elebrating Christmas in France is a joyful experience steeped in rich traditions. Many of the customs are centered around food, family, charity and the story of the Nativity. Read on to learn more.
Celebrating Christmas in France is a joyful experience steeped in rich customs and traditions. Many of the traditions are centered around food, family, charity and the story of the Nativity. Most French homes display a la crèche; a Nativity scene at the heart of the Christmas celebration. The scene’s clay figurines symbolize the Holy Family, saints, the magi, shepherds, as well as more contemporary community characters like policemen and bakers. Mistletoe is a common site in French homes, hanging from doorframes as a promise of good luck for all who pass under it. On Christmas Eve, children place their shoes by the fireplace in hopes that Santa Claus, or Père Noël will fill them with gifts. Overnight, the sapin de Noël, or Christmas tree, is magically decorated with small gifts, candies and fruit. Out in the street, actors and puppeteers reenact the Nativity story, and shop windows are colorfully decorated, often containing a sapin de Noël and la crèche. Families and friends exchange small gifts and celebrate with elaborate dinners and parties.
Le Réveillon is a traditional late night feast or party held when families return from la Messe de Minuit (Midnight Mass) on Christmas Eve. While the food tradition varies from region to region, the meal is full of lavish delicacies including oysters, foie gras, escargot and roasted fowl. The Le Réveillon feast is traditionally accompanied by wines such as Anjou, Champagne, Muscadet, and Sauternes. Dessert always includes la Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log, a cylindrical sponge cake filled and frosted with chocolate buttercream.
Family and friends in Paris and Île-de-France often dine on oysters, smoked salmon, pâté de foie gras, caviar and champagne. In the Alsace Region of Northwestern France, a traditional meal is stuffed goose served with sauerkraut, foie gras, warm mulled wine, pain d'épices (gingerbread), and bredeles— Christmas cookies typically flavored with anise, cinnamon, or orange. In the Dijon and Burgundy regions of central France, the Christmas dinner is a turkey stuffed with chestnuts and accompanied by a Volnay or Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune wine, foie gras, finishing with la Bûche de Noël for dessert. In Provence, Le Réveillon concludes with the presentation of the 13 desserts that represent Jesus and the Twelve Apostles. These confectionaries include dried fruits and nuts, pain d'epice, La Bûche de Noël, pompe à l'huile, a flavored bread consisting of orange flower water and olive oil, and Calissons d'Aix, a marzipan pastry topped with a sugar icing.
A Traditional French D’Artagnan Christmas
Bring the traditions of Alsace to your home with an All-Natural Free Range Goose stuffed with chestnuts and apples. Our ready-to-use chestnuts are cooked and skinless. A traditional French Christmas is not complete without foie gras. Choose from our large selection of domestically-raised foie gras, terrine and mousse to serve or give as gift.