Normally right now I’d be on a plane bound for Dallas heading home for Christmas, New Years, and to celebrate my birthday with friends and family. None of which is happening this year. At this point in 2020 nothing surprises me, but it doesn’t make things feel easier. This year I’ll be spending my first Christmas in Paris and my first Christmas away from my family.
To be completely transparent, I was fully planning on going home for Christmas. Throughout this year with all of the travel restrictions I’ve always had the ability to go back to the US and back to France if I needed or wanted to. I never felt comfortable traveling, especially on such a long flight, just for a visit. But I always wanted to go home for the holidays and my birthday.
As a part of my visa process I’ve been required to take four formation civique classes. Basically they’re all day mandatory classes to help with my integration into France. These courses are in-person and, bien sûr, were delayed due to COVID-19. The OFII (the French Office of Immigration and Integration) assigned the first two classes in mid-November and told me the remaining classes would be assigned after completing the first two.
I thought having my second class on Thanksgiving Day was a bummer. Then they gave me the date for the third class: Christmas Eve. This random assignment pretty much eliminated my chances of going home for Christmas. So I threw myself a little pity party and tried to accept another curve ball in an extraordinary year.
Christmas 2020: Half-Christmas
I almost didn’t write this post. I feel guilty even describing my situation because I don’t want to come across as complaining. Throughout this year I’ve been very lucky. All of my loved ones touched by COVID-19 have made full recoveries. Friends and family who are healthcare workers are now receiving vaccines. We’ve almost made it through 2020. But it still feels like this year is half-Christmas.
It’s been hard to get into the holiday spirit. Life in France continues to be very restricted. Small shops that have managed to stay open are really struggling. Cafés, restaurants and bars are only open for takeaway if at all. Everywhere you go you see spaces for rent and sale because so many places have closed. It’s not easy to feel the spirit of the season when so many in the community are struggling.
Instagram might tell a different story, but that’s because throughout this entire year I’ve wanted it to remain as an “escape” for others. It would be impossible to count of the number of messages I’ve received from people longing for Paris and France. What I’ve never responded to these messages, because I never want people to feel guilty about missing France, is I get it. I want to go home too.
I’m happy to see people safely traveling to be home for the holidays, but it also stings. I’m so incredibly jealous. I wanted to be a part of that group so badly. But it wasn’t in the cards for me this year.
So I’m spending my first Christmas in Paris. Sounds great doesn’t it? It does, and that’s the tough part about living in such a glamorized (and magical in real life too) place like Paris. People’s reactions are always the same – something along the lines of “well at least you’re in Paris.” And that’s true, I’m very lucky to be in a place I love dearly, but I still wish I was going to be home for Christmas.
Spending My First Christmas in Paris
As it turns out, I won’t be spending all day on Christmas Eve doing my formation civique. I received a text on Friday letting me know that my appointment had been rescheduled (which sent me into a temporary tailspin, because I really could’ve gone home for Christmas).
Now I have the day to bake cookies and walk around Paris and take in all of the gorgeous decorations one more time before a small Christmas Eve dinner. I’m hosting, and the menu is going to be a blend of my family favorites and traditional French Réveillon foods.
On Christmas morning I’ll wake up for the first time in my own apartment, without my family. I’ll probably kick myself for not buying a Nespresso machine because there’s a 0% chance I’ll find a café open for a takeaway on Christmas morning. Instead, I’ll make a tea and sit and admire my now very dead Christmas tree (definitely bought it too early this year). I’ll count down the minutes until lunch and dinner with Romain’s family (aka reuniting with Dalton) and I’ll start FaceTiming with my family as soon as they wake up.
It might not be exactly the Christmas I’d imagined but it’ll be okay. More than ever before I’ll think of all the very special past Christmases and the even more special Christmases to come. This year has taught me that I can handle a lot. And I’m sure 2021 will be a better year!