Les étrennes are tips traditionally given in France to the people who deliver your post, take away your garbage and provide the fire and emergency service.
People give different amounts and the details of the practice vary from place to place a little.
Here in Preuilly it works like this:
The local firebrigade on an exercise at our friend Patrice's paint store.
One of the volunteer fire brigade will call at the house sometime in December and ask if we want to make a donation. We habitually give €10, but I've heard that some people give as much as €1000. The money goes towards funding an end of year party for the fire brigade, all of whom are volunteers in Preuilly. I get a receipt for the donation and it is tax deductible.
Our local post office van. The factrice moved the vehicle when I asked if I could photograph it so I could get a better angle!
Our factrice (postwoman) calls at the house at around the same time of year, lugging a satchel full of almanac style calendars. I choose a calendar based on the photo on the cover and pay €5. The money is used by the factrice as an end of year bonus. There is no receipt and no tax deduction. I throw the calendar out since the pages with the dates on don't have enough room to write anything on and it is useless as far as I am concerned.
Our garbos at work.
So far as I know no one tips the garbos in Preuilly, which may be a hang over from the days when the garbage was collected at 4am. No one is going to get up at that hour to offer a tip. Now they call at 6am, but not everyone is up by then either, so I think the practice of tipping the garbos died out long ago in Preuilly.
Originally les étrennes were gifts given amongst friends and to cement political allegiances on New Year's Day. The practice was banned as corrupt in 1789 by the Revolutionaries. By the 19th century and the rise of department stores who promoted Christmas gift giving the tradition was all rolled up into the Christmas festivities.
And reflecting current events, here is an amusing take on the subject.
Counterfeit Cheese: The Nouvelle République recently (24 November) reported on the rash of counterfeit goods that have been seized by Customs and Excise officers lately. Apparently pharmaceuticals (medications) are the most frequently counterfeited items. Eighteen and a half thousand items of fake designer clothing was seized on the highway between Tours and Bourges and now has been incinerated. Also seized was a batch of hedge shears. One of the things the authorities receive the most complaints about is fake Sainte Maure de Touraine goats cheese.