For a French End of The Year
As the holiday season approaches, here are some must-do activities that will add a welcome French touch to your New Year's Eve celebrations. Whether you have relatives from France or are trying the total immersion approach, here are our recommendations and our holiday-themed vocabulary list.
It is important to know that in France, Christmas is massively celebrated even though the country is secular. December 25th is a bank holiday, just like January 1st.
Many traditions in common with the United States
A Christmas in Paris will not fundamentally clash with a Christmas in New York. Indeed, in both cities, people give each other gifts, wear ugly sweaters and decorate a tree in their living room. And of course, a key element is the belief in Santa Claus, all dressed in red: Santa is just as important in both countries. However, the main difference between the two countries is… the food!
Of course, food plays an important role, especially on Christmas Eve
In France, people are particularly fond of chocolates and chestnuts (roasted or glazed depending on the mood). At this time of the year, French people also like to eat gingerbread.
There are specificities depending on the regions
In Provence (Nice, Cannes, Marseille) there is a great variety of traditional desserts that are eaten at the end of the Christmas meal (figs, walnuts, raisins, dates, nougats, orange calissons, melons, quince paste, candied fruits, fougasse). In Alsace (Strasbourg), four weeks before Christmas and until January 6, we celebrate Saint-Nicolas, who gives clementines, gingerbread and other sweets. In Champagne: we taste a Christmas waffle just before the midnight mass (and no, no glass of champagne required!)
In Gironde, in the region of Bordeaux: the Hala de Nadau is a clod of straw that is burned in the villages on Christmas night.
And what do we do after the meal while we digest?
Why not watch a festive French movie? La Bûche, starring the iconic Charlotte Gainsbourg and Emmanuelle Béart, is a comedy of manners that makes everyone agree. Also coming out on Netflix on December 28 is the comedy Stuck With You (we prefer the punny French title, Happy Nous Year), about a New Year's Eve that gets out of hand.
And in January?
Have you ever had a galette des rois (Kings' Cake) ? Since the Middle Ages, we share on this occasion a cake in which is hidden a porcelain ‘bean’, a small figurine representing a character. The person who gets the part with the bean is named king or queen and receives a crown!
At last, let’s hope this festive season will also be the occasion to celebrate the French team's victory in the World Cup (🤞)
Père Noël: Santa Claus
Réveillon du nouvel an: NYE’s eve
Réveillon de Noël: Christmas eve
Un sapin de Noël: a Christmas tree
Un cadeau: a gift
La galette des rois: Kings’ cake