Christmas or Noël
You’re probably already familiar with many of the ways in which the French celebrate Christmas: As is the case in most traditionally Christian countries, it is common in France to decorate a Christmas tree (sapin de Noël), and to exchange gifts; and French children also look forward to a visit from Father Christmas (Père Noël). Christmas in France is about spending time with loved ones, and for the Christian community, celebrating the birth of Jesus.
French Traditions (it’s worth noting that some of these vary from region to region!)
- Le Réveillon – a large feast with many courses that follows midnight mass (la Messe de Minuit) on Christmas Eve. In rural communities, this is often hosted by the mayor in the village hall, yet some families prefer to celebrate at home.
- La Galette des Rois – a flat, almond-flavoured cake containing a small figurine. When the cake is cut, whoever gets the charm in their slice is ‘crowned’ king or queen for the remainder of the day, and is allowed to choose a partner.
New Year’s Day, or Le jour de l’An (also known as Nouvel An)
The French tend to exchange more gifts on New Year's Day than they do on Christmas Day; on January 1st, children are given money and cone-shaped packages of sweets, and families and friends gather to celebrate together. On Christmas Day, young children traditionally leave their shoes out for Santa to fill with small gifts.