Happy New Year

We returned to Paris last night from the Vaucluse on a train crowded with sleepy passengers and their luggage. I had been thinking about French rules of etiquette, for reasons I'll get to, but then was once again, after so many years, taken by surprise when the cashier in the Kaiser bakery-cafe in the Avignon train station wished me a happy new year and I stumbled over wishing him the same in return. In France it is rude not to wish people Happy New Year ("Bonne Année") the first time you see them in the new year, or on New Year's Day in shops. Christmas cards are traditionally not Christmas cards but New Year's greetings and go out in January, though this may be changing. Year after year I am caught, forgetting to wish my neighbours "Bonne Année," talking about other things, and then realizing, shame-facedly, that I have overlooked a ritual.