Christmas in France : How is Christmas celebrated in France ?

 

#The Advent calendar

To keep the children waiting until Christmas, December 1-24, they are given an Advent calendar. This is in the form of a cardboard board with 24 cut-out boxes.

What do we find in those 24 boxes ?
Usually you can find all kinds of chocolates. Now the Advent calendar is becoming more and more popular and brands are creating their own calendar with samples of their products inside. Nowadays, the Advent calendar is very popular, so even adults have them.

 

#Letter to Santa Claus

Gifts given to children on Christmas Day are not chosen at random. The children write and send a letter to Santa Claus in December explaining that they have been good and giving their list of gifts they wish for Christmas. The letter is actually sent to Santa's office and read by Santa's elves.

Usually the parents make a copy of the letter and inform the family of the gifts the child would like to receive in order to respect the child's list.

 

La lettre au père noel

 

#The Christmas tree

During December, there is a decorated Christmas tree in every household in France. It is the place where the presents will be deposited by Santa Claus. The Christmas tree also represents the renewal of life. Decorating the tree is a very important moment for French families.

Usually, the tree is decorated with Christmas balls of all colours, with or without light garlands, and a star is added at the top of the tree. The Christmas tree accompanies families until December 25th. 

 

#Christmas markets

From December onwards, Christmas markets can also be seen emerging in the major cities of France. A Christmas market is, as its name suggests, a market where you can find mainly Christmas products: decoration, gifts, delicacies, etc. 

Christmas markets are very popular in France for their products, but also for their beauty and atmosphere. Craftsmen are most often found in small wooden chalets on a town's main square which is decorated in Christmas colours. Residents and tourists come to shop, and meet with friends or family over a glass of mulled wine.

 

 

#Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas, December 24th. It is a very important time for the family to get together for dinner and to celebrate Christmas Eve together. Sometimes it is an opportunity to have dinner together before going to midnight mass in the village church.

It's also common to exchange gifts on New Year's Eve instead of Christmas Day if the children are not present or no longer believe in Santa Claus.

What is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve ?
As a starter, it is common to eat oysters, foie gras and smoked salmon. The traditional New Year's Eve dish is the famous Christmas turkey. And for dessert, the very popular Christmas log.*

 

#Christmas Day

The night before, after leaving a glass of milk and cookies for Santa Claus, the children go to bed looking forward to the next day.

Also known as the children's favourite day, Christmas Day, December 25 is the day when children discover the gifts brought by Santa Claus to the foot of the tree.

Traditionally, Santa Claus enters through the chimney and places the gifts under the tree. It is also said that the sound of Christmas bells can be heard after he has passed.

 

Le sapin de Noel

 

#Santa Claus or St. Nicholas ?

Saint Nicholas (Sinterklass in Dutch) is a sort of ancestor of Santa Claus.

At the beginning of the 4th century, his legendary generosity towards children was recognised and spread throughout Europe.

In the 19th century, part of the Dutch population migrated to the United States, the term Sinterklass spread to become Santa-Claus (Santa Claus in French).

In 1931, Santa Claus became the mascot of the world-famous Coca-Cola brand, which was successful all over the world and established itself as the person who brings presents at Christmas. Even so, Saint Nicholas remains very present in the traditions of some countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands.

What does Santa look like ?
Santa Claus is medium sized and corpulent. He wears a red jacket and red pants and a red and white hat. He also has a long white beard. He distributes presents using his sleigh and reindeer on the night of December 24th to 25th.

What does St. Nicholas look like ?
St. Nicholas is tall and thin. He impresses by his greatness. Saint Nicholas has a long white beard, a long red coat and a hat. He brings presents to the children on the night of December 5-6 with the help of his donkey. St. Nicholas has an acolyte, Père Fouettard, who punishes him for children who have not been good during the year.

 

#Christmas vocabulary :

And as a bonus, here is an infograpgie of Christmas vocabulary in French :

Vocabulaire de Noël

 

 

Christmas traditions in France now hold no secrets for you. You are totally ready to talk about Christmas in French! 😉

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See you soon for new adventures, in French of course! 🇫🇷