New Year’s Eve in France is a serious business: mostly it’s about food, the kind of food you don’t buy every day, like lobster and crayfish and 20-year-old Comté cheese and fruits confits, those lovely sugar-coated fruits that crunch crisply when you bite into them. In the evening, families will gather to ring in 2013, and the table had better be… perfect.
The town near which I live, Seyssel, is an average town in many ways, beautifully situated in the Rhône-Alpes region, where it casts its eye towards the Alps on one bank and the Jura Mountains on the other. Even the Romans must have appreciated the view because their ruins are scattered nearby.
In other ways Seyssel is anything but average: its 3,000 inhabitants are shared between two départements, or provinces: the Ain, and the Haute-Savoie.
Imagine having two churches, two banks, two pharmacies, two post offices, two markets and two town halls, or mairies, one on either side of the river.
Today is Monday, market day on the Haute-Savoie side (it’s on Saturdays in the Ain) and the town is buzzing because tonight is the Réveillon, the last night of the year. Everyone is rushing with last-minute preparations.
The market plays the same role it has for centuries, a gathering place for news to be exchanged and best wishes to be shared, although villagers fret that supermarkets and online shopping are destroying this very French of traditions, the jour du marché.
Today I bumped into my neighbor Josiane and learned to my sadness that old Mr Monier had died, at 90. I had seen the flashing light of the ambulance down the hill a few nights ago and at his age the news didn’t come as a surprise. I also learned there would be a blood drive in town soon, that my friend Isabelle had found a new job and that Widad should have stayed home with her messy flu.
While shopping may be at a pitch, life unfurls much as it usually does, even on New Year’s Eve. There’s always time to catch up in person and have a chat, even if we all have Internet.
It’s small town life at its best.
All photos by Anne Sterck.