Eat, Drink and Be Merry: the French Joie de Vivre

One thing the French do well: celebrate.

They celebrate birthdays, religious holidays, secular holidays, history, new friends, old friends, festivals, house-warmings, bull fights, music, food, wine, agriculture (as in the Festival du Riz). And when they don’t have something to celebrate, they celebrate life.

The French in France remind me of the French in Louisiana: Mardi Gras, crawfish festival, strawberry festivals, BBQ, hot sauce, catfish, jazz, zydeco, pirates, shrimp, ducks, petroleum, swamp stomps, hot tamales, and yes, rice–just to name a few. And like their French ancestors, they go all out with lots of food, music, dancing, and reveling.

… and be merry! Male-female couples are not required for dancing. It’s a group affair, so just pick a partner, or go solo.

The French take joie de vivre seriously, whether throwing a birthday party or enjoying a cup of cafe’ with friends at those famous little outdoor spots. I’ve been to numerous wedding anniversaries, birthday parties (otherwise known in French as the anniversaire),  and just plain old dinner parties (although there’s nothing plain about them).

One of my favorites are French birthday parties. You don’t have to be celebrating a big “O” to have a big party in France. Another year of life is worth an all-out soiree’.

I’ve not seen traditional American birthday cakes. They are always fruit tarts, like this one, with festive decorations.

I’ve yet to see a birthday cake, and gifts seem to be optional. It’s just another reason to celebrate. Food, and lots of it, is always on the agenda, as well as plenty of wine.

These fetes draw quite a crowd. The average birthday party, of those I’ve attended, runs 20-30 people. And they rarely end before 2 a.m.

So what do all those joyous French people do for all those hours?


Eat, drink and be merry. They should have invented the phrase.

Paella, a traditional Spanish dish made with rice and loaded with seafood and sometimes chicken and sausage, is a normal fare in the South of France.

Music and dancing are the entertainment. At least in the area where I live, the music usually consists of live entertainment–sometimes hired, but usually performed by invited guests, family, friends. Guitars, drums and accordions are popular instruments of choice. In the area of La Camargue, the music is often of the gypsi variety (made famous by local residents, The Gypsi Kings).

The photos you see here are typical of a birthday party. These were taken at the family home (built in the 1600s) of my husband’s cousin. She was celebrating 50 years of life and the party lasted nearly two days. It started Saturday night. Everyone spent the night and recommenced the next day at lunch (leftovers).

This party was planned by friends who went all out with a printed menu, complete with normal French courses: apéritifs and hors d’oeuvres, an entrée, the main course, fromage (cheese), and dessert.

I’m throwing a French anniversaire party this evening for my American friend (visiting from Virginia) and my husband. On the menu: olives and pâté, melon, fresh catch fish and crawfish, fromage (three varieties), and petit suisse with blueberry sauce.

And, of course, wine and lots of music.

4 thoughts on “Eat, Drink and Be Merry: the French Joie de Vivre

  1. I’m ready for a French birthday celebration that last two days! I don’t think that is too much to ask if you’re the queen like me 🙂 Hope you enjoy your celebration tonight. The meal sounds delicious and I can hear the music already.

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