Every country does Christmas slightly differently, and the French Christmas traditions make-up their way of festive season stretching out over weeks rather than 48 hours. If you spending Christmas in France and wondering what the Gallic way of celebrating “Noel” is, then here are the traditions that mark “Christmas a la française”.
- CHRISTMAS DAY
French don’t move Christmas day around some prefer to stay at home, but they are more flexible when it comes to giving gifts. In the north of the country ,gifts are offered to kids on December 6th, the feast of St.Nicolas. Many families prefer to exchange presents on Christmas Eve and others, who can control their excitement, do the giving and can receive on January 6th, the feast of Kings.
French take the creche as it is called, to new levels. It’s not just the usual characters like Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, who make an appearance in the French crib, chestnuts, but all kinds of figures, including vegetable sellers, bakers, men sell chestnuts, anything that you can think of.
- AU Marché De Noel
When it comes to Christmas shopping the French don’t go as bananas as their Anglo cousins. In France, the motto “quality not quantity”, and people will shop in the traditional Christmas markets as much in the deluxe stores. As most shops are closed on Sunday, the open market is great opportunity to get some shopping and observe around. There is a tent at a place with a lot of selling local foods, a good variety of products like cheese, wine, and wonderful gifts stores while walking around music is on by Christmas carols and rides for the children. A good moment for friends and family atmosphere. Make sure you bring some cash for some stores don’t have credit card facilities.
HOT WINE (ingredients: sugar, orange, lemon, clove, , vanilla, cinnamon, and a little secret)
Yes, it’s winter and while the temperature drops, folks move inside the cafés to escape the cold, except the hearty smokers, who are seemingly immune to the chill outside while they puff away on “les terrasses”. And while we’re all bundled up, shivering on the sidewalks as we go about our days, on café chalkboards are scrawled the words “Vin Chaud”. Hot mulled wine is somewhat of an anomaly in a country where wine is revered, as the idea of “heated wine”, infused with spices, is a curious paradox. I was never big on the idea myself and preferred my wine straight up( rose wine on ice) but during the bitingly cold winter in France, I can see the appeal of the warm soothing drink, tinged with the spices of winter. Always use the best wine that you can afford as I’ve learned from French cuisine.
- LA MESSE DE MINUIT
France might officially be a secular country, but the tradition of midnight mass lives on. And it’s no surprise, given the array of stunning cathedrals, across the country which is often packed to the rafters for a midnight mass, where traditional Christmas carols and hymns are sung to get everyone in the festive mood.
- YULE LOG
This custom is seen mainly in the south of France, where families burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. This tradition brings good luck for the family’s coming year. The custom these days is more likely to see families tuck into the chocolate version of Yule Log rather than the wooden one.
- CHRISTMAS EVE FEAST
In French words known as “Le Reveillon”. Christmas feast in French families will often take place late on Christmas Eve or even in the early hours of Christmas morning after midnight mass. The menu for the feast will vary depending on the region but Turkey stuffed with chestnuts will be a regular on tables, as will goose, oysters, and foie gras.
The French mark the 12th day of Christmas or the feast od Epiphany, by scoffing down one final pastry known as the” galette des Rois” or “cake of king”. Inside the cake has hidden a charm known as a ” fève “. Whoever finds it in their portion is a king or queen and wins the right to wear the crown and choose their partner.
Christmas Eve is the most special time in French celebration of Christmas. Church bells ring, and voices sing French carols called Noels.