If you’re not lucky enough to be celebrating Christmas with a family holiday to France (ahhh, how we love the snowy Alps…) then we’ve put together 8 tips on how you can celebrate like the French. Celebrations start on the 6 December – also known as Saint Nicholas’ Day.
How to celebrate Christmas like the French
1) On the night of 5 December (the eve of Saint Nicholas) your children should place their shoes in front of the fireplace and sing traditional songs to the saint before going to bed.
2) On the morning of 6 December, children awake to find their shoes filled with treats. Naughty children should receive a little bundle of twigs tied together with a ribbon! Most children will receive some twigs in addition to their presents, just to represent any times they have been naughty (a tip we think we’ll follow in our house this Christmas!).
3) An important French tradition is to display a ‘crèche’ somewhere in your home. In la crèche, the figurines of the village people traditionally represent lots of different professions, for example: le boulanger – the baker, le fermier – the farmer, le chasseur – the hunter, la lavandière – the washer woman. Who will you choose?
3) It is the tradition in France to display the Nativity scene until the 2 February – a date known as La Chandeleur. This date is forty days after Christmas Day. Enjoy!
4) Le Réveillon de Noël is Christmas Eve dinner, and this dinner is more important that the Christmas day dinner. At around midnight, in the style of many French families, you will need to eat a special meal to celebrate the very beginning of Christmas Day. Bon appétit!
5) Once again the children should leave their shoes out in front of the fireplace in the hope that le Père Noël (Father Christmas) will fill them with treats and will place gifts on and around the Christmas tree (le sapin de Noël) for when they awake on Christmas morning.
6) You need to get another stack of presents for New Year’s Eve, called La Saint-Sylvestre (Saint Sylvester’s Day). There is a special dinner in the evening called Le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre and you give out presents to everyone.
7) To say ‘Happy New Year’ you say ‘Bonne Année.’ This actually means ‘Good Year.’
8) At midnight at New Year it is the custom to kiss under the mistletoe (le gui). In France, mistletoe is a New Year tradition. There is an old French saying:- ‘Au gui l’an neuf.’ This means:- ‘Mistletoe for the new year.’ Be warned, everyone kisses everyone else. If you’re having a party with lots of people, it could take a while.
Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!