How does an iconic fashion family, such as the Givenchys, host the holidays? We caught up with founder of tableware brand Z.d.G Zoë de Givenchy before she headed to Argentina for Thanksgiving to talk all about hosting festive occasions and family traditions. Usually, everyone comes together at their home in France to carve the turkey, but this year, they’re switching their hemispheres and playing polo during November’s spring season in South America.
And for Christmas, Zoë and her family are sticking to their tradition of spending late December in the Bahamas and celebrating with a traditional French Christmas Eve at home, followed by a big traditional English Christmas lunch under the palm trees with old friends. Below, more of Zoë’s favorite traditions, preferred holiday dress codes, and more:
Are there any French hostessing tips or tricks you’ve learned over the years?
Considerations on French entertaining are very much in line with my own:”
- “Less is more, simplicity is key and always use the finest quality of food, wine, and flowers possible.”
- “Using very special ingredients on something quite simple is the most indulgent form of luxury: a dollop of caviar on a baked potato, Scottish smoked salmon served with a warm crepe; and for aperitifs simple cheese gougeres served with an ice cold coupe of champagne—and a freshly pressed linen napkin—is the height of sophistication.”
“This is the kind of luxury that is truly French.”
What are your favorite dishes to serve over the holidays?
“A gigantic ham on Thanksgiving that feeds the family for days on end!”
“On Christmas Eve a cozy family dinner with smoked salmon, fish or shepherds pie and of course a Buche de Noël.”
“And for Christmas Lunch—which is the main event—we feast on roast turkey with stuffing, roast potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding with bread sauce, followed by plum pudding and brandy butter for dessert.”
Are there any signature accents on your holiday tables?
“I try to work with what’s around me as much as possible, so that everything feels authentic and of its place—that means lots of potted plants, flowers and branches on the table and all around. I do like to use heirloom objects on the table where possible, little dishes on the table with pretty sweets and nuts, interesting condiments and trompe l’œil glass fruits or porcelain nuts and chocolates, and at Christmas, oranges with cloves and the scent of mulled wine, fresh pine and moss covered branches.”
What are your favorite family traditions during the holidays?
“It isn’t Christmas without a good carols service. Nothing will get me in the spirit faster than belting out a couple of good old hymns! I also host Christmas crafting or gingerbread decorating for the children and a wreath making party at home with lots of mulled wine, champagne and gingerbread.”
Do you and your family dress more cosily or festive for main holiday meals?
“Christmas time is the time to dress up! It’s the most special time of our year, and we love to dress for a long Christmas lunch, which is my family tradition, and a candlelit Christmas Eve dinner, which is my husband’s French tradition.”
Any advice for hosting an elevated holiday party with kids under 10?
“Oooh this is fun! Set for them their own table, and make it fun and festive with comfortable chairs, activity placemats, lots of Christmas crackers, and edible decorations! Make it exciting and a discovery for them! Insist they wear their best dresses. Create their own space for them to run off the sugar high with organized games—have someone supervise pass the parcel and musical chairs—and don’t forget to choose a movie in advance for them to fall asleep to on the come down!”
You’re attending a friend’s holiday party, what do you bring as a gift for the host?
“My preference is always to send a gift with a hand written thank you note the following morning. If you don’t know your host so well, it also gives you the chance to decide upon a gift that will suit them best. Right now, I am sending little myrtle topiary trees or scented paper whites from my favorite florists in a Z.d.G faux wicker cache pot in a pretty color with a hand written note.”
Can you share the best Christmas present you’ve given or received?
“I love small sparkly things and gloriously indulgent wrapped gifts at Christmas; it feels so romantic, just as it should be! Every Christmas, I am excited to receive some beautiful jewelry from Taffin—James de Givenchy also happens to be my brother-in-law—and something special made by my children. My husband is a master at finding amazing antique objects, small paintings, and little treasures for me. I adore things that have a story to tell.”
And finally, are there any differences you’ve noticed in how the English, French, and Americans celebrate the holidays?
“There are many differences in the way the three cultures celebrate of course, but I do think we share more than we differ. We all want to give and receive gifts, dress up with a little sparkle, drink a little more than we should, eat a lot more than we should, and share in the magic of the holidays! No matter who you are or where you are, you can always create a little magic. As Hamilton Wright Mabie said:
“Blessed is the season that engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
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