In France, Christmas is celebrated on 24 and 25 December. Christmas Eve (le réveillon de Noël) is even a normal work day. Children go to school, adults work, and shops are open until 6:00 or even 8:00 p.m. So Christmas festivities begin only after the end of the work day and with midnight mass. Incidentally, this does not take place only at midnight but also earlier in the evening. Afterwards, the whole family gets together for a lavish Christmas feast. Gifts are not opened until 25 December. In France, Papa Noël brings the presents. Christmas ends on 25 December. There is no Boxing Day or second Christmas day like in Germany, for example.
As already mentioned, the meal on Christmas Eve is rather lavish. The feast begins with canapés, which are made with goose liver or salmon. The main course follows with oysters, mussels or fish terrine. Other popular foods include game, poultry and the specialty turkey with chestnuts (dinde aux marrons). The cheese plate concludes the main course. Dessert, the so-called Christmas tree cake bûche de Noël, has to make an appearance. Ice cream, chocolate desserts and pastries are also served. Good champagne is drunk during the meal.
In most French households, there is Christmas tree. Incidentally, the Christmas tree became a tradition in the French region of Alsace and spread throughout Europe. If you don’t want to put up a Christmas tree, you can decorate with some mistletoe. The house or apartment is decorated with sprigs of holly. That is said to promise success for the next year. In addition, many French people set up a nativity scene.
Christmas festivities can be very different depending on the region. There are different customs so that there isn’t just the ONE way to celebrate Christmas in France. In Provence, for instance, nativity plays are put on. The religious significance is very high here. Christmas dinner in Provence is especially lavish. There are seven meals and 13 different desserts. That promises good luck and health for the new year. Christmastime in Alsace begins with the first Sunday of Advent and ends with Epiphany in January. On 4 December, the French in this area cut branches from fruit trees and put them in a vase. If the branches bloom at Christmas, it’s a sign that the new year will be a happy one.
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