Les Étrennes: This French new year's custom will have you digging in your pockets
Friday, January 14, 2022
Photo of les boîtes à lettres taken in Marseilles at Les Arcenaulx. Thank you, Jean-Marc, for recording two sound files for today's post (the second is found below the vocabulary list). Note: if you are experiencing déjà vu reading the following column--tout va bien--the story is being revived from the archives.
TODAY'S WORD: LES ETRENNES
: New Year's gift, tip, bonus
étrenner = to wear or use for the first time; to be first in the line of fire
Listen to Jean-Marc read from FranceTVInfo.fr:
Avec les vœux du Nouvel An arrive le moment des étrennes. Vous ne savez pas à qui donner ni quel montant consacrer à cette tradition ? Ce don d'argent n'est pas obligatoire, mais c'est un signe de gratitude qui permet d'entretenir les liens avec des personnes qui vous facilitent la vie. With New Year's wishes comes the moment of New Year's gifts. Unsure of who to give to or how much to devote to this tradition? This donation of money is not compulsory, but it is a sign of gratitude that allows you to maintain ties with people who make your life easier.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
On Saturday Mom and I were crammed between the two folding doors of an old telephone booth (now a tiny, free library brimming with books). We were checking the latest titles, including Shogun, which Mom could not read because it was in French. Helping return the book, I looked out through the window of the cabine téléphonique and spotted Postwoman Marie....
"Mom! There's Marie! Should we give her her gifts now?"
Mom suddenly confessed she had eaten Marie's present. The giant plastic champagne bottle filled with miniature candy bars had been too much of a temptation, stored as it was for the past three weeks on Jules's kitchen comptoir....
We began searching through our coat pockets for some cash, for this was the opportunity we had been looking for... Tis the season of les étrennes! Time to tip those people in our lives who make our days easier or brighter. (And I certainly appreciate it when Postwoman Marie opens our gate and drops a package--rather than putting a yellow ABSENTE slip in our mailbox for pickup at the post office!)
"Hurry, she's getting back on her motorcycle!" Jules and I sped toward Marie, singing Maria Maria!
Having caught up with la factrice, we showered Marie with kisses in thanks for her warmth and realness.
Marie pulled off her heavy casque de moto, revealing bright blue cropped hair.
"Oh, I love the blue!" Mom said, "even more than last week's green!"
"Merci beaucoup," Marie smiled. "Attendez!" She said. Having accepted our gifts, Marie pulled out a stack of calendars from one of the satchels on her yellow motorcycle. "Il faut choisir...."
Mom was thrilled by the unexpected gift, and she thoughtfully examined the selection of themed calendriers....
Il y avait des chevaux, des champs de fleurs....la mer....
Not wanting to keep our postwoman waiting, I nudged Mom to hurry up and select a calendar.
"Oh, I'd better take the kitties," Jules decided, and Marie nodded, from one animal lover to another.
Our factrice put her helmet back on, only for Mom to shower her with more kisses. And when our blue-haired postwoman drove away there were bright pink kiss prints, les bisous, all over her helmet, and hopefully all over her heart.
Story Update: it is now January 2022 and Mom (who never receives mail) has Postwoman Marie's tip ready. "I'm giving extra this year--for her family." Jules is referring to "Guacamole" Marie's adorable, four-legged complice.
Click here to listen to the French terms below
les étrennes = New year's gift, a tip, (also "Christmas Box")
la cabine téléphonique = telephone booth
le comptoir = counter
la factrice, le facteur = postwoman, postman
la casque de moto = motorcycle helmet
attendez = wait
Il faut choisir = you need to choose
il y avait = there were
les chevaux = horses
un champ de fleurs = fields of flowers
la mer = the sea
le bisou = kiss
Vocabulary that didn't make it into the sound file:
le/la complice = partner, partner in crime, accomplice
Closing with another photo of the mailboxes at Les Arcenaulx. Stroll with me there in the story "flâner"
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety