3 generations, 2,000 miles and 7 courses: the MBaye family’s Christmas

From Senegal, the South of France, Paris, and London to, er, a field in the British countryside for our Christmas shoot – the MBaye family are no strangers to a big festive reunion. Alternating each year between West Africa and Europe, they collectively rack up 2,396 miles to get to their turkey and trimmings.

Describing the holidays in their household as “exciting and diverse”, the MBayes told us our festive shoot day (which took place in August BTW) was the first time the family had been together at such scale for ten years. Well, it can be hard to get three generations to agree to a video chat, let alone a week-long trip across continents.

You might recognise model Sacha from many a Boden campaign – this year we asked his family to join him. The scene in which they found themselves (late summer in the UK’s West Country) was perhaps not a million miles from the one they usually set in December, with the weather perpetually being on their side. But wherever they find themselves, the one common denominator (aside from each other) is fresh air, and lots of it. Who doesn’t love a festive walk, after all?

“We hike in the south of France or the Alps. At Christmas in Senegal, we’ll go walking on the beach.”

– Tidiou

The MBaye family wearing Boden
The MBaye family wearing Boden

And so, to the aforementioned shoot day – not exactly the time to bundle-up – but this family did, with no complaints. Piled around a brightly dressed table (in turn surrounded by brightly dressed families), mum Danielle, dad Sanou, sisters Ninka and Maroussia, chatted animatedly while five-year-old Naoki was busy making friends (and mischief) with the other children involved in the campaign. During all this, brothers Tidiou and Sacha, Mamadou and Tyler could be heard charming the crew at any given time (ie all the time).

Talking festive style, the family emphasised a need for brighter colours to combat the grey skies of winter, with most of them agreeing that anything dark or dull just didn’t make sense with the joy of the season. They also had many opinions on what coats should and shouldn’t do or be – a big issue was deceptively chilly styles, as well as too-tight arms (those sweaters need room to breathe, right?).

So, what else does their Christmas involve? Aside from the annual talent show (which is meant to be for children, but dad Sanou is always a fixture) most of the M’Baye’s traditions involve food – our favourite kind. Mum Danielle always makes a Christmas buche (a French cake well worth the Google, and the time it takes to make), using a recipe that was passed down from her mum and grandmother before her. Daughter Maroussia cooks everything else single-handedly (which has been known to involve seven courses…no big deal).

“Dinner’s ready when it’s ready. If I prep too much in advance, people will eat everything before it’s on the table.”

– Maroussia

The MBaye family wearing Boden
The MBaye family wearing Boden

Present giving is, of course, also a part of their Christmases. And it’s brother Sacha who’s the hardest to buy for – he’s the kind of guy who knows what he likes but already has everything he needs. Mum Danielle is known to give useful things such as towels and books, while little Naoki was very clear on ambitions for a horse this year. It’s evident that this isn’t a ‘stuff’ family, though – experience and quality time are quite clearly much more of a priority.

“What do I want for Christmas? Just to be with the family.”

– Mamadou