Les Étrennes: This French new year's custom will have you digging in your pockets

Marseilles les arcenaulx mailboxes boite lettres
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....

Postlady 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.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

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

Kristi in telephone booth and smokey
Smokey and me at the telephone booth-turned-library from today's story


Jules my mom in front of coiffeur in la ciotat france
A favorite picture of my Mom, Jules, walking in La Ciotat

Les arcenaulx mailboxesClosing with another photo of the mailboxes at Les Arcenaulx. Stroll with me there in the story "flâner"

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Cloué au lit (Nailed to the bed): La grippe, les frissons

Moustiers Sainte-Marie Faience shop
Random photo of a Faïence/earthenware shop in Moustiers Sainte-Marie. The picture is off-topic, but it's a lot prettier than a photo of "la grippe". Also, there is a picture of Mom and me in our pajamas at the end of this post, so if you don't usually click over to the full version of this letter, you might try to today :-)

Today's Word: La Grippe

    : flu, influenza

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

Le mot "grippe" vient du bas-allemand "gripan" qui signifie "saisir avec des griffes." The word "grippe" comes from the lower-German "gripan" which means "to seize with claws."

Click here for the sound file


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Nailed to the Bed"

Bonne Année! I missed you last week when I was clouée au lit (that's a colorful way of saying "laid up in bed"). I can't remember the last time I had the flu, but I won't soon forget this one, and all the uncomfortable symptoms (listed in order of arrival):

le mal de tête
la toux sèche
les frissons
les courbatures
les sueurs
les oreilles bouchées...

Struck down by the flu virus, I began to wonder if my son was right about his vitamin theory, because after two weeks of cramming supplements...je suis tombée malade!

"Did you get it from Dad?" Max asked, and that was the extent of his interest in my weeklong convalescence. Jean-Marc was a little more sympathetic, bringing me tisanes and asking each morning, ça va mieux? No matter how old I get I still feel guilty (like a kid ditching school) staying in bed. So by day three I did some laundry, made lunch for my family, and tidied the house. But my body whispered, Repose-toi, repose-toi! So I crawled back in bed for a couple more days--in time for the second round of fever (there's even a name for that in French: V grippal):

"La fièvre baisse vers le quatrième jour puis remonte entre le cinquième et le sixième jour : ce phénomène est décrit sous le nom de « V grippal » The fever drops around the fourth day and then rises again between the fifth and sixth day: this phenomenon is described under the name of "V flu".

Just when you think you might be getting better...la maladie grabs you again! (Interesting how the word "grippe" (from the German "gripan") means "to seize with claws").

Fervex (only available in France?) is my family's go-to for colds/flu. The powder comes in little packets. Mixed with water, it has a nice citrusy taste and chases symptoms away (giving a false sense of well-being, hence the feeling you can get up, cook, and clean...). And Doliprane  (paracetamol?) was vital in relieving the headaches and muscular pain in the beginning. But there's no pill for boredom, which crept in by the end of the week.

My Mom and Smokey visited several times, relieving some of the ennui, but this also brought with it some sadness: our 12-year-old golden is riddled with bumps or "masses", both hard and soft. (Two have grown quickly in the past month.) I just can't face what might be coming at some point in the future. But for now, Smokey is barking, dancing for his food, and taking his job of being Mom's best roommate ever very seriously.

I don't know what 2022 will bring but I don't want to fear it. Instead, it helps to remember that each day is a new beginning. So let's go it one day at a time, taking Smokey's valiant lead: to bark, to dance, and to be the best friend ever--and may it be a beautiful year ahead for all of us.

Amicalement,

Kristi 

Clou nails in an old French door
After today's expression "cloué au lit", here's an old French door in Sospel, France, decorated with clous or nails. If you enjoy these posts, please share them with a friend and help others find my newsletter. Merci beaucoup!

FRENCH VOCABULARY
bonne année = Happy New Year
cloué au lit = bed-ridden
le mal de tête = headache
la toux sèche = dry cough
les frissons = chills
les courbatures = aches and pains
les sueurs = sweats
les oreilles bouchées = clogged ears
ça va mieux? = is it better?
repose-toi bien= rest well

A few words that didn't make it into the sound file:
la maladie = sickness, illness
l'ennui (m)
= boredom
la tisane = herbal tea
amicalement = yours, best wishes, regards

Brainstorm
Recently I began brainstorming on paper in preparation for these posts. It is a fun way to get a story going, without any pressure.

Jules and Kristi
When Mom gave me new pajamas for my birthday, I had no idea I'd be living in them for the next two weeks. Thankfully Mom didn't catch my flu. She's as healthy as a tiger (make that a leopard!)

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


A Special Request + Playground in French (and wild and free learning!)

D6B8B0C3-AD8D-4B45-A239-CE376DB4BF2F
The little stone cabanon at our vineyard. Do you remember the heart door? 

Today's Word: la cour de récréation

    : playground, schoolyard


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.

Click here to begin listening

A (Birth)DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Recently the word "recreation" jumped right off the page of the book I was reading. For the first time, the meaning revealed itself right there in the spelling: RE-CREATION.

Waouh! Quel mot!

From the Latin "recreare," récréation literally means to create again, to renew--though most of us understand recreation as "an activity done for enjoyment when one is not working."

Speaking of not working that's my plan for my birthday! And while Miss Manners says it's uncouth to announce one's anniversaire on social media--it is A-OK to shout it out on the playground (etiquette dictates if you're under the age of 12, you can run around telling everybody it's your birthday)!

According to my passport I'm way past the age of 12, but today we're pretending we're on the playground--at a long table decorated with balloons and gifts. And it would give me so much pleasure, Dear Reader, to open those imaginary cadeaux--and discover a certain memory you have from this blog. Will you share your souvenirs? Is there a word or story that comes to mind? A recipe, un truc or une astuce you'll never forget learning here? Or maybe you have a special connection to this newsletter (you had to read it in high school, and now this many years later you are still reading?). It would tickle me to know. 

Thank you very much for playing along and, on that note, may this cours where we meet weekly remain a creative playground—an alternative classroom where we may nod in respect to Miss Manners while running wild and free!

Amicalement,
Kristi 

P.S.: I could write a book about how much I have learned from you, beginning with grammar (when I began this blog I didn't know the difference between it's and its). Thank you for all you have taught me. I think about you, your words, your advice, your personal experiences, and sometimes I even dream about you when I am sleeping! 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le cabanon
= little stone hut or shed in Provence
la cour de récré
= playground, schoolyard
waouh! (or ouah!) = wow!
quel mot = what a word
un anniversaire = birthday
autrement dit = in other words, put another way
le cours = lesson, class
la cour = courtyard, schoolyard
le cadeau = present, gift
le souvenir
= memory, recollection
amicalement = yours, kind regards, best

Words not included in the sound file
un truc = a thing, a trick (hack)
une astuce = a tip, a hack

Related Story
Speaking of a word's meaning suddenly revealing itself, don't miss the story "Mangeoire"--just in time for Christmas.

Kristi birthday niece nephew kids
My birthday 15 years ago, surrounded by my nephew, niece, and kids. Thanks, Heidi, for the cupcakes!

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens