The last few years have been a little weird where Christmas is concerned. At Georgetown, I push through the usual stress of finals, torn between enjoying the holiday spirit (decorations! movies! cookies!) and not failing Econ. Then I hurriedly pack so that I can spend a full day travelling and end up back in my hometown, where my family goes through toned-down versions of my childhood traditions and I pretend that I totally want to see people from high school. After just two weeks, it’s back to the Hilltop to start all over. It’s a strange balance between my DC life and my Oregon life, between childhood and adulthood.
This year, of course, is different. For one, I’m not panicked about finals because frankly, there’s not as much to panic about. I turned in one final paper at the beginning of December and a group paper last week; I took an in-class final last Tuesday and another the week before. My other two finals won’t happen until January, for reasons that are known only to the hooded figures who control the French university system. And since my grades here don’t factor into my GPA, I don’t need to worry quite so much about being perfect—which is fortunate, given that my French skills are still best-described as “good enough.” All in all, this has been the calmest finals week (if you can even call it that) I’ve had in the last two years.
More significantly, this year is different because I’m not going home. That’s a little bit weird (for reasons I plan on talking about in another post) but it also, somehow, makes it feel more like Christmas. No matter how much I decorated my little room in Darnall (and oh, you know I decorated it), Christmas was still something I went away for. December happened at Georgetown, but Christmas happened in Oregon.
But since I can’t go to Christmas this year, the Christmas spirit has to come to me. Despite the lack of apple cider, Lyon does feel different right now. Maybe that’s because France does Yuletide so very well: there’s a marché de Noël five minutes from my house, I can buy roasted chestnuts and mulled wine from stands all around town, and the weather is a perfect mix of seasonally-appropriate chill and stunning blue skies. When I went out to pick up a few presents last night, the streets were all lit up with lights and the hustle and bustle of last-minute shoppers felt like something out of a movie compared to the bookstore frenzy that is Christmas shopping at Georgetown or the “do we really have to drive to Medford again?” tedium of shopping back home. And of course, Lyon’s celebrated Fête des Lumières added a little something as well.
The holiday has still snuck up on me, of course—I’m having trouble accepting that Christmas Eve is really only three days away—but the season is more present than ever. Maybe it’s not Christmas like I’m used to, but there’s no denying that the most wonderful time of the year has come to Lyon.
This piece is cross-posted on the Georgetown Study Abroad Blog, where you can read about the experiences of Georgetown students studying across the globe.