How are Christmas and New Year Celebrated in France?

Posted by on Monday, December 22, 2014 in Celebrations, Culture | 0 comments

How are Christmas and New Year Celebrated in France?

Christmas and New Year in France – Noël et le Jour de l’An en France

Christmas and New Year in France is all about the LA BOUFFE! La bouffe (think of buffet to remind you) is a nice slang word for food (la nourriture is the correct word – think of nourishment). Although Christmas is a big celebration in France there isn’t as much hype and far less of the marketing hysteria than in the UK. It’s more about family, food and wine. Just in case, I didn’t mention it, la bouffe is a very very very big deal in French culture. UNESCO declared French cuisine a ‘world intangible heritage’ back in 2010. This list serves to protect cultural practices across the world.

Saint Nicolas

St Nicolas et le Pere Fouettard

St Nicolas et le Pere Fouettard

Celebrations begin on 6th December. Saint Nicolas the patron Saint of Children visits every house on his mule. He’s greeted with a vin chaud (hot wine) or a glass of lait (milk) by the children. His trusty mule gets to enjoy lumps of sucre (sugar) and carottes (carrots). The children leave their shoes to be filled with bonbons (sweets) and small cadeaux (presents). However, they will only receive these goodies if they have been sage (well-behaved). Saint Nicolas travels with his not so likeable mate, Le Père Fouettard (whipping father), qui gronde (who tells off), these days rather than whips, the naughty children. All good stuff for giving kids nightmares!

Fête de la Lumière – Lyon

A special event which takes place over four days around the 8th December in Lyon is the Fête de la

Fete de la Lumière à Lyon

Fete de la Lumière à Lyon

Lumière (Light celebration). The city is adorned with lights and bougies (candles) everywhere. This practice started in the Middle Ages 1643 as a plea to the Virgin Mary to bring an end to the plague.

Les décorations

The Christmas décorations in France are similar to those found in the UK; le sapin (Christmas tree which originates from Alsace; an area in the North East of France), les guirlandes (garlands), les boules

Les Santons

Les Santons

(baubles), l’étoile (star), l’ange (angel), le houx (holly), le gui (mistletoe), la crêche (nativity scene). Originating in Provence (South of France) there are special clay figurines called les Santons (little saints) that represent all the trades and make up the extended nativity scene. Christmas cards are not usually sent. Instead friends and family send each other une carte de voeux (best wishes card) in the New Year.

Le repas de Noël – Christmas dinner in France

Typically the bouffe bonanza starts on Christmas Eve – Le Réveillon. Tradionally the family would go to the midnight Messe (mass) then return home to eat a big repas (meal) and open presents. Réveiller means to awaken – meaning they stay up past midnight to celebrate the birth of the bébé Jésus. Though la Messe de minuit has fallen out of fashion, families sit down to a veritable feast on Christmas Eve.

Apéritifs with canapés
L’Entrée (starter – yes in French entrée means starter not main course as in the US) which will often be foie gras (fancy goose liver pâté made from force feeding the poor beasts – foie gras is available where this method hasn’t been used), huîtres (oysters) and/or saumon fumé (smoked salmon).

Le Foie Gras

Le Foie Gras

Le Plat Principal (main course) – this could be dinde farcie aux marrons (turkey stuffed with chestnuts), oie (goose) or perhaps faisan (pheasant).
Salade (the French are mad about salad – you have to have a good vinaigrette (dressing) they would never dream of serving it up nude and tasteless).
Fromages (there are hundreds of different types of cheese – each come with their own cutting etiquette. You must never cut the nose off a soft cheese as it is considered the best part. You must cut soft cheese like a cake so everyone gets the oozy middle. The more like sweaty socks it smells the better it tastes. Cheese must eaten with bread and red wine or you will be arrested by the food police).

Les Fromages

Les Fromages

Les Desserts

Bûche de Noël – chocolate yule log. In the South of France you have les treize desserts (13 desserts representing the 12 apostles and Jesus – consisting of different types of nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruit, quince, nougat and breads).

La Bûche de Noël

La Bûche de Noël

Papillottes et les petits fours (fancy chocolates and tiny cakes)
Les digestives (strong alcohol claimed to help you digest – any excuse!)
Every course is accompanied by carefully chosen complementary vin wine.

Le jour de Noël – Christmas Day

These days some families open their presents on Christmas Day. Christmas is more about families and in particular children. Presents aren’t usually extended to friends. Many adults will wait until New Year’s Eve or Epiphany on the 6th January to give small presents to each other. Another big meal is eaten over several hours. The French don’t celebrate Boxing Day, it is not férié (a bank holiday) so people are back to work on the 26th December.

Le Réveillon de Saint Sylvestre/du Jour de l’an – New Year’s Eve

Les Feux d'Artifice

Les Feux d’Artifice

There’s that word Réveillon again – meaning staying awake after Midnight. New Year’s Eve is celebrated with family and/or friends. Another huge repas (meal) is eaten. Champagne is drunk, people dance and les étrennes (small gifts) are exchanged) and at minuit (midnight) people s’embrasse (kiss) under le gui (mistletoe) and shout ‘Bonne Année’ (Happy New Year). The Président de la République transmits his presidential best wishes from the Palais de l’Élysée whilst the roads are noisy with the cries of happy people and those fighting. You will hear the cars klaxonner (honk their horns) and there are the feux d’artifice (fireworks).

La Fête des Rois – Epiphany

La Galette des Rois

La Galette des Rois

On the 6th January Epiphany is celebrated. In French it is called the celebration of the Kings referring to les Rois Mages (three wise kings) who paid a visit to the bébé Jésus. A Galette des Rois (a special cake) is eaten in which is

hidden a tiny figurine. Whomever, doesn’t choke on it is crowned le Roi (King) or la Reine (Queen) for the day. They wear une couronne (crown) whilst the other children sulk.

To be kept updated with all the latest Frogs Legs on Toast news subscribe to the newsletter.

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année ! – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Christmas frog

Summary
Article Name
Christmas and New Year in France
Description
How are Christmas and New Year Celebrated in France?Learn how the French celebrate Christmas and New Year in France. Traditions and food.
Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Me