Print Posted By Lost in France on 20 Dec 2006 in Calendar - French Public Holidays and Festivals

Christmas Traditions in France

Christmas in FranceDecorations

The Christmas tree - sapin de Noel is usually decorated a few days before Christmas or on Christmas Eve, many families in France also have traditional nativity Scene or créche which is made up of clay figurines called santons or little saints.


Instead of a Christmas stocking it's traditional in France for children to place their shoes in front of the fireplace in the hope that Father Christmas or Papa Noel will fill them with small gifts. Originally clogs were placed by the fire which is why it's common to see chocolate clogs in many patisseries.

Bad children get a visit from Pere Fouettard who apparently delivers spankings. In some Northern regions le pére Noel visits on the eve of St Nicholas (December 6th) and returns again on Christmas eve.

There was also a French law passed in 1962 that decrees that all letters posted to Santa must receive a reply in the form of a post card.


An important part of Christmas for many families in France is Midnight Mass called la Messe de Minuit on Christmas eve. Following this there is Le Réveillon a late supper feast, the dishes vary from region to region - in some areas oysters are traditional while in Burgundy it's traditional to serve Chestnuts and turkey.

Bûche de Noël

The Bûche de Noël or Yule log is very popular and is traditionally made with chocolate and chestnuts, it is served all through Christmas.


Small presents are generally given to children on Christmas eve but main gifts and cards are exchanged on New Years day.

New Year

New Years eve is called la Saint-Sylvestre and is celebrated with another feast le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre traditional foods include foie gras and champagne. At midnight it's traditional to to kiss under the mistletoe and exchange wishes and new years greetings.

New years day le Jour de l'An is a time for friends and families to exchange presents and cards.


Epiphany (6th January) marks the end of the festive season and is celebrated with a special cake called la galette des rois or the cake of Kings. Family and friends gather in each others homes to enjoy the cake inside of which is a trinket or fève which is supposed to bring good luck and fortune for the year ahead, who ever receives the portion containing the trinket is crowned King or Queen for the rest of the day and is honoured by the rest of the family

Happy Christmas in French - Joyeux Noel
Happy New Year - Bonne Année!


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