video of our home + "mas"
French Word for pine tree

How to say "party animal" in French?

Hang on Santa! (c) Kristin Espinasse

Do you feel like this Santa, during the holiday rush. Just hanging on? Waiting for it all to pass? Read on.

fêtard(e) (feh-tar, feh-tard)

    : party animal, someone who likes to party

Audio File: Listen to the following sentence in French Download MP3 or Wave file

Dans ma jeunesse, j'étais une fêtarde.
In my youth, I was a party animal.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Last weekend the pressure was on to begin decorating our home for Christmas. Have you got your tree up yet? my Anglophone friends wanted to know. Feeling worse and worse for procrastinating, I clung to the thought that most French homes wouldn't have a tree up by now... but a quick trip to the supermarket, for a few staples, revealed another story. 

There at the checkout line, Christmas trees were selling like hotcakes! I dragged my feet over to the display, to check out the stock of cellophane-wrapped trees.

There were two sizes and two prices : 35 euros ($45) or 45 euros ($60). I examined the two models that were on display (all the other trees were wrapped tighter than a bound umbrella, measuring not much longer than one either!). I noted the large gaps in branches, as well as the crooked aspect of the arbres. If these were the display models, surely the ones in cellophane were a sorry lot! I collected my groceries, and left the supermarket. I tried not to look at the other cars in the parking lot, as the drivers packed their sapins de Noël into their trunks. But averting my eyes wouldn't avert panic: Now even the French were on time for Christmas!

What had been worry, or guilt, quickly turned into grumpiness and finger-pointingness. I began to lash out, in my mind, at all the goody-two-shoes who were early to Christmas—with their goody-two-shoes trees and their goody-two-shoes decorations (by the way just where were our decorations? Having moved homes a few months ago, not all of our boxes were unpacked... which meant they could be anywhere! Now on top of finding a tree—we had to find the damned decorations! *&@!!!).

Shoving the groceries into the fridge, I hurried to my room to take refuge at the bottom of my bed. I began counting the days. It would all be over before long. Christmas would come and go... but then there would be New Year's Eve to deal with... and then Paques! And then What are your plans for Bastille Day? and What are you doing for Thanksgiving?

And to think that some of these celebrations are not even sacred observances. To the French, they are no more than traditions! This last reality made me even more frustrated.  

As I sank lower into my bed, I feared the unthinkable: was I, deep down, no more than a grinch? If not a grinch, perhaps a spoil sport? If not a spoil sport wasn't I, at bottom, just one big party pooper?

...or just pooped?

Worn out or not, it is peace I am after ... and, after all, it is peace we can share.


un arbre = tree (story here)
le sapin de Noël = Christmas tree (click here for the story)
Paques = Easter (story here)

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Françoise Pierron-Mathevet

I'm afraid, I do feel a bit like you... procrastinating to get everything ready in time.
One positive point this year, my son and his girl friend arrive today from LA, and we'll be with us for Christmas this year. So , Christmas will be the best ever, of course.

Anyway, I wish you a very "decorated or not" Xmas.


Merci beaucoup Kristin! Having been a subscriber to various words a day/week/etc in French as well as other languages, I find yours really on target. As a cheesemaker (in Canada), I would love to see something similar just for cheese. I do work on my "everyday" French, but am looking for cheese-related vocabulary. Any ideas? I've learned the basics, like affinage, but am looking for more. Or, any good french cheese blogs you like?


Stephanie in Webster

We bought our tree yesterday and had a happy surprise. We had planned to cut one in a chilly windy downpour. When we arrived at the farm, we learned that at this late date all the lovely and expensive pre-cut trees had been marked down! We now have the latest and loveliest tree ever, and a bargain to boot! Wishing you a very blessed Christmas!Stephanie


I feel the same way poor Santa does. We have had our tree up for two weeks but everything else is still in boxes and the only thing that will get them up is a party on Friday night - End of the World/Winter Solstice. Either way, at least I'll be ready for Christmas.

Norma Gosling

We buy our Christmas tree every year at IKEA. The price of a beautiful tree is, this year is 25 euros,of which 19 euros are "given back" to you in the form of a bon d'achat, and 1 euro goes to the replenishment of the trees.To cash in your bon d'achat you must take back the tree for re-cycling after Noel and before the end of January.
Happy Christmas to you and your family Kristin, and just let it all flow over you.
Norma & David Gosling


you sound a bit overwhelmed - decisions, decisions, decisions about where to put your potager, re-modelling your house, life in general - let J-M take over, stagnate a bit, watch rubbish tv and each chocolate!! xoxoxo

anne wirth

I can understand the feelings you have because I am going through the same thing in Florida.
We buy a Norfolk Pine every year in a pot. It is about 3-4 ft tall but we put it on a table and with decorations it looks grand. The beauty of it is that it can be planted outside for landscaping. We did that with spruce up north.
Keep heart!
Christmas for me is getting family together and wishing everyone Peace.

Tamara Jones in sunny Virginia Beach, VA

I understand exactly how you feel. Being a navy family, we happened to move three times in late November. It seemed overwhelming to find all the Christmas, unpack it and display it.... Our family motto is "eat the elephant one bite at a time." I wonder if the French have a similar expression... It helps me to keep things in perspective...
As much as I love a fresh, live tree, I have to say I love, love, love my prelit artificial one! ha! Out of the box, and plugged in.. it's pretty even without ornaments.! Such a pretty reminder of the light of the world during our darkest time.
Good luck with your elephant Kristin... it's so nice to have your lovely words back on the page for those of us who are addicted to your thoughts and stories! Joyeux Noel...


We haven't put up a tree for at least 10 years. However, this year we did put a wreath on the door. In the past we put up lights and decorations on the mantle of the fireplace, but this year none of that has appeared so far. And I am even cutting back on Christmas cards. I don't feel like a Grinch. I like the holiday spirit, but I prefer to be understated in my appreciation.


Some years are like that, they fly by so stinking fast. And you feel pressured to spend your time and money on a bunch of crap noone really needs. You just want to ignore it or get it over with and back to real life. Just keep it simple and try not to spoil it for everyone else. Count your blessings. Focus on the less fortunate. I pray peace will make its way to your heart.
Merry christmas!

Suzanne Codi

Our famly never decorated the tree before Christmas eve, ( le Reveillon), then we put the cookies and milk out and went to bed ( when I was little...) The tree stayed up until Jan. 6, the father always said 2 weeks was plenty . Frankly, I don't understand why some people put their tree up the day after Thanksgiving and leave it up seemingly forever. Probably because the decorated trees make our ordinary , plain lives so bright an beautiful for a while in the drab, grey, leafless winter...and also
because some retailers now put all the Christmas decorations out before Halloween!! Bet they don't do that en France!! This year , for my work, my crew and I decorated a total of 53 trees ( 50 for one big event!!) so I'm too pooped to have one! We
will be in Connecticut for Noel, so I will help my French Auntie decorate voila, no mess to clean up in january!! Merry Christmas to all of you, and get some rest! Next year when your house is all renovated you can really " do it up" !!! xox


Hi Kristin, You are not alone. I'm not decorating this year. But everyone is coming for Christmas Eve....Isn't that really what it is all about being together in one place and love for one another?
Be well, congratulations on all that has happened this year.

Angela Sargent

We have a lovely artificial tree which I put together each year...once I've started,it's fine but like Cid I can look at those boxes for days. So,Kristin just start with one small Christmasy thing and then it'll all fall into place.

Have a safe and peaceful Christmas.xx

Angela in rainy Sussex,England

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
We went to a tree farm this year a couple of weekends ago and found a great tree that has been outside until last night. We still haven't decorated it. The kids come home this weekend, so we will decorate it together. I found a really nice quote about peace....

“To be at one with God is to be at peace ... peace is to be found only within, and unless one finds it there he will never find it at all. Peace lies not in the external world. It lies within one's own soul.”
Ralph Waldo Trine

Sue Jean

I never got around to putting the decorations away last year, so they were easy to find.

Beth Ann Beatrice

We are Catholic, and I find that older ways of Christians were beautiful. Advent was a time of prayer and spiritual preparation for four weeks, approximately, before Christmas. The tree would have gone up just before Christmas, and then the parties and celebrations went on for at least 12 days, through the feast of the Epiphany (Les Rois). Now, because of RETAILERS, at least in America, people think that Christmas begins at after Thanksgiving, and ends on December 26. The day after Christmas, our neighbors take down the lights and decorations, the tree is laying at the curb, waiting for the trash man to haul it away. This year, I am not shopping, but putting cash and little personal goodies in my grown children's stockings (ages 24 and her spouse, 22, 18, and 15) . Only the 11 year old will have a few presents to open. We will have our first grandchild here with us (he'll have a few presents, too), as they are driving all the way from San Antonio, TX to Cincinnati, OH! Our family members have all expressed that the most important thing is that we are all together for Christmas, and that we worship together...and my 18 year old asked for lots of cookies. (Our older kids realize that times are tough right now, financially.) My lights outdoors will stay lit throughout the Church's Christmas season (Jan. 12) Our tree will go up December 22, and it will stay up through the Feast of the Epiphany, at least. We will cover it with white lights, strung cranberries, popcorn, candy canes and a few cookies. We will all help with it one day, and it will be fine...not a designer tree, but pretty with a little homespun angel on top. Welcome beautiful Christ child! We need your love, your grace and your peace!


I'm not ready for Christmas either. It has become too much work. I just can't find the energy to clean my house, shop, and entertain anymore the way I used to 20 years ago. I gave up sending Christmas cards two years ago. Traditions change.

Paul and Marlene


I just bought a copy of your book for my wife for Christmas. She has been studying French since she retired 6 years ago. We love France and visit ... not often enough. Joyeux Noel and be sure to give Smokey a scratch behind the ears for us.

Pennie Vandenbroek

I think all the "bling" surrounding Christmas is wearing very thin for many of us. And, really, that is okay, because that is not what it's all about. The true meaning of this holy day has changed the world in ways that trees and tinsel can never capture. We too are Catholic and prepare for Christmas during Advent by lighting candles, reading a scripture that points to the coming of Christ, and a prayer each day. On Christmas Eve, our Church is decorated with greenery and flowers and candles and filled with families eager to celebrate the coming of our Saviour. We used to decorate a lot, but have done less and less each year. It seems the joy of the season has increased while the bling has decreased. May your hearts & home be filled with the true joy of the season.








Winn Gregory

Very entertaining and fun. We, your email guests into your lives, are your friends and admirers if at a distance. You, Kristin and Jean Marc, are tres kool whether fetard/es ou non. And your mom.. a hoot and fun and my guess? mais oui, une fetarde. euh euh with affection, Winn

Nancy,                     Cambridge

I'm trying to renovate an apartment (a separate living space needed Jan 1) and prepare for the first Christmas with a future daughter-in-law, so I enjoyed Santa hanging by his nails. We'll put up the tree together when they arrive. Since the kids are really adults now, we "make" Christmas together, and I step back from doing Christmas "for" them. Last year I hosted my school's party at my house without a tree; I strung garlands of white lights from my tall windows and doors- elegant, inexpensive, quick, and festive! Have a great holiday!

Jacqueline  Satterlee

I gave up on sapins de Noël long ago. One year I used a paper door decoration from my salle de classe, it was lovely! :-)

edith schmidt


Having spent 2 weeks trying to remember where I put the artificial tabletop Christmas I finally gave up and bought a
lovely live ponsettia plant instead.
Since our son and family won't be with us I didn't think it would be worth the effort to buy a live tree.
But I did find some of the old favorite decorations so can have festive touches around the house as well.
Wishing a peaceful joyeaux Noelto you and your family,
Edie from Savannah


The post from MOM says it all! I am grateful for a world with people like her! And, your comment about peace...why isn't there a Holiday Of Peace? A day which demands that everyone be quiet and still, spend some time outdoors, make and consume simple foods and drinks and be peaceful to one another?

Hey, want to start a worldwide movement?

How do you say "peace" in French?

Martine NYC

We all get nuts around Christmas. I can tell I'm losing my mind when I start to think that true happiness lies in the striped cashmere socks I see in catalogs. That's my code word now for being drawn into consumer excess!
I like to send Christmas cards some time before January 6th. I can't have a tree because of my two cats, who would LOVE it. I try to stay calm and go out to see the decorations other people do. The lights are so pretty. The pressure to be a perfect homemaker/friend/relative(to everyone in your family)/co-worker/neighbor/donor is intense. In the end, I just do what I can, just as I do the rest of the year. And that's enough.

A. Moreau

Stop. Take a deep breath. Get a tree - any size. Put it up. Have Max and Jackie help decorate it. Check that off the list. Get a cup of tean and sit for a moment and look at it and remember other Christmases. It will bring a smile to your face.

Kristin Espinasse

Good idea, Mary. Peace is la paix. Everyones notes make me realize I am not behind--that all is OK. Mom, keep that tree up forever. I hope to visit it and you in the new year!

Julie Farrar

I have the perfect solution, Kristin. Buy several strands of tree lights then attach them to the wall in the shape of a sapin de Noel. Voila, instant tree. You just moved. Don't beat yourself up over Christmas. If I were under this pressure I think the time would be better spent doing something with your kids and family, like baking Christmas treats or going out to look at decorations in town. And by the way, I so much want one of those Santas that everyone has hanging from balconies. I completely forgot to look for one when I was in France.

Pat from Oregon

Thank you for letting us 'into' your thoughts and feelings. Probably all of us have had Christmases like this. Love your mom's post and this latest one by Mary. I'm for a quiet and still holiday.

Having your children and husband next to you Christmas morning and Christ in your heart is really the main thing, right. Merry Christmas!

Julia - Falling Off Bicycles

PEACE! Cheers to that!


No you are not a Grinch! I realized that I feel different each holiday season. So you are probably doing the same, as well as adding the fact you have experienced a recent move. The combination would certainly give anyone pause.
I have discovered that each year the Christmas season feels a little different. Sometimes I want it to come quickly, other times I want it to leave just as quickly. Sometimes I decorate all over the house and at other times I put very little out. But now I realize my holiday emotions are always different, and that is OK. So, your current feelings are OK! This year is as it is for you and next year will be different too.


We don't decorate out tree UNTIL Christmas Eve here in Germany. We buy it a few days beforehand and it sits in the cold (un vrai sapin) on the balcony until The Day. It's different all over. Whatever you do, Kristin, it will be perfect! Stop comparing... you are you and whatever you decide to do, it's the right thing at that time!


As a child, we ALWAYS bought and put up our tree on Christmas Eve. I am not certain where that tradition started, but I have tried (unsuccessfully) to keep that tradition because I remember, quite fondly, how the anticipation of putting up the tree just before Santa arrives was a great way to keep energetic and excited children entertained before the big event. I think that it slows down all the madness and "commercial" feelings that have now seem to have become a new tradition. I hope you and your family have a lovely Christmas and you are enjoying your new house!

dorothy  dufour

Amen to all the above (as usual)!.
Cristmas is for kids, REMEMBER.
The older I get, the less I like it. And do.
Artificial trees are fine.


you need a vacation.
that's all.
you are exhausted.
it is quite difficult to have JOYEUX when you're so spent.
here's hoping you can RELAX, then ENJOY.

and remember:
not everything has to get done.


Kristin, some years are like that. This year we do not have our tree up and it may not happen. I still have not gotten one Christmas card into the mail. I am thinking of breaking tradition altogether and starting my own Spring letter. The one thing that my husband and I do find the energy for is putting up the outdoor lights. Nothing cheers me up more than to arrive home from work and see our house sparkling with Christmas lights. I think this year that will have to be enough. We'll go to our friends homes to enjoy the fragrance and festivity of the tree. Rest, relax, rejuvenate, and remember there is always next year! Wishing you a joyous holiday season and a Merry Christmas to you and your family.


My husband has been scheming for some time to start a company called "Finished before Xmas" ....only he was never going to specify WHICH Christmas!!

Sandy Vann

What wise words of advice from so your Mom's note! Mary's suggestions for finding peace amidst the pressures of the the holiday season, inspiring. I agree. You are in a time of transition after the move. Listen to your own inner wisdom Kristin, quiet the external messages and do what fills your heart with the true joy of Christmas.
A warm fire, un chocolat chaud or hot tisane...put on some uplifting music and enjoy decorating un peu or a lot with JM and the kids. Moving to France last month, we brought only a few sentimental decorations in our bags. We have set those around our cute gite along with pine boughs and berries, a few bougies and special cards. Voila instant Christmas magic! Simplify and all will be well along with that much deserved nap!


Oh, am I ever glad I read this post today! I was beginning to wonder if I had lost all Christmas spirit this year. With a newborn at home, I have had other things on my mind! Our tree is in the snow in the backyard and will hopefully make it indoors before the weekend. To my mind,Christmas is not about the decorations (which have all become so plastic and artificial), but the time spent with your family.

Joyeuses fêtes !


Hi dear Kristi,
Through your gifted writing, you have once again echoed the sentiments that so many of us are feeling. This time of year always brings conflicted sentiments;well into my troiseme age, I've long ago learned to listen to my inner self .There's no way in the world that I can dish out words of peace if my own heart and spirit aren't wrapped in them.Putting the tree up,decorating,wrapping gifts,delivering gifts,baking,cards et al have just become too much for me to handle.We have dwindled our 'must do's' to the barest of lists,and instead offer a prayer to God for the health and well being of our loved ones and friends, as well as wishing the same to everyone living on this earth,especially the ones most in need.
Blessings and joy to you and your dear ones.
Love, Natalia XO

Christine Dashper

Happy Christmas Kristin, I wish you all peace and calm. I hope you have the type of Christmas that makes you happy, not the type the retailers think we should have. It can be a lovely time of year but I am also finding in recent years that various life events make me feel differently about each Christmas. Go with the flow and do what makes you all happy.

with love Chris

Karen from Phoenix

I don't know why we feel so flustered this time of the year. We run ourselves ragged and then really don't enjoy the holidays. I tried very hard this year to do a little each week so not to feel overwhelmed.

I love the Jules kept her tree up all year. Since ours is a live tree that of course wouldn't work. Keeping the spirit of Christmas all year round sounds good right about now.

Wishing you and yours a very special Christmas! xoxo

Jill in Sydney

Kristin you always seem to hit the mark. This year I have just felt I couldn't do a tree, and I felt massive GUILT until I read that many others feel the same. I am taking on board the counsel of your wise correspondents and I am just going to enjoy some simplicity and some nature, rather than what can be bought and consumed. The birds in Sydney are going crazy at the moment so I will take the time to listen to their songs. Also it looks like being very hot here on Christmas Day, so it will be a good excuse to laze around with the family. xxx to all!

Lisa A.,Los Angeles, CA

I haven't had a tree in years. I can't lift it with my back problems, so I decided a very long time ago to decorate the entire house instead. It looks lovely and easier to clean up. :) You can never have enough Poinsettias plants...they are the next best thing to a tree!

Also, to make the house smell really good before guest come over: heat a small pot on the stove with a little bit of water, cinnamon sticks and cloves; Oh, it's smell so good! Merry Christmas!

Amanda Frost

Sometimes I think it would be nice to take a year off from Christmas. In fact, we did that once and stayed in our house in Provence until January. But we still had to bring presents home to all those who had presents waiting for us! Maybe the only solution is to take a cruise and tell everyone you've jumped off the earth for the season?

Cynthia Lewis from Salisbury MD

Happy Holidays, you and your family. Since you have only been in your new (to you) home for a short time, I wouldn't worry too much about Christmas decorations...some greenery gathered from your land and some candles with a fire burning in the fireplace....what could be lovelier? With my very best wishes always, Cynthia

Kathleen from Connecticut

We have always put up a Christmas tree and my husband and his family used to leave theirs up until Easter. I won't do that. The last couple of years we had Concolor trees which grew rather irregular and were great. Some people thought that they were ugly, but we loved them. This year we have the same type of tree but its shape is that of a regular Christmas tree. We decorate it with white lights and clear bulbs and icicles has a kind of purity to it.
I could go without a tree and just decorate the house. I think that it is very American to decorate to the max, whereas in some countries it is much more subtle .
We do not send out Christmas cards, but instead New Years cards.


Janet smajstrla

This post hit a note with me! My daughter and I used to have so much fun decorating for Christmas (which is her birthday). When she grew up and moved away, I found I just couldn't face that job alone. So now on the years I need to decorate, I hire a friend to come help. It's a gift I give myself. This year we didn't put up a tree so my husband and I had our picture made in front of a friend's beautifully decorated one. That picture will be on the cards which will go out sometime before the new year. The older I get, the more flexible deadlines become. Relax. Do what feels right. Let others pick up the slack. If its important to them, they will. If not, it isn't. Let it go.

Zoe Willet

Many years ago, after my son had more or less attained the age of reason and rejected Santa and realized that Christmas had ceased to be a religious manifestation for most, we decided to henceforth ignore it. No more tree, maybe a nice wreath on the front door and a bough on the mantle; no more gifts or cards. It was, and remains, our conscious decision and nobody has ever criticized us for it. We switched to a lovely New Year's Day dinner of lobster, champagne and chocolate mousse! For more guidance, refer to the Desiderata.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Zoe, for bringing up that heartening poem, Desiderata. I went immediately to read it, and it speaks to me in different ways as time goes by.

It also reminds me of Newforest, who so many of us appreciated, here in the comments box. See Newforests comment on Desiderata, with links to the French translation:

I regularly receive inquiries as to where has Newforest gone? Last we spoke, I received a giant heart (Newforest had sent me a picture of some branches... on closer look a heart was in the clearing, where the tangled branches opened to the sky above. The mystery remains.


Dear Kristin, We too moved this past year (in November) and I can not possibly think about putting up any decorations, and I know where they are!! The fall is a terrible time to make a move and I hope I never have to do it again. We are still in boxes, which are piled in the entry and the kitchen. I can't arrange the furniture to place a tree - I think maybe behind the piano after I unpack the lamp boxes that are sitting there. Or maybe at the window if I move the sofa to the right. Frankly, it doesn't matter anyway since we are going to our daughters to celebrate Christmas - but I do like the look of the candles in the fireplace. Maybe if I added some greenery....

John Bell

Since moving to the US northwest (from the UK) we've had 8'-9' trees which we buy at Lowes on the day before Christmas at about 6:00pm -- for $1 That's one dollar! Last year, while waiting at the counter to check out with our tree, it was announced on the PA that all trees would be 50 cents. At that price, one could buy several! Good luck with those $50-$60 trees!

Patience Tekulsky in L.A,

So glad to hear that you are still in touch with Newforest. She is a treasure and sorely missed. Her commentaries so enriched whatever the subject of the day touched on. Please, please send her good wishes from all of her email FWAD friends. It is rarely that we have such a gift to learn and see the world thru such beautiful eyes.
P.S. Kristi, that goes for you too.
Happy Holidays a tous!

Sunny 60's beautiful!. for your Dad.

jan greene

What good advice from everyone all over the world! It feels to us that doing less leaves more time to sit back and appreciate along with anticipating family and friends. The rushing around has been replaced with more giving throughout the year rather than under the tree. Advent and preparation take on a more inward quality with less fuss and more time to appreciate and give back. You have been giving all year! Take time for you and your dear family. Whatever appears with be perfectly perfect. Blessings to you all at Christmas!


You just had an attack of depression. Moving is a trauma, illness is a trauma and the lists of things to do add to the feelings of being overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed by thoughts bring it on. Keep calm and quiet your thoughts. All will be well, all will get done and all will pass. You have had a very difficult year. Give yourself the gift of knowing this will pass. Most people need outside support to get through these periods. Your ability to be in touch with your feelings is a great start. If you need help...get it.


Corky said it all. Good advice. Of course, you do so much more than the "average" person with your column, book writing, photography and travels. What an interesting life you have but added pressure, too. There are no extra hours in the day for you. So lucky to have a supportive, wise and understanding man at your side. Wishing you and yours the Merriest of Christmases in your new home with a tree from your very own yard. How splendid!
P.S. Your Mom is something else!


Kristin - I highly recommend the book 'Younger Next Year'. I'm reading it now and it's blowing my socks off! No more pessimism and grey skies hanging over my head all the time. I used to catch myself in your same frame of mind every now & then, and have a New Years resolution to knock it off and be an optimist! All the best for 2013!

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