March 12, 2010

Gifts show feeling, tradition through food, books and songs

— La fete de Noel is the Franco-American Christmas season when families enjoy traditional religious and social celebrations accompanied by gift-giving.

Franco-American generosity follows the French proverb, ''Recevoir sans donner fait tourner l'amiti,'' meaning ''Receiving without giving turns the friendship.''

Fresh food gifts are popular with Franco-Americans. I often attach ''un sac des epices'' (bag of spices), mixtures of cinnamon and cloves used to season tourtiere (pork pie), creton (pork pate) or du ford (stuffing) to my fresh food gifts.

Gifts honoring Franco-American heritage are welcome, especially if they pay tribute to family traditions. Therefore, it makes good gift sense to think genealogy when giving to Franco-Americans. Gift certificates for genealogical magazines or memberships in research societies are excellent ideas to brighten the Franco-Americans' la fete de Noel.

A better idea is to host a family history project. Each family member can receive one page of blank paper with a gift pen. Each person is asked to write something important they recall or know about the family's history. These pages should be dated, slipped into clear paper protectors and stored in a ring binder where photographs can be added, as well as other stories, collected over time.

Family members who cannot be home for Christmas will likely have a feeling of being together when they participate in a history project.

Of course, always include favorite family recipes in the oral and written histories. Likewise, be sure to connect the recipes with traditional stories.

Handmade Christmas ornaments with family photographs are perfect Franco-American gifts.

A gift subscription to Le Forum, the Franco-American newspaper published four times a year by Le Centre Franco-American at the University of Maine in Orono is a gift to last all year. Contact Lisa_Michaud@umit, or telephone 581-1455 for subscription information.

Gifts of French-language Christmas carols will be warmly received by Franco-Americans. A particularly moving Christmas carol is ''Minuit Chretien,'' sung in French. In English, this religious song is the beautifully familiar ''O Holy Night.'' Nevertheless, the French words evoke deeply spiritual feelings for Franco-Americans who grew up singing this hymn before midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Books written by Franco-Americans are treasured gifts. ''Voyages,'' the Franco-American anthology edited by Nelson Madore and Barry Rodrigue, is keepsake because the stories and essays tell the history of the Franco-American experience expressed by dozens of creative Maine writers.

Cultural histories authored by Maine's Franco-American writers Doris Provencher Faucher and Norman Beaupre of Biddeford are, likewise, good gift choices. Faucher writes novels reflecting her family's North American history, beginning a trilogy with ''The Virgin Forest'' (

Beaupre's novels about Franco-Americans are written in French and English. His most recent novel in English, ''The Boy With the Blue Cap,'' is about the artist Vincent Van Gogh in Arles (

Acadians will likely enjoy ''Acadian Redemption: From Beausoleil Broussard to the Queen's Royal Proclamation'' by Warren A. Perrin.

Maine's song lyricist Joseph Pickering from Bangor just produced his newest CD, ''Wall Street Christmas -- Maine Street Noel,'' available at

Maine storyteller Michael Parent's ''Chantons: Let's Sing, in French and English,'' along with a teacher's guide are available by contacting

Gift seekers can shop for tickets to Franco-cultural events, particularly at the Franco- American Heritage Center in Lewiston ( Ticket reservations to Mardi Gras on Feb. 21 at the Center are already on sale, ready for gift- giving to Franco-Americans who enjoy going to a soiree. Appréciez toujours un Joyeux Noel. (Always enjoy a Merry Christmas.)

Juliana L'Heureux can be contacted at:

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