At 10.30 we were off to the christening… not quite sure what to expect as we had never been to a French baptism.
While waiting outside the church, it became quite apparent that there were three christenings taking place at the same time and the thing that struck me most was how casually everyone was dressed. Jeans mainly. The father of one of the children being christened was even wearing tired blue jeans and white trainers.
“See, Mark said, I need not have worn this stuffy shirt”.
At 11.00 am, the priest invited us into the church. Churches are very theatrical places in France, with high ceilings, stained glass windows, sculptures, and candles. The ceremony itself took about an hour.
At 12.00 we were back “chez François and Fabienne”, enjoying champagne outside in the Spring sunshine. Apéritifs are a very important part of any French meal and that includes a French baptism. No social gathering worthy of that name would take place without the traditional “apéro” first. We had three food courses with the apéritifs and there was not a peanut in sight!
At 3 o’clock we all sat round a huge table and started the five-course christening lunch. Conversations, laughter, good food, and children drifting in and out of the room when more food appeared on the table. A real French fête. The English just cannot reproduce this. Great aunts genuinely conversing about shirt lengths to an 18-year-old, another guest searching for a stool in the woodshed, etc. All guests were using the same knives, forks, plates, and glasses that were kept for the entire meal: great hunks of deliciously fresh bread were used to clean the plates after each course.
Why are we so stuffy? And I include myself in this. I would panic if I didn’t have enough coffee cups. Not Fabienne: the coffee pot was handed to one guest, he poured some into his wine glass and the coffee pot went round the table until everyone had a wine glass full of coffee. This was not deemed as unusual but as completely normal. As Fabienne and François were so relaxed, so were their guests. True hosts.
PS. (added later after Anne’s comments) The pièce montée didn’t quite turn out as Wikipedia illustrated it but both the chocolate and caramel pièces montées were devoured and some people even came back for more so maybe I just got away with it.