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Christmas is a time centered around good food, family, and good conversations. But how do the French celebrate Christmas? What kind of special habits do they have during this period? Read all about it! 

“Joyeux Noël” means ‘Merry Christmas’ and yes – just like everywhere else – the French have a Christmas tree with gifts underneath, delivered by ‘Papa Noël or Père Noël’ (Santaclaus).

But there is something else that is special about the holiday season in France. They celebrate ‘Arbre de Noël’ (which translates to Christmas tree). Arbre de Noël is a special celebration from employers to the children of their employees. Depending on what kind of celebration the employer is organizing it could be a day at which you can visit Christmas stalls, watch a play or take a picture with Santaclaus (often at the employer’s office). Another ‘option’ for this celebration is for the employer to give gift cards or other presents.

One of the biggest differences with other places in the world is that the French don’t have a ‘Second Christmas Day’. They mostly celebrate Christmas Eve and First Christmas Day. The morning of the first Christmas Day is the moment to open the gifts underneath the tree. 

A French Christmas dinner

Traditionally, the Christmas dinner is eaten on December 24th (Christmas Eve). This is pretty much always a multi-course meal. An example of a typical French Christmas dinner:

  • an aperitif of soft round toast with foie gras and smoked salmon
  • an appetizer of oysters or for example snails
  • a main dish with stuffed turkey
  • a traditional cheese board
  • a dessert of the famous buche: a “tree trunk” made of rolled up cake filled with chocolate

In France, many pastry shops take part in a yearly competition to see who can make the most beautiful tree trunk.

On Christmas Day, the fun continues with an extensive lunch.

A tasty Christmas with French chocolate

Of course, the French love good food. Chocolate is especially popular during the Christmas season. The shops are full of chocolate in all shapes, sizes, and figures. It is very popular to give expensive chocolate bonbons to each other on Christmas Day as well.
Remarkable are the chocolates from Révillon in the shops. On the inside of the package of these chocolates, you’ll find a wise spell.

Chocolate can also be found in many advent calendars (which by the way is a very “hot” item in France). Grandpas and grandmothers or parents regularly give these to the children in advance, so that they can already count down until the party is about to begin.

What do you like best about the French Christmas days? In any case, we wish everyone happy holidays!