For the last entry of the year, what could be more exciting than talking about than Christmas? Of course Christmas is a very important event in France, but maybe not for the religious reasons as it used to be a generation ago. Indeed, according to a poll, only 14% of the French see it as a religious celebration even though half of the French claim to be Roman Catholics. Christmas is more of a time for family and generosity, marked by family reunions, gifts and nice food for both children and grown-ups.
The celebration of Christmas in France varies by region. Most regions celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, which is a bank holiday but Christmas Eve is also very important and allows people to celebrate with their other family. It consists of a huge feast, called ‘le Réveillon’ and it is also time for ‘ la messe de minuit’ (Midnight Mass), which is one of the most beautiful masses of the year for me. It is not at midnight anymore (except in some places such as abbeys) but rather at decent time like 8pm. Before going to bed, children put their shoes in front of the Christmas tree, in the hopes that Le Père Noël (Santa Claus) will fill them with presents. Another important aspect of French Christmas celebrations is the crèche filled with santons, which is displayed in churches and many homes. Here is a famous Christmas song which rings out everywhere in France: ‘il est né le divin enfant’.
In eastern and northern France, the Christmas season begins on the 6th of December with la fête de Saint Nicolas. However, in Lyon, the 8th of December is la Fête des lumières, when Lyonnais pay hommage to the Virgin Mary by putting candles in their windows to light up the city.
Christmas markets flourish throughout France.
Children who do not get their presents on Christmas Eve get them on Christmas Day. After presents it is soon time to get ready for the big lunch which consists of various different courses often including appetizers with Champagne, seafood, foie gras, meat (very often poultry) and vegetables, cheese, and a very yummy dessert called ‘la bûche de Noël’ (Yule log). Lunch often lasts for a few hours.
I wish you all a very merry Christmas, may this Christmas fill you with joy and happiness. I put a video of one of my favorite TV shows, les ‘têtes à claques’ mocking the commercial aspect of Christmas, I hope you will enjoy. Joyeux Noël !