French Holiday Traditions:
In France Christmas is a beautiful, festive time of year. French Christmas traditions share some similarities with other European cultures and yet has it’s own unique ones as well. The lights and festive atmosphere that permeates the country dispels the early dark days and cold weather.
Christmas market and cathedral in Strasbourg
A Look at Christmas in Paris
Decorations and Symbols
Crèche – a Nativity, or manger scene, found in homes and churches, the most important Christmas symbol in France.
Christmas Tree – usually a fir tree of some kind. Decorated a few days before Christmas and lit only on December 25.
Mistletoe – An ancient Celtic traditions and a symbol of good luck in France. If you stand under it you will be kissed.
The Christmas Rose (hellebore) decorates the Christmas table in some parts of France.
The Christmas Feast
The Réveillon, “the awakening” or “staying up all night”, is the Christmas feast eaten after Midnight mass. It can be a lavish multi course meal. Little kids are in bed during this meal. Traditional Christmas food includes the stuffed goose or turkey. And one of the famous French desserts, the buche de noel (bûche de noël) is served for dessert. Those not inclined to staying up all night; serve their Christmas meal the next day, often at noon.
Père Noël (Father Christmas) is a skinny guy with a grey beard carrying a sack, leading a donkey who helps him carry the gifts. In some regions he wears wooden shoes. So, you guessed it, he walks rather than fly through the air in a sled.
One of the Christmas traditions in France is for the children leave their shoes under the tree Christmas Eve with a snack for Père Noël and a treat for the donkey.
The morning of Christmas day in France the shoes are hidden under a pile of presents.
The New Year in France
According to Christmas traditions in France sometimes the adults exchange gifts New Year’s Day instead of Christmas.
The last parts of French Christmas traditions of the season comes early in the new year on or near Epiphany. One of their famous French desserts, la Galette des Rois (Kings Cake) is served. This cake celebrates the visiting of the three kings to the Christ child.