As I write these words, households across the region – and indeed across the country – will be preparing for the celebratory meal known as le réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre; making purchases of oysters, beluga caviar and goose and carefully chilling the champagne.  Such a feast has origins in the days of the Romans when it was believed that the more food you consumed on the last day of the year, the more prosperous the next 12 months would be. In fact, it was only in 1564 when King Charles IX decreed that the new year would commence on January 1st, in order to standardise calendar across France.

In preparation for the last major event of 2017, best clothes will be carefully ironed and pressed as it is considered good form to ‘se mettre sur son 31’ – to dress for the 31st. During the evening, it is also traditional to watch the presidential broadcast from the Palais de l’Élysée and unlike the UK, gui – mistletoe – is associated with New Year’s Eve rather than Christmas. It is also the practice to send cards on Jour des Étrennes (New Year’s Day) assuming of course that you are in a fit state to put pen to paper. It is all very far removed from my vague memories of watching Andy Stewart sing Auld Lang Syne on our black and white television set.

At midnight of December 31st, it is the further custom to make loud noises, a tradition that dates back many centuries to a time when it was deemed necessary for ward off any malign sprits from the beginning of the new year. However, you are like me and are therefore not overly keen on the sounds of klaxon horns etc. the grounds of Chateau de Bois Giruad have the considerable advantage of being secluded. And, wherever you are – Bonne année and Bonne santé!