avoir des oursins dans les poches
se tromper

Cadeau: My Daughter’s Christmas “Liste de Voeux”

Joyeuses Fêtes (c) Kristin Espinasse restaurant le poivre d’an Barcelonette

Does the Christmas rush "kill" the joy of the holidays? And re gift-giving, how much is too much and how little, too little? or is it all just over the top? Are we remembering the reason for the season? Read on in today's story column. 

 tuer (too-ay)

    : to kill

tuer le temps = to kill time

Reverse Dictionary

killjoy (spoilsport) = un(e) rabat-joie
to kill two birds with one stone = faire d'une pierre deux coups
to make a killing = réussir un bon coup 

Audio File: listen to our daugher, Jackie, read these French words from today's story:
Download MP3 or Download Wav

    Trop de cadeaux tuent les cadeaux.
    Too many presents kill the presents.

French christmas music
French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Sainte Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 
Order CD here. 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Jackie got a head start on the holiday season by drawing up her liste de voeux in November. Since, she has taken every opportunity to remind us just what it is she would like for Noël.

I think that reciting her Christmas list gives our girl as much joy as the items listed on it will one day give her.

"Jackie," I tease, "What was it you said you wanted for Christmas?" I watch my 14-year-old's face light up as I listen to the familiar rundown.

Despite her seeming greed for the gift-giving season, there are only four items on Jackie's list: one costs nothing (our daughter is asking for a certain droit—hint, read her bilingual post on the subject), though another item seems a bit pricey!

Because I doubt she will get everything on her list, I ask Santa's darling to write down a few more wishes for us clueless Père Noëls. Instead, she bowls me over with this response.

"Trop de cadeaux tuent les cadeaux!

Comment? Have I heard my daughter correctly?  Did she just say that "too many presents kill the presents?"

My mind calls forth a parade of images in which children are ripping open brightly wrapped boxes only to quickly push them aside and reach for more gifts. Did they even see what was in the box? one wonders. Perhaps they did... and the joy and the fun are simply in opening the presents?

Or perhaps trop de cadeaux tuent les cadeaux as Jackie sees itI am so moved by this most recent leap toward maturity that I want to buy my daughter everything on her list and then some... but wouldn't this be defeating the purpose?

Let's see, what was the purpose?... (Perhaps I should add "memory recall" to my own Wish List?) Oh, yes: gift-giving and the balance between underdoing it and overdoing it. As we ask ourselves this question this holiday season, let's not lose sight of the greater picture: Love, Joy, Peace, and Forgiveness—these are among the greatest gifts of all. I think I'll take my daughter's example, and recite them—like a cherished Liste de Voeux—at every chance. More than that, I'm going to wrap them up right now, in the biggest most glittery box, and send them off to you... Joyeuses Fêtes


Le Coin Commentaires
Love, joy, peace... what to add to this list? What would you like to wish others this season? Leave your wish in the comments box. You might also share your gift-giving philosophy and any thoughts you are having this time of year. Merci beaucoup!


On a grammar note, Jackie tells me that the expression she shared was inspired by the following popular expression: trop de... tue/tuent le/la...  Some examples are:

Trop de travail tue le travail (too much works kills the work) 

Trop de gâteaux tuent le gâteau (too much cake kills the cake)

Trop d'amusement tuent l'amusement (too much fun kills fun)


French Vocabulary

la liste de voeux = wish list

le Noël = Christmas

le droit = right

le Père Noël = Santa Claus

comment = what's that? what did you say?

Joyeuses Fêtes = Happy Holidays


Paris soup kitchen homeless in France
Maybe the question is not "how much to give?" but rather, "How can I help?" In front of one of Paris's soup kitchens, the sign reads reads, simply: "Help us if you can".

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Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Hi Kristin, Thank you for this perfect list of Christmas blessings. Jackie is coming a deep person--the perfect gift to a mother. If we all learn to forgive quickly, in the moment, then we will constantly be in the presence of peace, love and joy. It sounds so simple, but what a journey. Have a wonderful Christmas season filled with daily gifts of love, peace and joy. Mary

Jennifer & Kal

The perfect gifts for all are an unlimited abundance of peace, health, wealth, prosperity, love, and friendships. Christmas can be a stressful for many but also an opportunity to bring family and community together for connection and conversation. Thank you, Kristin, for your continual informative, creative, and humorous French-word-a-day blogs.
What a blessing to receive in our inbox in our quest to embrace French life.

gail bingenheimer

Méfiez-vous des apparences; elles sont souvent trompeuses.
Beware of appearances; they are often deceiving.
Nous aimerions acheter un orgue portatif pour notre fille.
We'd like to buy aportable organ for our daughter.

William and Lee Mears

If the human species could ever truly be peaceful, then we would all experience love and joy. Let us all pray for peace. Lee Mears


Ah, the parents gift of over giving! I did it once with my children and you are right, they unwrapped the gift and set it aside to open the next and really didn't know what they had gotten. As a matter of fact, most of those gifts were forgotten in a matter of less than a week. Friends coming over and activities we did as a family were more important to them that year. So to this day, we don't go overboard on gifts, but get together to trim our tree, make holiday centerpieces, and bake cookies and make candies. We always try to find a tree lighting or a light carnival to attend. These are the things my grown children remember and come home for.


Oops!~ I forgot to mention the reason for season, thanking God for his many blessings and singing his praises.

Bruce T. Paddock

"Trop de cadeaux tuent les cadeaux." What a mature 14-year-old you've raised!

My FWaD liste de voeux starts with learning how to pronounce "voeux." Oh, those French and their combinations of vowels!

After that, it only has one more item on it: Happiness and success (however one chooses to measure it) for you, Kristin, your family, and your friends — both here in your corner of the Internet and out in the "real world."





Years ago when I was 33 I spent 6 weeks in Europe during the Christmas season. Three of those weeks I skied the Alps in Davos, Switzerland and enjoyed the very height of Christmas and New Years. This was the moment in my life that I first learned the true meaning of Christmas, the moment in time when the road before me became very clear.

One of the greatest gifts you can receive is knowledge. Through knowledge comes wisdom. The French words Kristi shares with all of you are the priceless gifts of knowledge in their purest form because they lead to the root of each word...played out in her wonderful vignettes. Because of you (her friends and fans) we all receive more information which brings each lesson from Kristi full circle. This is the gift we receive here in our little corner of commentaries, our own personal "Cafe" which Kristi has gifted to us this past year.

I am most thankful to God for choosing me to participate in the life of His little Angel Kristi...

Remember the power of 'I AM'. God said, "I am who I am."

That's why I always enjoy the power of using His secret "I Am" each day.






Georgia Catasca

You are an inspiration to me and my family and dog madeleine.

We will remember love, joy and peace . We thank you for these - thanks to you and your family.

Merry Christmas

Georgia Catasca

Bill in St. Paul

I'd add kindness to all (regardless of status) to the list. When I ask my wife what she wants for Christmas she responds with "be happy and fun with the grandchildren, and let the parents do the parenting (of the grandchildren)". I got caught by my almost (February) four year old grandson when he said to me "why are you frowning, Papa?" I must have been biting my tongue as he dumped out yet another bag of blocks, but all ended well as his mother (our daughter) has taught him that he has to clean up what he takes out (with Papa's help, of course).

Paul Heffron

Well said, Jules. We are all enriched by your daughter's posts.

Best regards,
Paul Heffron

Johanna DeMay

Bonjour, chère Kristin,

In addition to these beautiful Christmas wishes that you have shared with us, I have one for you: HEALTH!!! May you and all of your loved ones enjoy this precious gift, now and in the New Year to come.

Thank you so much for all that you share!

Johanna & Will
Albuquerque, NM


OK you asked to share a "gift-giving philosophy" that your reader's may have developed. After decades observing the behavior of "too many presents killing the presents" (especially with my grandchildren and their parents sickeningly overdoing it to the point of debt) i only invest now in a MEMORY. So the memory is not exactly a "thing" it is a "time." We go to a Christmas play all together and share and discuss it afterwards. Or we have a day baking cookies or making candy bark and then we package them up in pretty paper to give as gifts. Or we go cross country skiing at a lovely place in Colorado. Yes some of these times spent together do cost money (play tickets, cooking ingredients, gas, etc.) but the memory will last i hope long after i have gone. far longer than a broken toy or a forgotten shirt.

Maureen from Freiburg

We LOVE giving and receiving gifts in our family. There are always piles of them under the tree on Christmas Eve, the gift-giving time in Germany. So, to stop the whirlwind rush and rustle and whogavemethis? at the end, we decided years ago that each unpacks while the others look on. It takes hours, during which we listen to music and sip champagne. AND it's so nice, seeing what each gets, registering the reaction, the joy, the surprise, the howls of laughter at some funny "aunty-thing". Different now that the kids live on another continent, but we still like to give lots of presents.....


A wonderful post with a sweet reminder about what this season is all about. Thanks for sharing.


Hi Hedda,

I adore your idea of giving memories.

Where do you live?



Kristin Espinasse

Hedda, wonderful idea about giving memories! 

Mom, thanks for putting Hallelujah--and so much more--in the comments box to day. Im on my way to the telephone to call you now.

Thanks, everyone, for these lovely messages--each one is a gift.

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Thank you Kristi for all you give to us not only this holiday season but all year long.

I wish all my FWAD friends a very special season of sharing, sweet memories made and yes a few gifts.

Love to you all!


Ooh, thank you for presenting a French view of the approach of Christmas! Jackie is right.


Although wine consumption is down and the stereotypical Frenchman may no longer start the day with a shot of red wine in to 'tuer le ver (kill the worm)' followed by a small, black coffee. It is a great toast nonetheless. If I am going to tuer anything, let it be the worm!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Bill, tuer le ver -- now theres a good excuse to start early in the morning with a wine chaser! P.S.: tell us where you are writing in from, or else Anne (Bill from St Pauls wife, is going to be surveying the wine supply!


What I find insidious about this season is the emphasis of advertisers on how imperfect our lives are, easily improved by buying this____!
I know that by late December I'll be convinced that the secret to happiness is buying myself cashmere socks. That's my signal that I am under a ridiculous influence!
What I hope for myself and those I love is that we can slow way down, feel how blessed we are, and be kind to ourselves and others.
I like Hedda's thoughts on giving memories and time.

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

Your Jackie is quite the philosopher and artisan of language. I hope you'll let us know whenever HER first book comes out (like mother, like daughter, mais oui?)

My husband and I have always struggled with that tipping point of "too many presents." Our parents did not shower us with gifts because they were not in the position we are now to gift our children what they ask for. And as our children get older (now in their 20's) when do we stop giving as many gifts as when they were ten years old.

For the extended family, we draw names and set a price limit so you can have fun finding the "just right" gift for only one person. What all my sisters really would like, however, is a revised and enlarged copy of the cookbook of family recipes I gave them on a previous Christmas. I won't get it done by December 25th, but that's the kind of gift that gives to me AND the recipients.

Sarah LaBelle

Your daughter seems to be a very happy girl with a full life. Tribute to her upbringing?

I love the practice of Maureen from Frediburg -- both gifts and the shared time one by one.

The photo on the top is great, as ever. The name of the restaurant, is it an idiom?
Else, Le poivre d'âne seems to mean "pepper donkey", which is hard to parse.

alicia brown

I would add positive thoughts to my wishes for in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, positive thoughts become your words. Positive words become your behaviors. Positive behaviors become your habits. Positive habits become your values. Positive values become your destiny.

My husband and I will express our thoughts of thanks for all we have shared with each other, our children, and friends.

L. M. Davies

We live in New York. My own daughter cheerfully calls it Christmas Central. From the moment Santa Claus brings up the rear of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, Christmas begins. For us, Christmas isn't so much about the gifts, but about connections. There are traditions carried here by my immigrant great grandfather that we still observe. With each new person added to the circle - family and friends - we celebrate our blessings. We've been through feast and famine but like the Whos of Whoville, if we can hold hands at Christmas that's the best celebration of all. Here's wishing you and yours (and that includes YOU, Jules!) the very best of Holiday Blessings!

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

I agree that Jackie's new attitude is very mature. It is always nice to receive a gift those has meaning and to give a gift that does also. In our family, we have decided that traveling together each year is our gift to one another. We just give "stocking stuffers" or little souvenirs from our travels. We spend Christmas Day looking at photos of our most recent trip and planning the next one. Happily, two of those vacations have taken us to Domaine Rouge-Bleu!

David Jacobs

Thank you Kristen for such a wonderful Christmas card! Such wisdom out of the mouths of babes! This will definitely be paid forward to my friends and family!


Merci! I think everyone has covered all the other important elements to be thankful for. And I do like wisdom.
One thing I give every Christmas to my niece and nephew who are now in their 30's is something of mine that is special to me. One year it was old silver serving spoons that had "mother" engraved on them and they had been given to me by my mother. These are the gifts of love and don't cost a dime. This year my nephew will be getting a different batch of cookies mailed to him each month. It makes it fun.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Thoughtful post today, Kristi, sprinkled with holiday cheer! I love your wish and that you have included forgiveness; big in my life right now. To this list I will add gratitude.

Hi Jules! Thank you for the inspiration!

Joyous December everyone!

Glenn from St. Paul


I enjoy both your writing and the photos that you also include. Today I was curious about the location of the charming restaurant featured in your post. As a kind of geographer-manqué, I get a somewhat perverse pleasure from finding places on maps; and, grace à Google, one can become a virtual tourist in the process. For anyone who may be interested, "Le poivre d'Âne" restaurant is apparently located at 49, rue Manuel in Barcelonnette in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department. The restaurant looks very inviting, as does the village itself. Have you spent time there?

Wishing you, Jean-Marc, Max, and Jackie a wonderful Christmas.

Ken Scupp

A very wise young lady, indeed. I was wondering if anyone in France saw the news of "Black Friday" in the USA with all the horrible behavior by shoppers. I am afraid that this kind of news- the opposite of the lovely ideals being discussed here-just deepens our tarnished image abroad. Any thoughts? Joyeuses Fetes, tout le monde.


Good health is always a wish with deep meaning, especially the more years we clock, and pay attention to the preciousness of flexibility, "fully aware" time with all our loved ones.

Susan Carter

Jules, I knew that post was yours before I could see the signature & it really made me smile. The best gift we can give each other is to be ourselves and always be a true & caring friend to all. In return we recieve so much more than we give.

Marianne Rankin

It's good to have the Audio File back.

Christmas is hopelessly commercialized, and the best things in life aren't "things." But I think there is a place for gift-giving. Parents enjoy giving presents to their children, although as they get older, the kids can understand that necessary items such as clothes are still gifts.

Much of the year, we are focused mostly on ourselves, for various reasons. When we get presents for others, we have to think about them for a while, and if we strive to give a suitable present, we think about their needs, wants, interests, etc. It's good for us to bring others into our lives, if briefly, this way.

Someone has said, "The best gift is a portion of thyself." Here are some examples, all related to my grandmother.

When I was a college student, I not only had little money, I was running out of ideas for "Nana," already in her 80s and needing little. So one year I made a booklet of poems I'd written, illustrating them as best I could with my average artistic ability. She was very pleased; it wasn't something she could find in a store.

Nana wanted to give presents to several relatives, and I took her shopping, but eventually that became too much for her. So I went by myself with her list, and in later years, even was asked for ideas - not so easy when you don't know the people. But it was something I could do for her.

Nana became legally blind, so I used to read to her: magazine articles, sections of the Bible, and a few full books. I also helped her with correspondence, including letters to relatives in Denmark, doing my best after cramming to learn some basic Danish for some, although most Danes know good English.

Nana used to make Danish klejner, a traditional Christmas cookie, which is quite labor-intensive. When it got to be too taxing, I took over, and have been making them ever since. Each year I send a batch to my brother, who really likes them; he has said that that's the present he looks forward to every year.

I'm sure the rest of you can give your own examples.

I think Christmastide is a good time to think about and vow to do one's best to promote love, joy, peace, health, compassion, and so on. Let us not forget that it is also an observance of the birth of Christ. I especially revel in the beautiful music it has inspired.

Meilleurs voeux a tout le monde!

Kristin Espinasse

Glenn, The photo was indeed taken in Barcelonnette. We spent New Years eve nearby!

Thanks again and again for all the cheer in this comments corner. Every message is a joy to read! Speaking of joy... Joie, I like you idea of sending a new batch of cookies each month. Great gift!



Some of the gifts which I love to give are to the children of families who cannot afford to give their children gifts. We do this every year through our church. This year there were about eighty families for which our church members bought gifts. We also have a hat and glove tree for those less fortunate.
Another way to give gifts is through the Heifer Program. You can buy an animal or many people can buy one - chicken (which would give eggs and multiply, or goats, cows, sheep (for their milk), etc. As the animals multiply, the young are given to another family, etc.
Yes, I love to give gifts to the grandchildren, the children, the nieces and nephews, and of course my husband and my mother and friends.

Peace, love, health, happiness and forgiveness are all important wishes for this holiday season and for people of all religions. These are the greatest gifts of all.

Sample messages

XOXO thanks for sharing your sweet memories. You took me back in my youth days...


Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I love all the comments above, especially Jule's beautiful words.
Since I work retail, I see first hand so many people running around shopping for gifts and some seem to be just "checking the block". It seems like everyone is in a rush to get things done and relax after Christmas. Shouldn't we be anticipating Christmas and the birth of our savior. I think this season should be savored and not just rushed through like I see so many people doing.


My gift would be good communications. I think most of the world's problems could be helped if people communicated truthfully and simply. As an example, if you think of soaps and the problems in them, secrets, lies, half-truths, not being open, and not listening, there would be no dramatic stories to tell without them. Sandra http://livingin22.blogspot.com

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