Punk Rock means tired feet
First off, Mike wrote: "Why do you have to teach about Christmas? The English language has nothing more to do with Christmas than the French language. And it's not like you have to teach Christian consumerist culture to a bunch of atheist commies - you're in France, not a utopia."
He's kinda right. However, in teaching Christmas what I really do is ask them what they do for Christmas, and then basically tell them we do the same thing with a few minor differences. For instance, most families open their presents at midnight on the 24th here. And they eat salmon and escargot as well. Oh, and leave coffee for Santa, instead of milk. It's good because they can get excited about something they know about, and talk about it. That can be rare.
That said, my idea kicked me in the teeth yesterday. I had one class of about six students. I asked them to tell me about what they do for Christmas, which they did. Then I asked each one what they wanted. Two of the students are Muslim, and when they said they didn't want anything because they didn't celebrate Christmas, I felt like a complete fucking idiot. In the interest of fairness I wanted to maybe ask them about Ramadan, but then I didn't know if they would feel good about me equating Christmas with that month of fasting and celebration. So I basically went really quickly over what we do and moved on to something else. This won't be the last class, as well.
Personally, I usually forget that Christmas is a religious holiday, since I'm not religious. I don't teach about the christian aspects of it, because it's illegal to teach about religion in France, and frankly I don't want to teach about the christian aspects of it anyway. I talk about Santa, giving presents, the tree, leaving cookies, etc. This works pretty well, as they are all still about 15 and have tinges of excitement leftover from when they were younger.
I end up teaching less about consumerist culture than I do about the cultural/traditional mythology surrounding Christmas. I try to focus on what you do with your family, what you eat, when you do these things, etc. Getting them to describe it in English is challenging enough as it is, without me trying to discuss the overconsumption and blatant hypocrisy of the "Christmas Season." It works well to act excited and surprised when each class tells me they open their presents at midnight, or when I get up on the chair to mimic putting up the star on the top of the Christmas tree.
All in all, I'm less conflicted than I was before. I thought they would want to talk and talk about what they wanted, etc., but in actuality they are interested in just expressing the traditions they have with their families, and occasionally distancing themselves from little kids who actually do believe in Santa Claus.
The title of this post needs to be addresses. Last night I was going to go to this anarchist speaker and concert at some bar I haven't been to. The idea was to meet some young anarchist French kids and have some friends. I passed by the bar, and saw it absolutely crowded with 40-something crusty punks. Frankly, I'm sick of going to events where I'm the only person under thirty. I went to a poetry café and this speech about the Sioux Indians at a Literature café, and though they were both cool and I met some neat people, I have yet to make good friends with someone my age who is French. So, I went to this other concert instead. It turned out to be a good choice.
It was at the Mamy Blu, this space pretty far from where I live that is, as I found out last night, punk as fuck. It's a really raw space, all bare concrete pillars and floor blackened by spilt beer and stubbed out cigarettes. They heat the thing with a barrel stove that they burn cut up pieces of palettes in. There was only one kind of beer, in a can, and it was two euros. I got there too early and waited for a long time, just watching people in the near-dark of the room. The entrance was one toy, but I had misread the poster, so I just paid 5 euros. Stupid me. Anyway, the first band finally got up. U'lers was their name, and they were from America and did some cool Ramones covers and some of their own songs. All of the band members were in their early forties, but they rocked pretty hard. The second band was called Double Shot, from England, and they were a kickass punk group. They covered the Clash once or twice, and their own songs were really upbeat. I danced a lot standing next to this twenty-something French guy who was very, very drunk and flailing all over the place. We were the only two people in the mosh pit when he decided we should start one near the end of their set. I left with tired feet from dancing, smoke entwined in the fibers of all of my clothes and dried sweat on my brow.