Christmas Traditions in France
The French version of Santa is called Père Noël (Father Christmas). Children leave carrots by the fireplace for Père Noël's donkey. This is similar to how some families leave carrots out for Santa's reindeer in America. Also children leave small treats out for Père Noël. This is similar to how we leave milk and cookies in America. As we hang our stockings by the fire, French children leave their shoes for Père Noël to fill. If they were good throughout the year, their shoes would be filled with small toys, candy, or nuts.
Bûche de Noël
The tradition of burning a yule log is a long standing one. As nights grew longer, colder, and darker people attempted to banish the gloom. The hearth, being the center of the home, provided warmth and food for the family. It became a gathering place and center of family life. The French would burn a Bûche de Noël to mark the Christmas season. The ashes were believed to ward off illness and protect the home. But as homes changed and fireplaces became smaller and less prominent, the tradition adjusted. Instead of burning a log for days, French families enjoyed a cake decorated to look like a log (many were intricately decorated with faux holly, pinecones, berries, and other natural appearances).