Christmas around the World – France

The days are getting shorter, the weather colder, Christmas classics are being played in shops, and tinsel and lights are springing up everywhere. Yes, it is that time of year again and the festive mood is already in full swing with most, children and adults alike, eagerly awaiting a Winter Wonderland.

When a Briton thinks of Christmas, they think of turkey, Christmas puddings, crackers, stockings, Yule logs, chestnuts and mistletoe. But these yearly traditions are not the same for everyone. Where the idea of gift-giving is the same, the way in which this is done and celebrated differs from country to country, even just across the Channel. Every day this week, we will be looking at the yuletide traditions of a different country.


A traditional French household has mistletoe hung above the door to bring good fortune, a lit and decorated Christmas tree around which the children would place their shoes with a name tag, and the Nativity scene, or la crèche, displayed on a table or a mantelpiece. The Nativity scene is also displayed in churches and performed in the form of plays or puppet shows. Their main meal, le réveillon, is served on Christmas Eve, traditionally after Midnight Mass, and consists of poultry, ham, cakes, fruit and wine. This can vary from region to region, for example Parisians might feast on oysters and foie gras whereas inhabitants of Alsace might have goose as their main course. Dessert is usually la bûche de Noël , a Yule log made of chocolate and chestnuts. They then retire to bed and awake the next morning to find candy, fruits and nuts hanging from the tree as well as presents piled in front of their shoes, left by le Père Noël.

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