Christmas in a Foreign Country

A Holiday season in France

“Père Noël”

The famous holiday icon, Santa Claus is depicted differently all over the globe. In France , translating to father Christmas, is seen as a large man wearing a red suit and hat with white fur trimming and a large black, buckled belt around his waist. The famous Père Noël is also portrayed as a rosy cheeked and sporting long white beard. His sleigh ,pulled by reindeer, holds his magical sack that is packed full of toys that will be delivered to every household at midnight. Frances traditions where originally, in the 1950's, based off of the Christian Nativity and slowly transitioned into a more cliché, materialistic theme that related a lot to marketing tactics and famous Christmas figures. Such as the classic

"Santa Clause".

Joyeux Noël'

Traditional Holiday Foods

French families find much importance in the traditional holiday meal. Most families even spend more money on dinner ingredients and supplies than they do on christmas gifts. The main Christmas meal in France is known a Réveillon and is traditionally is eaten on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning after people have returned from midnight mass. Common dishes may include roast turkey with chestnuts or roast goose, oysters, foie gras, lobster, or venison and cheeses. The typical dessert served on christmas is a chocolate sponge cake log called a bûche de Noël.


Holiday Traditions

Christmas is a cherished holiday in France, celebrated by all ages. It is a season of merrymaking and joy. It is both a religious and materialistic holiday. The fir tree was first introduced in Strasbourg 1605 as “holy tree of Christmas.” It was decorated with artificially colored roses, sugars, apples, and painted hosts. The fir tree also symbolizes the tree in the garden of Eden. Today, decorating the tree is a family affair that involves candles, lights, tinsel, and many colored stars.

Big department stores (particularly in Paris) compete for best Christmas displays in their shop windows. A day browsing the windows and contrasting the decorations has become a Christmas must for French adults. As for the children, on Christmas Eve, little toys, candies, and fruits are hung on the tree in addition to the gifts Père Noël has left in the shoes before the fire place. Traditionally, peasants’ wooden shoes, “sabots”, were placed in front of the fireplace, this is now portrayed in chocolate shoes filled with candy made by pastry chefs. “La crèche” or “the manger”, is another essential custom of Christmas in France. It was presented to France in Avignon by the family of St. Francis Assisi between 1316 and 1334. The crèche or grebbles, as they were named in old french, didn’t become a real tradition until the 16th century. French families take great care in making these nativity scenes in their homes, and they are placed in an easily seen part of the house. The scene includes characters such as the farmer, butcher, baker, miller, people from the village, policeman, priest, mayor, ox, donkey, “santons” (little saints), and the holy family. A special fair for “santons” has been held in Marseilles every December since 1803. Puppets shows are also held every Christmas season, mainly in Paris and Lyon, and they are considered popular works of art. All Families attend a midnight mass, and afterwards go home for "le réveillon." or late supper. Traditions and beliefs connected to Christmas are abundant in France, to them it is a magical season of hope and faith.

"Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful..."

December is one of the coldest months seen in France. Unfortunately it is usually wet, cold, and minimal chances of snow fall. Average temperatures starting at 41 degrees Fahrenheit near December first and move to 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit on December thirty-first. Sadly it doesn't seem as if France will be having a white Christmas this year.