How to make Christmas last forever (or at least until the end of January…)


As a native of more southerly latitudes, I had to learn to ignore Parisian weather to survive. If I had known before I moved here that my birthplace near Washington, DC, is comparable to Madrid and Rome in terms of sunlight, whereas Paris is comparable to Montreal, that lack of sunshine depresses the immune system and dampens the spirits… I may not have come. Then one day I was ranting about the gray skies to a French friend who said, “Il y a d’autres soleils à Paris” (There are other suns in Paris) and that was a turning point. I learned to love rain even when it falls every day for months as it has this winter, the darkest in 30 years:

Living in Paris has made me think that Christmas and Hanukkah lights are Northern Hemisphere responses to winter sun deprivation, and this year they are more vital than ever. So here are my strategies to make Christmas last forever, or at least until the end of January and the gradual approach of Spring…

  • Virtual fireplace on flat screen TV (DVD’s available and now streaming on Netflix!)
  • Epiphany galettes (King cakes) still on sale in the bakeries (collect prizes, wear crowns!)
  • New Year’s cards can be sent until at least the end of the month (and received!)
  • New Year’s resolutions boost energy and project us into the future, especially if updated and tracked
  • Skype faraway friends and family to open presents they sent by mail
  • Sort pictures, print some to send with New Year’s greetings
  • Play with presents: make a list of who gave you what and what you will do with each one in the new year, include thank you’s in New Year’s cards
  • Keep a log of good times over the holidays, in your appointment calendar, and relive them by journaling: funny things people said, conversations, realisations, issues to clear up?
  • Food memories: recipes new and heirloom, to share in New Year’s messages
  • Food continued: bake cookies and send to older and younger loved ones
  • Keep the tree and decorations up even as the tree folds inward like a shriveled umbrella and begins to look like a biological equivalent of Miss Havisham’s wedding cake (in Great Expectations)
  • Make un-decorating part of the holiday, set aside lots of time, enjoy treasured ornaments, as mementos and promises of future holiday celebrations
  • Keep the music playing: all the oldies you didn’t listen to when it was really Christmas, laugh at Bob Dylan and Elvis holiday albums, discover Yuletide gems by Lynerd Skynerd, Louis Armstrong and the never-obsolete Frank Sinatra. If that’s too much, fall back on instrumental “Winter Solstice” and “Celtic Christmas” collections from Windham Hill and others…
  • Recycle your tree in any of Paris’s parks until January 28th (and beyond), knowing it will become fragrant mulch for gorgeous spring landscaping…
  • Hibernate without guilt, perhaps with the help of a carefully selected winter virus, just severe enough to keep you on the couch in front of the “fire” with herb teas and soups,  but not requiring antibiotics or ER trips…
  • Continue your creative and professional work when the fog clears
  • Start thinking about Valentine’s day…

To be continued, love xxxx Aliss




One Divine Quality


It’s been said that humor is humanity’s one Divine quality*… it’s definitely one of our more transformative creative faculties and one of the things I love most in my fellow human beings… Case in point:

What’s the real name of the famous Metro station pictured above, anagrammed for April Fool’s? Answer, “Opera” of course. I was one of millions of people in transit doing double takes from our seats on the trains and hopping off to laugh and take pictures of the unexpected and festive signs (“Apéro” loosely translates as “Happy Hour”). In all, 13 stations were renamed, my other fave being “Crimée (Crimea) et Châtiment (and Punishment),” this from an organization known more for its reliability and staunchly leftist union activity than for its sparkling wit (esprit). Coming so soon after the Brussels attacks, it was perfect timing, lightening up the atmosphere for all of us who gird ourselves psychologically before embarking on public transportation.

Another encounter with French humor was the Slip (underpants)-themed wrap party for Season 4 of the animated series Titeuf, based on the highest selling comic collection in France. Champagne flowed freely at the spacious new offices of Go-En productions, located in a former denim cloth factory downtown. Director Gark sporting his briefs over jeans…DSC02636

Right to left, creator Zep, Ivan, a big fan, Lewis Primo, music director, Nathalie Homs, voice artist..DSC02634

Titeuf and friends, reflected in a windowDSC02631

Inner courtyard and hors d’oeuvresDSC02632

If you want a good laugh over wine with bilingual Franco-American friends, try asking, “What’s the difference between French humor and US humor?” Vast subject, enough material for a doctoral thesis. Am compiling notes to share…. To be continued xxxx

PS Have decided to write separate post about US vs French humor, too big a topic to piggyback on to this one…. 🙂

*by famously grouchy 19th century German philosopher Schopenhauer

We The Magi

Winter sunset along the Loire


What rivers of longing are carrying us forward? What inner star are we following? What questions pull us through the night like the tail of a comet? What do we really want to manifest? Why are we here?

Could every day be an epiphany… As small as a china figurine in a king cake, as infinite as divine love shining in a new baby, as unexpected as random humans giving their time for a wounded animal…

Clues: what were our favorite games of pretend and day dreams when we were children…

Cool listening, some of the wonderful interviews by Krista Tippet for her program On Being:

to be continued xxxx Aliss



DSC02424Yesterday late morning I was walking along the Bassin de la Villette thinking about the word “Epiphany,” wondering how it relates to us now. When I was almost home, I came across a puzzling scene. Between the trees on the sandy gravel beside the canal, a big swan was huddling with its head under its wing and a fashionable bald gentleman in black was standing nearby, worriedly talking to someone on the phone about it.

I stood there for a minute trying to figure out what was going on and between agitated phone conversations, he started telling me the story. At 6:30 am he was walking his dogs and noticed the swan. He dropped off the dogs and came back to see two larger swans scrambling out of the canal. They began flapping their wings and trying to push this one back into the water. It wouldn’t go and curled up on the ground again. At first the man thought they were fighting but realized something was wrong and started trying to get help. He walked to the canal authority building a few minutes away and was told they couldn’t do anything but he could call the fire department… That’s what he was doing when I arrived.  The fire department told him they’d sent someone earlier who reported there was no emergency but the man could call the national vet school in the south suburbs and take the swan there himself. I looked at the swan and couldn’t imagine myself trying to pick it up, much less schlepping it to the vet school hours away… On the metro? In a taxi? Not an option. Another woman walked up. She’d seen the whole thing from her window and called the Swan Protection Association. They said they didn’t have the means to send help and that we shouldn’t get too close because it could break someone’s arm with its beak… Long story short, we all started making phone calls. The fire department agreed to send a contingent to check the scene until the special animal unit could get there. DSC02426 (2)Meanwhile, several of us stood at a safe distance so dog owners would keep their pets away…Two more firemen pulled up in a red van. They put on heavy gloves and expertly examined the mysterious victim, then carried it gingerly to a containment cage in the van and drove it off to the vet school:

DSC02429IDSC02428It felt strange to mobilize 8 firemen for a wild bird, but we were all grateful they came. With sighs of relief, everyone said thank you and goodbye, hoping the vet school could do something.

Late this morning, the parent swans were there again, watching and waiting on the water.DSC02455 To be continued….