Christmas in France comes with some unique traits that make it spending the festive season in this enchanting country a mind-blowing experience.
The celebrations begin as early as the 6th day of December and go on until the 25th.
From unique decorations and gifts to mouthwatering meals, here are some compelling reasons for celebrating Christmas in France.
Besides the standard decorations like Christmas trees and multi-colored lights, the French also incorporate nativity cribs (Crèche), with clay figures in them.
Also known as nativity scenes, these cribs symbolize the birth of Jesus in a stable or cave.
Some popular figures that are placed in the nativity cribs include Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
However, it shouldn’t surprise you to find some scenes with angels, shepherds, sheep, donkeys, and oxen.
You may also find the Wreath—a round, oval or heart-shaped green foliage that’s decorated with pretty ribbons and four candles, each representing the four Sundays leading to Christmas.
In some parts of northern and eastern France, Christmas celebrations begin on 6th December when Father Christmas (le Père Noël) brings nice gifts and sweets to the kids.
This day is known as St. Nicholas’ day and its celebrations are attributed to the belief that Saint Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus, is the protector of children.
Tagging along Santa Claus is Father Spanker (le Père Fouettard) who brings coal and spanks naughty kids.
Night Time Meal
After the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, people gather in their homes or restaurants to enjoy a feast known as le réveillon.
This meal usually consists of snails, seafood, oysters, lobster, smoked salmon, or caviar.
After this meal, the French will consume a roasted fowl such as a goose, which is usually followed by wine, champagne, or Muscadet. Desserts include a yule log (bûche de Noël)—cylindrical sponge cake that’s usually filled and frosted with chocolate and buttercream.
Christmas celebrations in France are extremely joyful and peppered with unique traditions.
They are largely centered on scrumptious food, nativity stories, and generosity.
In French Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Joyeux Noël’. In Breton (spoken by some people in Brittany, Northern France) it’s ‘Nedeleg Laouen’, in Corsican it’s ‘Bon Natale’ and in Alsatian (spoken by some people in Alsace, in Eastern France) it’s ‘E güeti Wïnâchte’. It is interesting to know how people wish Happy or Merry Christmas in other languages.
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Main Points About Christmas in France
- Christmas in France involves a lot of preparations; four weeks before Christmas, preparation has already begun for the great day.
- On Christmas eve, the meal (Le Revellion) could go up six hours. Family and their loved ones would sit together at the table to enjoy a great meal. There assorted dishes on the menu and about thirteen desserts.
- An important Christmas tradition for the French is the Christmas eve mass.
- Christmas decorations (more of nativity scenes) are done days before Christmas and the mistletoe is an important decorative item.
- At Christmas time, children will put their shoes near the fireplace, so that Papa Noel can fill it with treats.
The nativity scene is important in France as well and Yule Logs are commonly burned in homes here just like in Eastern Europe, but here they are sprinkled with red wine instead of holy water, to smell nice as they burn.
On January 6th, Fete des Rois (Epiphany) is celebrated and a cake called Galette des Rois (”King Cake”) is eaten.
This day is often celebrated a lot at schools and pre-schools.
Word Cloud for Christmas in France
The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Christmas in France. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.
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Chara Yadav holds MBA in Finance. Her goal is to simplify finance-related topics. She has worked in finance for about 25 years. She has held multiple finance and banking classes for business schools and communities. Read more at her bio page.