French Christmas Traditions

 With festivities, merriment, and decorations galore, Christmas in France is a magical experience!

With festivities, merriment, and decorations galore, Christmas in France is a magical experience!  Here are some common Christmas traditions that you will find in France around this time of year:

 

Réveillon: The French typically celebrate Christmas Eve with a festive and elaborate dinner called “Réveillon.” The meal can include a variety of dishes such as foie gras, oysters, roast meats, and a wide array of desserts, including the traditional bûche de Noël (Yule log cake).

 

Advent Calendars: Similar to other countries, many French families use Advent calendars to count down the days until Christmas. These calendars often contain chocolates or small gifts behind each door.

 

Le Marché de Noël (Christmas Markets): French cities and towns come alive with Christmas markets during the holiday season. These markets sell a wide range of holiday goods, including gifts, ornaments, seasonal foods, and hot mulled wine called “vin chaud.”

 

Midnight Mass (Messe de Minuit): Attending a midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is a common tradition for many French families. The “Messe de Minuit” is a cherished part of the Christmas celebration.

 

La Crèche (Nativity Scene): Families often set up a Nativity scene, known as “la crèche,” which often includes Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the Wise Men, the shepherds, and various animals. 

 

Les Treize Desserts (The Thirteen Desserts): In some regions of France, particularly in Provence, it is customary to serve a dessert table with thirteen different sweets, symbolizing Jesus and his twelve apostles.

 

Père Noël and Le Père Fouettard: Père Noël is the French equivalent of Santa Claus. He brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve. In some regions, Père Fouettard, a character who punishes naughty children, accompanies Père Noël.

 

La Chandeleur: The Feast of Candlemas, celebrated on February 2nd, marks the end of the Christmas season in France. It is customary to make and eat crepes, symbolizing the sun and the return of light.

 

Yule Log (Bûche de Noël): The bûche de Noël is a traditional dessert in the shape of a Yule log. It’s often made of sponge cake and buttercream and is a centerpiece of the Christmas Eve meal.

 

La Fête de Saint-Étienne (Boxing Day): The day after Christmas is known as “La Fête de Saint-Étienne” in France. It is a time for giving to the less fortunate, and some people use the day to box up items for donation.

 

You know what else is a magical experience? Hearing your child say “Joyeux Noël à tous!” (Merry Christmast to all!) in French to you and your family visiting from France. There are countless benefits of your child learning another language, not the least of them being able to make connections with others through language. Sign your child up for our One-on-one tutoring programs, available for French, Spanish, and Mandarin. 

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