Christmas in France

How do I wish someone there a Happy Christmas?

  • Joyeux Noël

When do they give presents?

  • Midnight on Christmas Eve, during a break in a huge family meal. Although some adults wait and have their presents on New Year’s Eve.

Who brings the presents?

  • Le Père Noël (Father Christmas)

What’s on the menu?

  • The big feast - Le Réveillon - takes place on Christmas Eve. Starters can include oysters, snails, seafood, smoked salmon or caviar, followed by goose or another roast bird. It’s all washed down with plenty of wine and champagne.

Any other traditions I should know about?

  • Father Christmas is accompanied by le Père Fouettard – or Father Spanker. He decides if children have been good or bad and gives a spanking to the naughty.
  • The French love Christmas markets, which sell handmade gifts, food and wine. They run throughout December in most cities. Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik is the oldest festive market in France.
  • The bûches de Noël is a chocolate cake in the shape of a log and coated in chocolate and cream. These appear in the windows of boulangeries throughout December.
  • Epiphany (January 6) is celebrated with a galette des rois – or cake of the kings. This sweet treat of puff pastry and marzipan contains a fève. This was originally a bean, but is now often a small toy. Whoever gets it in their slice of cake gets to wear a crown.