French grandmas brave COVID risk to spend Christmas with the family

By Lea Guedj

MAGNY-LE-HONGRE, France (Reuters) – Josette Boyeldieu and Guylene Lehmann are pensioners, one of the groups most at risk from COVID-19, but that did not discourage them from spending part of the Christmas holiday with their children and grand-children near Paris.

After weighing the risks, they put on their matching face masks, decorated with reindeer and snowman motifs, and went round to their children’s’ house for a Christmas Eve supper of wine, oysters, and turkey.

They spent the evening at the home of Fabienne and Florent Boyeldieu — he is Josette Boyeldieu’s son, and his wife is Lehmann’s daughter — along with grand-children and other relatives in Magny-le-Hongre, 40 km (24 miles) east of Paris.

“We remained careful. We didn’t embrace. We usually hug, but this time we didn’t,” said Josette Boyeldieu, a 72-year-old former quality control operative.

“We are here as a family. I would be scared on public transport, personally. But here, with my family, I am not.”

With infection rates on the rise in many countries, including France, public health officials are worried that socialising over the Christmas and New Year holidays could trigger a fresh wave of the pandemic.

Many families have made agonising decisions to curb their usual festivities. French Prime Minister Jean Castex recommended a threshold of six adults for family gatherings over the festive season.

“We cannot celebrate Christmas like we did in previous years,” Castex said earlier this month.

At the gathering on Thursday evening, there were 10 people, include the two grand-mothers. But they said they did not consider themselves high-risk. Neither has ever smoked, and they said they were in robust health.

“I am not scared because we took every precaution: washing hands, social distancing,” said Lehmann, 66, who before retirement worked in a laboratory.

“I really think that we can spend a worry-free Christmas if we wear our masks.”

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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