I talked to Sylviane on the phone the Sunday before Christmas. She seemed to be doing fairly well. Mostly she was finding Christmas in England rather amazing. In France, Christmas is not such a big deal. A religious holiday for those who are Christian and still take their religion seriously and a special day for children, but even so, children will only get two or three presents from their parents. And in France, only a few Christmas cards. And in France Sylviane usually only had had an extremely small Christmas tree, or none at all.
Christmas in England sounds to me pretty much like the United States, except as far as I know, here in the USA people have to a large extent given up on Christmas cards. But in London, everybody gives everybody Christmas cards. People even deliver Christmas cards by hand to their neighbors and to people they see regularly. And Sylviane was quite surprised at the custom of putting up all the Christmas cards on the fireplace mantelpiece for people to see.
And houses and businesses and public buildings covered with Christmas lights, that was also new for her.
To me, it was rather surprising that it's been Sylviane's husband David who's insisted on getting a big Christmas tree and giving out lots of cards, not to mention lots of presents for the children. (The two older children wouldn't be arriving from Paris until two days after Christmas.) And David comes from Australia where Christmas comes in the middle of summer and is very hot. I can't imagine Christmas trees working very well there.
But then Christmas trees are still considered fairly obligatory here in Hawaii, where people walk around on Christmas day in their shorts and sandals. Big refrigerated shipments of trees arrive from the Mainland a day or two after Thanksgiving. And we do the Christmas light thing here too. Downtown, there are enormous displays of lights on all the city government buildings. Including pictures of sleighs and snowmen. And there's a shop that I walk past every day in my neighborhood that has its window covered with plastic snowflakes. Here in Hawaii no less, where there are people living who have never in their lives seen snow. (Although it's not that hard, actually. There are mountains on some of the other islands that have snow.)