give you a lift.


I go through this every year! Should I bother? Who would notice? Could I get away with just lights a on the tree and no ornaments, etc. But I rally and the 4 kids come home and they are HOME and it is all worth it.

K. J. Laramie

Uplifting, universal, timely, and so appreciated! 🙏🎄💫

Ellen A.

Love this story, and your readers' comments. You might consider sending a version all in English, or with just a couple of the French phrases, to newspapers or magazines (particularly any with a religious base) in the United States. Somehow, you've captured exactly how many of us feel about the holidays this year, and why making the effort is still so worthwhile.

Deborah Zajac

I have only put the winter bedding on my bed and put up my handmade Ceramic Christmas tree in there, set the dining room table with Christmas dishes, and added a few winter touches to the entry hall and outside the front door. He-Man put up the outdoor lights and added a few ornaments to our front yard tree. That's about all I feel like doing, but I should dig out our stockings and get those hung and be done. I too have a case of La Flemme!

Your tree and Smokey look wonderful! Joyeux Noel, Kristi! 🥰

Karen O'Connor

Lovely, sweet, and moving story today. It brought a happy tear to my eye!

Lanny Henoch

Et une autre raison pour vos efforts: la photo mignonne de votre chien devant le sapin de Noël.

Joyeux Noël!!!


Yes I put up a tree and decorate it, like Susan mentioned above, for the joy of twinkling lights in the dark of early morning time. It reminds me the time of reflection, rest and darkness will slowly change and return to light and slightly longer days after the winter solstice. Like a child being born! And we do the Hanukkah candles as well which brighten the evenings.


J'ai la flemme! I'm staring at this beautiful 5' live pinon in living room, whispering "decorate me" J'ai la flemme!
AHA!!! I have neighbors, les flemmardes, who are sitting next to the cozy flaming kiva with the wind and snow whistling around outside.
I'll entice them over for raclette and offer them a tree decoration!


Nice, Kristi! May the flame of Christmas love and joy burn brightly for you and your family throughout the new year.

Sue J.

Lovely, Kristi. You inspire us all.


Thank you for this....Perfect timing. I'm reading emails instead of wrapping presents and decorating our tree. Your post provided une etincelle that I needed!


Like many Boomers, we experienced NOT having our kids come for Christmas for a couple of years, so they could establish their own traditions and not have to be on the road, so we didn't put up a tree. But last year during one of the waves of COVID, we decided we needed a Christmas tree for ourselves.
We found that tree lights and some other necessaries were in short supply; apparently, a lot of people felt the way we did. So we went early this year to the tree farm to cut down a nice "concolor" tree and decorated it with all the familiar ornaments. Last year, after Christmas, we took the empty tree, still in its water stand and put it in the back yard and continued to water it until it finally wasn't drinking in the water. The tree stayed healthy here in Illinois until May! We have done this several times, and one year a family of cardinals made itself at home in the tree.


Our dear Kristi,
Another absolutely wonderful,ever so meaningful post!Not to even mention such a terrific photo of dear Smokey(I have to say it again:dog is God spelled backwards!Oh!YES!!)
For the last several years,we have left our holiday decorations permanently on display .
They are not elaborate: lighted faux tree,twinkle stars in a bottle,wooden creche, and two Limoge miniatures of Christmas scenes(which belonged to my dear Mama).
They have countless times proven to be joyful spirit lifters--times when we need(sometimes more than) alittle Christmas,right this very minute!!(just like the song says!) Whether it's the world situations around us,or even the REALLY hot summers here in the Southwest US,the significance of what these decorations stand for continually wraps itself around our hearts.
Thank you,dear Kristi. Your beautiful words always fill us with inspiration.
Blessings to you and your family.
Natalia xo


Merci, Kristi,
Cette année mes fêtes de la fin d'année sont petites. Il y a une seul chapeau de Santa, drapé sur la sign devant ma maison, et trois ornements de Noël dans trois gobelets en argent dessus de la cheminée, ma crèche sur un coffre, et une chandelle au centre d'une couronne sur ma table. C'est tout. Mais je suis en train de cuisiner mes cadeaux pour ma famille et mes amis. C'est comment j'exprime mon amour pour eux.

barbara michels

So glad everyone is doing well at this time of year, especially the precious Smokey.

Lauren Golden

Lovely comments! Please, someone tell me what RB means.


Je connais Bandol Kristi.
I spent 3 weeks there in 2012 with some good friends whose family live there.
I never liked Vin Rose until I tried the Rose de Bandol which is exquisite….sadly I can’t find it anywhere in Australia.


Do we take "phlegmatic" from "la flemme" perhaps?
I feel like that this year, but reading about your metamorphosis, I now feel a spark of enthusiasm myself...
Thank you, Kristi!! Merry Christmas to you all!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Lauren, RB stands for Rouge-Bleu -- a nickname my friend Susan and I gave each other in high school. Jean-Marc borrowed the name for his first vineyard. I wrote about both in a blog post from 2007 called sobriquet:

Diane Heinecke

Kristi, I've said it before and I'll say it again. Your transparency is a great gift! How many times your posting resonates with me and I say, "Me too!" After finishing Christmas cards by myself, I questioned if we should just forget putting up decorations this year, especially because my husband was being a >. We aren't travelling anywhere and no one is coming to visit. But something (the Holy Spirit?) gave me a nudge and I sighed and got to work. I put on traditional Christmas music while I arranged our small artificial tree, the crèche and a few other items. Then I turned on a wax warmer and added a Balsam Fir pellet. Voilà! I felt renewed with the hope of the season. Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année à tous!

Diane Heinecke

He was being a flemmard.

Lauren Golden

Merci Kristi pour l'explication de RB!


I too like to buy a Christmas tree from the local Boy Scouts. Their stand is next door to a bicycle shop which gives $20 gift certificates to people who buy a tree from the Scouts. So, this year I got a lovely tree and used the gift certificate toward a new bicycle helmet for my grandson, which he needs. I felt good supporting the local Scouts and good about the solution to what to get my 12 year old grandson for Christmas.

Juli Parrott

Merci, Kristi. Every year, I go through the same thoughts as I decorate for the Holidays by myself. However, as you said, once done, Voila, une Flamme resonates throughout the house and throughout those that inhabit it as well as those that visit. It is well worth it. Bonne Noel!

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