37+1. Christmas in the French Foreign Legion

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This chapter is going to be a bit different from the others, as 29+1 was. Last time when I wrote a +1 chapter, I talked about my personal life. This time I’m going to write about my personal opinion. In the other stories, I’m trying to share facts as I lived them, but this time this whole chapter is going to be about my opinion. Even until now, I tried to warn the readers when I shared an opinion, so here we go again.

In this chapter, I’m going to tell you what I personally think about a special event in the French Foreign Legion.

This opinion could be completely different from other’s and if a still serving or an ex-legionnaire wants to share his point of view, please don’t hesitate to send me a mail to info@legionstories.com and I’ll share your story without editing.

Christmas and Camerone

are the most important festivities in the French Foreign Legion, so the week before 25th December and 30th April are charged with different activities.

I don’t think that I’m an introvert person. I like meeting and talking to people from all around the world, but I can’t support “forced brotherhood”. I’m saying this, because that’s how I felt each time during these two periods. Christmas and Camerone.

The regiments of the French Foreign Legion

organize many events like sport competitions and different festivities. Even the General, commandant of the FFL comes to take a visit. Sometimes it’s great to take a break and do other things than drilling and practicing.

However, if it were my choice

I’d rather do that during my holiday and not during working hours. We lose too much time, especially during December with useless activities like the military parade of St. Barbara on 4th of December (each regiment has a Patron Saint) and the “crèche” building the week after. Each Christmas and Camerone made me feel like if I were in Disneyland and not in the army and this was one of the things that made me leave.

When I arrived back from Castel

the others have already started to prepare the company’s “crèche”. The “crèche” is a display of a scene with figures, as at Christmas, representing a moment of the company’s life.

For example

if a unit came back from an OPEX, it may show a scene when they were doing a barbecue in a FOB (Forward Operating Base).

I think this is one of the most pointless traditions in the French Foreign Legion. I wanted to cry when I saw so much precious time getting lost. These weeks could have been spent on training or on shooting, but we were throwing a whole month out of the window and it makes me crazy even when I think back to those times.

I’m convinced, that because of this frivolous mentality we can’t be much better than other conventional units in the French Army and we remain on an average level. For a while I liked to think of the Legion (and many other anglophone guys, btw.) as something between Special Forces and conventional units like the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the USMC, but unfortunately it’s not the case.

The other thing that takes a bunch of time is the so-called “sketch”

For each Christmas Eve, the Legionnaires and Corporals have to prepare different short scenes, where they parody the officers and NCOs of the company. It’s supposed to be funny and sometimes it actually is, but I don’t think that it worth to spend whole days on it.

Why do we have to spend Christmas Eve together in the barracks?

That’s something I didn’t understand until I became a sergeant. Even after my promotion, I took some time until I could finally accept.

Legionnaires, NCOs and officers

of the French Foreign Legion stay in the barracks during Christmas Eve, because they don’t want that someone spends Christmas alone.

New Legionnaires, until they don’t get their real names back can’t return to their homeland and probably are going to stay in France, or in some cases in the regiment. As I said, I can understand that this situation could be difficult for some people, but when I tried to explain this point of view to my family, they just asked me this:

Okay, but why do you have to stay there and why they don’t organize something for those who volunteer to stay?

On December 25 in the morning, we can all go wherever we want except those who stay on guard. In my platoon, we had a guy from a mainly Orthodox country who volunteered to stay. He preferred to go home in January, because they celebrate Christmas a bit later.

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for your perspective, many times we only hear the one side if the legion.

    It’s the small things we overlook sometimes.

    Despite this, I still want to join.

    • I don’t want to discourage anyone from joining. I just want people know how things are really going. I’m trying to describe the good and bad parts with he same honesty, so you’ll be able to decide if it’s for you or not.

  2. Hey I saw in a documentary that when you join the Legion you are given a new identity, is that true? Thanks in advance for answering.💪💯

    • Hey, yes but it’s just temporary until you provide all the documents they need to arrange your situation. It’s your interest to serve under your real identity.

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