Christmas the French Way – The Top 25 French Christmas Traditions I discovered!
Ok, so I am in France now and I do not know much about French Christmas. I would say….please Help me if you can! I tried my best and did my researches so for now I have some theoretical knowledge which will be verifying soon…..I cannot wait…as i found that there are many French Christmas traditions I like and some that sounds a bit strange and odd for me but still I wanna to explore and try out! I am open to new challenges and experiences so I am ready for Christmas the French way…So here you are The Top 25 French Christmas Traditions I discovered!
- Advent– the four weeks before Christmas which are dedicated to the preparations for Christmas. It’s a period of time when everyone awaits Christmas and particularly exciting time for kids.. On The 1st of December they open their 1st ‘window/door’ in the Advent calendar. This French tradition makes kids even more excited about upcoming Christmas.
- Christmas Eve – the evening of December 24th when the French families sit down together to celebrate Christmas and enjoy the festive foods and wines. If you think about French people eating long and slowly, this dinner is the greatest example of this typical French custom. The meal can continue for up to six hours!
- Le Réveillon – it is the name of the Christmas Eve meal – which is this big and long feast. The Name comes from the verb réveiller, to wake up or revive) Nowadays, more and more families start to celebrate it on Christmas Day when it is easier for the whole family to gather together.
- Midnight Mass – is the Church service on Christmas Eve. It is actually important for French people and they try to attend the mass although more and more people prefer the services on Christmas Day.
- A traditional French Christmas Food depends of the region but usually it include: smoked salmon and oysters with bran bread and (real) butter,foiegras (goose or duck liverpate), goose, capon or turkey stuffed with chestnuts and served with vegetables like green beans cooked with garlic and butter and provincial herbs sautéed potatoes. To finish the feats you will get the amazing looking and tasting – “La bûche de Noël” (Yule log) – a sponge cake decorated like a yule log, traditionally made of chocolate and chestnuts.
- Les Treize Desserts – this is a Provençal tradition but worth mentioning as it sounds so ‘challenging’….Can you imagine of having 13 desserts after the main (big) Christmas feast? Well, they are important as they symbolize Christ and the 12 apostles at the Last Supper. The typical desserts will be fruits, nuts and sweets such as dried figs, hazelnuts or walnuts, almonds and dried grapes, a cake called Pompe à l’huile. Everyone has to taste each dessert in order to have good luck for the upcoming year.
- French alcohol for the Christmas – the mullet wine is popular in bars and in Christmas markets. Butdont expect it at French houses. During Christmas a very good wineis required and the Champagne is imperative! I like the idea very much…
- Table decoration – it is very important for French people to have their Christmas dining table looking extremely elegant and inviting. For the main meal they put on the table the three candlesticks, which represents the Trinity. The interesting thing is that Frenchknot the ends of the tableclothin order to not let the Devil get under the table…I didnt realize they are so suspicious…
- The sapin de noël – Christmas tree is being decorated some time before Christmas Day so it is ready for Christmas Eve and Santa Claus coming.
- Les Cadeaux de Noël – so the time for presents! Père Noël brings them over the night and kids open their presents on the morning of the Christmas Day.
- Shoes in front of the fireplace – French children put their shoes near the fireplace so that Père Noël can find them and fill them with presents.
- Le Père Fouettard – Father Spanker – the partner & helper of the Saint-Nicolas. He decides if the kid was behaving good or bad. He is the one who does the ‘spanking’ to the bad behaving kids…
- The papillotes – theses are the chocolates (or candied fruits) wrapped in the golden sparking paper with fringed ends. Inside there is a little note written on it. The papillote was created in Lyon at the end of the 18th century. Nowadays they remain delicious Christmas tradition, sold massively in shops towards Christmas, they are essential element of French christmas. They usually decorate the Christmas table…not sure for how long as they are really delicious…
- Mistletoe – is also popular in France.Its an important decorative item and people hang it above the door during the Christmas season. Itis supposed to bring good luck duringthe the coming year…so where is the kissing?
- Santons de Noël – these are the nativity scene or crèche displayed in many French homes. There are little clay figures called santons or little saints in the crèche. You can buy them in the Christmas markets. There are plenty of pieces sold and so you can create small or huge crèche yourself.
- Crèche Vivante/ Pessebres – these are the nativity scene shows very popular especially in the south west France. They have been performed at various times during the Christmas season.
- La fête des Rois – it is the 6th of January – a day to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings. Some places in Franceperform a procession of the Three Kings
- La Galette des Rois – the kings cake celebrating Epiphany in France . There are 3 versions of this cake and the most popular consists of flaky puff pastry layers with a center of frangipane or apple. There is also a sablé galette which has a form of sweetcrust pastry and the tortell—brioche cake with candied fruits and sugar (my favourite). The cakes are usually sold in special bags with the paper crown to crown the “king” who finds the fève – a small figure/bean hidden in their piece of cake. Traditionally, it it the youngest in the family to distribute the pieces of cake hiding below the table and shouting the name of the person who should get the piece.
- Chants de Noël – so there are not many traditional French Christmas carols. If there were any, these have been mainly hymns from the church. That is why many Christmas songs have been taken from UK, Germany etc. Over time, non-religious songs have been translated from different languages into French for example there is a French Jingle Bells – Vive le vent!
- Christmas Greetings – French people wish each other Joyeux Noël or Bonnes Fêtes. Do not expect anything more then that. Even more never & ever wish anyone “Bonne Année” (Happy New Year) before midnight as this brings bad luck!
- Christmas cards – actually there are no Christmas cards! Traditionally there are only cards sent to celebrate New Year!
- Crackers – this is really interesting. Crackershave been invented by Tom Smith in the19th-century asan inspiration from his visit in Paris. Apparently he had seen the French ‘bon bon’ sweets (almonds wrapped in pretty paper) and once he returned to London, he start selling them with a small motto message inside. Then his sons added the paper crowns and small gifts and so they become really popular in England. Sadly, the Crackers have never become a part of French Christmas tradition.
- Festive circus – is a popular feature of the Christmas in France and beloved by kids!
- Marché de Noel – are also very popular but I wouldn’t associate Christmas markets with France. There are few towns and villages where the artisan produce, gifts , local culinary delicacies such asfoiegras, andconfit de canardare sold.
- Christkindelsmärik is the the most famous and the oldest Christmas market in France. You can find it in Strasbourg in Alsace.
So did i miss on anything important that is happening during the French Christmas? Would you recommend any of the French Traditions for me to try? Do you have your favourite one? Or you have never heard about any of the above? Lets team up and create the proper French Christmas Experience List. Thanks a lot for any contributions in advance…Now, I cannot wait for the 24th December! I am not stressed out, I am excited! At the end of the day, it is not a place, food, tradition that is important for Christmas but fact that I am with people I love…if not all, at least some people who are very important for me. How about you?