We are trying to decide when to give our Christmas presents. This is a cultural discussion between the French (husband, mother-in-law, stepdaughter) and the English (me, mother). The Fille is not included; she would vote to open them now.
The French normally give presents tonight after they celebrate Christmas with champagne, foie gras and seafood, among other things. My mother and I would give them tomorrow, when the English celebrate traditionally with turkey and plum pudding. I point out as I cannot find a local shop to come up with a platter of oysters, langoustine, crab, prawns, shrimps, whelks and winkles, and as we have a massive Suffolk turkey to feed the 5,000 we should save ourselves, food and present-wise, until tomorrow. I would also argue we have Father Christmas on our side as he does his rounds overnight, except everyone would think the Christmas spirit had addled my brain.
My mother would have put the presents round the tree days ago and is certainly not about to let anyone, least of all some mythical chap and reindeer, claim credit for the glittery tinselled bicycle she has bought The Fille. She wanted to put the presents round the tree days ago. She says we have always done this in our family. Her memory must be worse than mine; I clearly remember nothing went round the tree in our house before my brother and I were well asleep on Christmas Eve. Any earlier and she knew she would catch us burrowing around like famished moles to get the Mars Bars out of the selection boxes. She thinks The Fille is an angel.
The presents are hidden in various cupboards and we have agreed a compromise on when to divvy them out. I did not even have to use the 'When in Rome-rule' trump card: my mother's 'Christmas stockings'; elephant-size socks full of delightful little gifts she puts together every year, will be opened tonight. We will open the rest tomorrow. As it is her birthday, ny mother will be allowed to open her birthday presents, and my mother-in-law will be allowed to open presents because it is her saint's day. The Fille and my stepdaughter may be allowed, if they are really very good to open an extra present this evening. I am sure the latter, who is 21 will qualify easily, but am less certain the former, now two-and-a-half will fulfil the behaviour requirement. Still, I am happy we have reached an Entente Cordiale. I tell my mother: "We don't have to pretend Father Christmas brought the bike you know."
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