Et ce nouveau arrêté, c’est fou non? (this new rule, it’s crazy isn’t it?)
I was chatting to the pork lady at the market, with whom I regularly exchange loose ideas on politics, family, food & the weather. This particular Thursday we were complaining about the idiocy of the 1km exercise rule that had been imposed by the government. The two ladies next to me both agreed, which I inferred mostly by their vigorous nodding, given that everyone was masked. We commiserated collectively for a few more minutes before I ordered, and then wandered over to the fish guy for my next chat. I wonder what he was thinking about all this?
It’s taken me years to understand this cultural process, the market experience in France.
When I first got here it used to drive me crazy that I had to wait up to 20 minutes in line just to get some pork chops. Stop chatting & sell something will ya! And I never really understood why there were always groups of folks just hanging about for hours around the stalls. What are all these people doing here?
Then one day, the baguette came out of the oven so-to-speak, and it all clicked into place.
The weekly open-air markets are not just a place to buy food. They’re a social gathering, the quintessential village get-together where neighbors catch-up, complex issues are discussed, and news items is shared. They’re the beating pulse of the countryside and they endure despite modern times and social media. That is something really significant.
Folks are fiercely loyal to the market too.
Everyone has a cheese guy/gal, a pork stop, a fish stand, a veggie vendor, a bread place etc. and they rarely waver. They stop and chat, making the exact same rounds at the exact same stands every single week, taking their time, scrutinizing the produce (“cela tiendra-t-il jusqu’à dimanche” = will this hold until Sunday?), buying and (surprisingly) sometimes getting refused too (“non, ça ne tiendra pas = it’s not going to hold, or basically I won’t sell it).
I frikkin’ love it!
In these crazy times going to the weekly market is one of the things that has kept me sane. The markets shut down completely in the last confinement, and honestly it was crushing. Without that essential community link, villages became ghost-towns and the folks (especially the older population) became more isolated than ever. We went back the first day they re-opened in May, and have been going ever since. This second shutdown, thankfully they’ve stayed open.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this during the past week, not only because it’s one of the few (only?) times per week we get out of the house, but also because of life in general. Call me an old fogey if you will, but real connections are in decline these days, our lives moved to social media, whatsapp and zoom, accelerated by the madness of 2020. It’s easier than ever to connect online, yet harder than ever in person, and I do believe it’s one of the reasons we’ve all become so divided.
Connections IMO are more important than ever, and that’s the topic of today’s post.
An Early Christmas, And Traditions
Our grocery halls are filled with holly and cheer, and the internet is practically over-flowing with it. I’ve never seen Christmas arrive quite this early, or perhaps it’s just crept up on me?
Yesterday a friend posted on Facebook that they’d put up their Christmas tree and then a slew more responded, timidly at first (lest they be judged) that so had they. By the end of the afternoon another 20 people had came out of the Christmas closet. Who knew?
Apparently starting celebrations early this year is a “thing”….
Some of this makes sense of course, from a commercial point of view. We’re under lock-down or restrictions in many places, so stores are worried they won’t have enough time with the public to hit their yearly sales. For smaller businesses, this upcoming Nov/Dec could mean the difference between closure or survival, so they’re promoting early hoping to get folks to buy local, rather than just hitting the buy button on one of the big retailers online. I totally get that.
But for my friends, I think it’s a kind of mental therapy.
Traditions are part of what hold us together as a society, and give us connection. Indigenous tribes hold ceremonies and dances, religions have gatherings and honor specific events, cultures have celebrations and share unique customs. I’m generalizing quite a bit (I realize that), but my point is simple. Traditions are important for all of us, no matter where we live or who we are.
Christmas specifically, is a particularly fascinating one.
In its essence it’s a Christian day of course, but some of the traditions typically associated with it it can be traced back to pagan times. Kissing under the mistletoe, a plant that was the sacred plant of Druids; gift-giving/feasting, and the Roman celebration of Saturnalia (the return of the sun at the solstice). And of course nowadays we have Christmas Trees, Christmas lights, Santa Claus and….for better or worse….Christmas shopping.
You could rightfully say that none of the latter have anything to do with the real intent of Christmas (honoring the birth of Jesus Christ), and yet you could also say it’s all part of our shared, modern experience of it. There are lots of folks that celebrate Christmas who are not even remotely religious, and yet the celebration of that day, brings them all together.
Is that not a positive thing, regardless?
Personally I’m not too keen on the commercial side of it all, but I do feel strongly about the mental and personal side of it. We have traditions in our family that go back generations, and practicing those traditions are part of what brings me a sense of belonging and unity. They are important not so much for the acts themselves, or even the date itself, but because they are repeated and shared. This is what brings us together, across generations and borders.
All that to say, if you get a sudden urge to put up your Christmas tree this week, I say go for it.
We need all the connection we can get this crazy 2020 year, so whether it’s frivolous or not, whether it’s the true intent of the season or not, whether it’s commercial or religious. If it brings you meaning, connection and joy….just do it.
Getting Together, And Thoughts
What about seeing actual people? Are you going home or getting together with family for the upcoming holidays this year? Thanksgiving? Christmas? How will keep everyone safe, especially if you are seeing people deemed “at risk”?
This is probably the first time any of us have ever had to think about that last question, and it’s a doozy. Lock-down and travel restrictions aside (still TBD all over the world), I do there’s a few things you can do.
Obviously you can do a COVID test, of which there are several types (RT-PCR, antigen, antibody) now in circulation.
If you decide to do this you should know that most accurate test available today is a molecular test or RT-PCR test, specifically the one with a swab taken from deep in the nasal cavity. On an accuracy level it’s not too, too bad, but it can produce a false negative (anywhere from 2-37%) and it does have one big potential “gotcha”. It generally does not catch infections that have just happened, as the virus needs to “brew” for several days before the swab can detect it.
So for example, you could travel on Monday, get infected the same day, get a test on Tuesday or Wednesday and you would likely still test negative, even if you were not. Plus symptoms might not show up until a week later. It’s not a deal-breaker, but you do need to factor those probabilities in.
Isolation is another strategy and it’s a pretty effective one. Simply isolate for 2 weeks before you see your family and you’ll be pretty darn safe. Super easy to talk about, sometimes not-nearly-as-easy to do?
Then there are the obvious things like social distancing & masks (in a family setting, really??), limiting the number of people who get together (possible), doing your gatherings outdoors rather than indoors (not likely in December).
If you’re getting together these coming holidays these are all items to think about, and only you and your family/friends can decide what is right for you.
We’ve decided not to get together with our siblings this year, but if we were to do it a combo of testing & partial isolation (probably 7 days) would be my choice.
Just my thoughts….
Make Connections Where You Can
No matter what you decide to do during the next few months, I advise you to find real person-to-person connection where you can. Whether it be the local market, your neighbors, your friends on the phone, your family. These are not easy times, and IMO they’re about to get harder, so connection is more important than ever both for our mental health and for what is to come.
Connection, traditions, friends and family. It’s what it’s all about.
What do you think, my dear readers? Do you have some special traditions that you love? Tell me about them. Tell me what connects you, and how you plan to connect these next months. Oh, and if you’re putting up your Christmas tree this week, lemme know. I may well be joining you soon….SPONSORED LINK:
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