Christmas in France is all about family get-together, gifts for children and the poor, Midnight Mass and le Réveillon (the Christmas feast). Christmas celebrations in France are different for different regions of the country. In most of the provinces of the country, Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December. Meanwhile, in the northern and eastern France, celebration of Christmas in France starts on St Nicolas Day, that is, the 6th of December. During the festive season of Christmas, French people decorate their homes beautifully and arrange the Nativity scene in their homes with little clay figurines of the Holy Family along with Shepards and Magi. Sometime, figurines of local dignitaries are also placed in the Nativity scene. These figurines can be purchased at the annual Christmas fairs are held at Marseille and Aix.
French children write letters to the gift giver Père Noel
detailing out their expected Christmas gifts. On Christmas Eve, the
children in France leave their shoes in front of the fireplace and
expect that Père Noel (Papa Noel, the gift giver in France)
will fill their boots with Christmas gifts. Père Noel travels
along with his companion, a strict disciplinarian called as Père
Fouettard. He monitors how a child behaved during the last year. Père
Fouettard gives spankings to the bad children. In some regions of
France, Père Noel gives gifts to the children on St. Nicolas
Eve and visits them once again on Christmas. Adults in the country
wait till New Year's Day to exchange gifts.
Homes, streets, shops, and offices are decorated wonderfully with
sapin de Noël (the Christmas tree) during the Christmas
celebrations in France. Sapin de Noël reached Alsace in the
14th century. At that time, paper flowers, apples and ribbons were
used to decorate the Christmas tree. Sapin de Noël appeared in
France in 1837. Christmas mistletoe is hung above the door of every
home in France during the Christmas season which is believed to
bring good fortune throughout the year. Christmas celebrations in
France, of course, include singing of Christmas carol and songs.
Churches and cathedrals are decorated superbly and Christmas carols
are sung and church bells are rung.
As mentioned earlier, the Christmas feast (known as le Réveillon)
is prominent in France. Le Réveillon is served as a late
supper, after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. The menu for the
Christmas feast varies by regions. For instance, in Burgundy, the
main course for the feast is turkey with chestnuts whereas in
Alsace, goose is served as the main course. Parisians in the country
love to eat oysters and pat de foie gras. Other dishes included in
the menu of the Christmas feast are ham, salads, cakes, fruits, and
wine. In France, there is a tradition of baking Three Kings Cake
with a hidden bean on the Twelfth Day. The lucky person who finds
the bean hidden in the cake is crowned as the King or Queen for the
day. The traditional dessert called as La bûche de Noël
(Yule Log), a log-shaped cake made of chestnuts and chocolates, is
served at the grand Christmas feast.
Christmas in France is all about family get-together, gifts for children and the poor, Midnight Mass and le Réveillon (the Christmas feast).