Alex Fice speaks to the director of Alliance Française in Cambridge to find out how the city’s French population will be celebrating Christmas this year
Alliance Française is a charitable organisation based in 133 countries around the world, dedicated to teaching French to the highest level and promoting a love of the francophone culture. In Cambridge, Alliance Française also acts as a hub for the local French community and hosts various events throughout the year.
Coming up on 10 December, Alliance Française will host its first ever Christmas fair – which it hopes will become an annual event in years to come. Taking place at 1 Red Cross Lane in Cambridge from 3-5.30pm, you can expect a range of cakes, games, live music, prizes and plenty more. All are invited, French-speaking or not; all you need is a curiosity about the languages and cultures of the world!
While Alliance Française’s Christmas Fair provides an opportunity to celebrate together in Cambridge, the majority of Cambridge’s French community will be heading home to spend Christmas in France with their wider family, says Patricia, the director of Alliance Française. “The main festivities take place on Christmas Eve – when households gather with family and friends and enjoy a very long dinner, before attending Midnight Mass in some cases,” she explains. “We have a really big meal involving oysters, sea food, turkey or duck. Between courses, we often have a trou normand to cleanse the palate – usually a lemon sorbet or a glass of Calvados if you’re feeling brave!” Once everyone returns home from Midnight Mass, the meal is wrapped up with a warming bowl of onion soup, as the young (and young at heart) rush to open their presents.
By contrast, Christmas Day is a more relaxed affair, spent visiting grandparents and going on long walks. In the new year, Epiphany is also celebrated by making or buying a galette des rois (King’s cake) to share with the family. “Inside the galette des rois is a small porcelain figure called la fève,” explains Patricia. “We normally get the youngest in the family to allocate slices, then whoever gets la fève must choose a king or queen!”
To find out more about how Cambridge’s French community will be celebrating Christmas this year, make sure to swing by Alliance Française’s Christmas fair on 10 December and dip your toe into some French festivities – you can be sure to receive a warm welcome!
For more information about Alliance Française in Cambridge, head to their website: https://www.alliance-cam.co.uk