Hanging the Pot Hanger

December 9, 2008By Nick WoodsTales of la Ville

Hanging the Pot Hanger

tales of la ville
The crémaillère in full swing. The full report next month…

Alors, c’est quand ta crémaillère, Nickolas?” asked a wrinkly-before-her-time friend of mine through an exhalation of strong French cigarette smoke as we sat outside at a café in the Marais after our belly-dance class.

“My creamy what?” I asked, unable to hold back a cough.

“Ta crémaillère! Tu sais pas ce que c’est?”

Another classmate explained that Mam’zelle Toxique was asking about my housewarming party, I thought about the still rather sorry state of my half-empty flat and threw out, “Ah! Bientôt. T’inquiètes!”

That was about six weeks ago, and given that my flat is now something of a home, I have no excuse but to throw open the doors. The trouble is that since I started thinking about organizing the event I have been getting flashbacks of teenage parties, one memorable one in particular where the toilet broke; someone head-butted the wall, leaving a large dent in it; and the legs of an antique table got broken, and we had to hold it up with our knees so the host wouldn’t notice until we left.

Not that this is likely to happen in my flat; I don’t have an antique table, for example. But the truth is that, although I have been on the party scene for many, (many) years, I have played away from home for most of it and am not at all used to throwing parties. The effort of organizing one and perhaps the fear of domestic destruction have put me off, since essentially I am something of a tomcat and prefer to have my adventures outdoors and return to home comforts when I need them. So this is something of a new departure.

I went to a few Einweihungen, the German version of the pendaison de crémaillère*, when I lived in Berlin. They were sedate, conversational affairs organized on very different lines from what I have learned is de rigueur in Paris. A more communal approach seems to operate in Germany, where it is not unusual for each guest to bring a contribution for the food table and bar. In Paris, I am expecting a much more raucous shindig. Having asked around about the dos and don’ts required of a good Paris host, I have discovered the following:

It is not acceptable to assume that guests will bring anything; it is my party and I must lay on the food and drink. That said, since most of my friends are alcoholics, I can’t believe they will turn up without the necessary intoxicants. I am having the food catered.

• It is not acceptable to think about taking the pressure off myself and dragging everyone off to a club after midnight. The soirée is mine and people expect to spend it with me at home for the duration.

• It is not acceptable to ban smoking, even though my apartment is only 40 meters square; my guests will want to be relaxed and feel that their vices are accepted. They are not to be forced out into the cold or to worry about the harmful effects of active and passive smoking on a Saturday night.

• French people like to eat meat, so the idea of a vegan buffet is neither clever, interesting nor funny.

Then there is the rather important issue of who to invite. Who do I know after two months in the French capital? Do I have any friends or am I still a “Billy no mates”? I have decided to leave out casual club acquaintances and concentrate on a big mix of people I have met in my everyday Paris life (from dance classes, yoga classes, work, friends who have helped me settle in and so on), to whom I want to say a big thank you and get drunk with.

Anyway, the Champagne is chilling in the fridge, the Italian food is ordered, the (small) ashtrays are in place and I am all set for a full-on party.

* The crémaillère is a toothed iron rod that was used in the olden days to hang cooking pots to be warmed in the fireplace. The pendaison de crémaillère (hanging the pot hanger) ceremony symbolized well-being in a new home. It is still the done thing to stage the event today, although people forget about the iron rod, pots and hearth and organize a booze-up instead.

Nick Woods

© 2008 Paris Update

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