Christmas in the French tropics
As an expat in the French tropical territory of New Caledonia, it’s clear that the Christmas ‘silly season’ of December here is quite different to my home country.
In Australia, my friends and family are suffering the usual shopping frenzy and ceaseless advertising. But sur le Caillou it’s a more peaceful and understated affair. Kanak, European and an assortment of expat Christmas cultures blend to produce a unique New Caledonian Christmas style.
Christmas shopping on a French Pacific island
The benefit of less shopping opportunities in our part of the French territory is that Christmas shopping is a lot easier – there’s less choice! Also, shoppers on this French Pacific island are largely spared from repetitive Christmas carols. In fact, I’ve yet to hear one ‘fa-la-la-la-la’ in any magasin in our area – quite a relief!
So expats, like the locals, choose to have a simpler holiday with fewer gifts and more focus on relaxation – time with friends, enjoying the beaches and resorts and taking fishing and diving sorties on the reefs.
Christmas fare, French tropical style
The Christmas fare here varies to that found in Australia. Food shopping in Province Nord has its challenges, as so many different foods are just not available. This holds true for the traditional fare of turkey and hams.
Instead, we could try an expensive imported leg of lamb, or perhaps a frozen French duck, quail, escargot or even cuisse de grenouille?
But for many the best option is seafood. There are several prawn farms locally selling direct to the public and to supermarkets. The local reefs are a source of lobster and spectacular fish – mahi mahi, perroquet, tuna and marlin are very popular. The local mangroves are also full of mudcrabs, and it helps to know a local fisherman!
Add a bang to the French island celebration
One great thing that the French caillou offers is fireworks. Many resorts and restaurants release fireworks most weekends throughout the year, with the foreshores of Noumea a great spot to enjoy them. For the general public, sales of fireworks are restricted to only a few weeks over the Christmas and New Year season. With names like ‘Gorgeous Sky’ and ‘Hellfire Barrage’, fireworks of all shapes, sizes and prices can be found in supermarkets and service stations.
Many evenings across the festive season are punctuated with whizz, pops and night sky sparkles. In a rural area such as ours there are many perfect open areas for a private evening show!
So while I will miss my family in Australia very much and think of all the parties I won’t be able to attend, we will be celebrating a little differently. I look forward to opening a few gifts with my family, preparing some prawns and sitting back with French champagne to enjoy the fireworks!
How do you celebrate Christmas differently in your part of France? Share your experiences in the comments box below!All images © Rachelle Burgoyne.