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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Christmas in France
- What are Christmas traditions in France?
The advent calendars and the sending of postcards are most common in France during Christmas. Apart from these, the nativity scene is performed at various places. The shoes by the fire are also very famous which is followed by the Christmas dinner.
- Do the French have Christmas trees?
The French people called the Christmas tree by the name of “un sapin de noël” or “un arbre de noël”. The first Christmas tree and plants appeared in the year 1521 and was a FIR tree.
- What is Santa called in France?
Santa Claus is called by the name of Père Noël in the French language by the local French people.
- What is open on Christmas Day in Paris?
Some of the places which are open on the day of Christmas that is 25th of December every year in Paris are Gallopin, Le Grand Colbert, Le Petit Colber, Breizh Café, Petits Carreaux, Le Mesturet, La Tartine.
- Do the French have Christmas stockings?
The French people do not use any hanging for Christmas stockings during the eve of Christmas for the purpose of return gifts. They have a tradition of keeping the gifts under the Christmas tree.
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.