Love France… How the French celebrate Christmas

Christmas is getting closer and closer, so we thought we would give you an insight on how to celebrate it the French way. In France, Christmas is very focused on family and, of course, involves some delicious food…

The “Réveillon” dinner

Like any tradition in France, Christmas is celebrated with a profusion of food. On Christmas Eve, families gather to enjoy a veritable feast (called “le Réveillon”) which stretches at least until midnight when Santa leaves the presents… This festive meal starts with oysters and seafood, smoked salmon, and “foie gras” on mini toasts. The traditional Christmas main course is a roast turkey with chestnut stuffing. However, the French families usually like to change the main dish every year with something festive and unusual such as scallops, goose, pheasant, deer or even wild boar. To help digest all these treats and make some room for dessert, people often have a “trou normand”, which is a sorbet plunged into a liqueur. Dessert is traditionally the “bûche de Noël”, a rich cake wrapped up into the shape of a Yule Log iced with chocolate. The traditional “bûche” is still very popular but is now often replaced by ice cream “bûches” or are made with lighter ingredients and different flavours.

xmas buche

Christmas gifts

Depending on families, Christmas presents are either given after midnight on the 24th (usually before dessert) or in the morning of the 25th. Each member of the family places a pair of shoes or slippers under the Christmas tree, so that Santa knows where to put everyone’s presents.

xmas presents

Christmas decorations

Nativity scenes are very popular in France and many families also have a ‘crèche’ (nativity scene) next to their Christmas tree, even if they are not practicing Catholics. In Provence, nativity scenes are very rich and are made with many handcrafted figurines called “santons”. Although each town and city’s main square or street is illuminated, it is not very common for people to decorate their gardens or the outside of their houses.

xmas nativity scene

What’s different? Christmas carols and Boxing Day

Although Christmas carols exist in France, they are not as popular as in the UK. They are not sung a lot, but you can hear them on Christmas markets and in shopping centers. However, children often sing a Christmas carol while waiting for Santa. Also, Boxing Day doesn’t have an equivalent in France and is not a bank holiday!!!

Language buddy…

Joyeux Noël ! = Merry Christmas!
Le Père Noël = Santa
Offrir/ouvrir les cadeaux = to give/to open the presents
Le sapin de Noël = the Christmas tree
Les guirlandes = the Christmas tinsels
Les boules de Noël = the baubles
La crèche = the nativity scene

Now you know everything you need to spend a “Joyeux Noël” in France…