Fundoo Times
Christmas in France is all about family get-together, gifts for children and the poor, Midnight Mass and le Réveillon (the Christmas feast).

Christmas in France

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.