OH, Joyeux Noël! The Christmas season in France is unlike any other, filled to the brim with indulgent food, music, and décor.
France is one of the top places in the world to spend Christmas (according to CNN, and us). Sure, the country is gorgeous, chic, and fabulous any month of the year – its sweet language rolls off of your tongue like a rich, smooth chocolate; its borders are overflowing with sex appeal and culture. France’s December traditions are unmatched and un-phased by our careless, plastic Christmas tree and sour eggnog.
Immerse yourself in a true, authentic Christmas season. Why? Check out our top 5 reasons:
It is a month long party
It all starts on December 5th, the Eve of Saint Nicholas. Place your shoes fireside and practice your carols, Saint Nick visits tonight on a donkey with treats & gifts. In honor, host a casual slumber soirée with your besties and pack away treats like truffles and anything else you can shove in a shoe. As if there weren’t enough parties in December, the French bless the 12th day of Christmas with a feast called the Epiphany. Imagine your favorite French dishes alongside the Cake of the Kings – hiding a special charm granting you a right to rule your kingdom for the evening. This is an actual, serious thing, so prep your crown.
Santa actually exists
The French know how to keep a holiday icon alive. Since 1962, there’s been an actual law in existence that requires ALL letters to Père Noël to be responded to in the form of a postcard. We can promise you it’s on our list of things to do in France this season. Think the postmen love the tradition as much as the kids do?
Coocoo for Crèche
Replacing our ever loved and hazardous Christmas trees, the Nativity figure ranks supreme in the world of festive French Christmas decor. A nativity crib decorates homes throughout the country, featuring scenes unlike anything you’ll find in the U.S. Imagine intricate, nostalgic villages – filled with every figure imaginable from Bakers, Police, and even a baby Jesus or two. Set your own up in the corner of your living room! Upgrade yours by grabbing some wild additions during your next trip to the country like moss, stones, and (bug-less) branches. Lit candles in the center of this creation mark the celebration of the Christmas season so don’t be stingy here.
Damn good food
Every day is Christmas in this sense, but the main Christmas meal in France is unrivaled by any other. Called the the Réveillon, this midnight feast is served after your church’s Midnight Mass. Cleanse your sins and prepare your stretchy pants, it’s feasts like this that make you want to study French food vocabulary first. Favorite dishes include all things indulgent: roast goose with chestnuts, oysters, foie gras, lobster, venison, and unforgettable stinky cheeses… Top it all off with the world famous dessert called the Bûche de Noël, a light, Chocolately sponge cake log adorned with edible twigs & berries.
Flexible gift giving
Truly taking the “European mentality” to heart, the French put all procrastinating gifters to rest by eliminating the need to exchange on a specific date. Thanks to its month long celebration, it’s quite common for families & friends to exchange goodies at the start, middle, or end of the holiday action. For those who truly can’t resist a year-end sale, rest assured that it’s perfectly acceptable to wait to give gifts until January 6th, the Feast of Kings. Naughty pals in the bunch? Twigs replace coal in this convenient and less messy tradition. Oh, and get ready to be whipped by le Père Fouettard, Santa’s evil companion! If you’re running low on cash, no need to fret. Gifts are a fairly new tradition on France, although a growing trend. Volunteer to host dinner and skip on the gifts if you must! An additional budget bonus? In France, it’s uncommon to decorate the exterior of your house. Their citywide array of decorations makes the inflatable Rudolphs of suburbia look shameful, save your cash for a fabulous bottle of wine.
And there you have it. If an incredible culture & language weren’t enough to get you excited about a French holiday, let these authentic traditions carry you towards a greater appreciation of its grandeur & glory. Christmastime in France is well worth cashing the vacation days you don’t quite have yet, life is short, and the party only lasts a month!