- from Susan
Q: Are you taking a break or is this prime, quiet writing time for you?
A: Considering I just returned from a trip to the town in Burgundy where my second French village mystery takes place, with photos and notes about how the people of the area celebrate Christmas, it’s essential writing time. DRESSED FOR DEATH is due to my editor very soon. (The first, LOVE & DEATH IN BURGUNDY, doesn't come out until May 2 and is set in the heat of summer.)
The French deal with Christmas differently than Americans (or Germans, or Scandinavians, or Mexicans) do. Having rebelled against the close relationship between the state and the Catholic Church in the late 18th century, the country has been trying to decide what, exactly, is the relationship ever since in a long series of laws.
Some French people follow Catholicism and you only have to see the frenzied rush to get into Notre Dame Cathedral on Christmas Day for a High Mass celebrated by a senior French Catholic priest to realize there’s still interest. In the small towns and provincial cities, however, the Church and its rituals are far less appealing. The real town I fictionalized for my series has a church building long since owned by the State but used in a desultory, occasional way for Catholic ceremonies. A traveling priest may visit once a year to do any requested baptisms, marriages, etc. Christmas? No priest, just a ragtag group of mostly elderly residents who sing a bit, listen to one of their group read the Christmas text from the Bible, and try to keep warm in the cold, stone building for an hour or less.
The real celebration is in the food, mais oui! That’s what I was researching. Fancy meats, special pastries, candy, traditional holiday dishes. You’ll have to wait for the book to catch the real flavor of Christmas in Burgundy. In the meantime, Joyeux Noël!
My photo from a well-maintained church in the church city of Vezelay in Burgundy.