Family reunion, amazing gifts, delectable sweet treats, midnight mass and le Reveillon (or feast before Christmas) lay the foundation for Christmas celebration in France. A time of love and prosperity, Christmas is celebrated with a lot of fanfare and enthusiasm all over France. Everyone in the country rejoices and makes merry during this time of the year. Christmas celebrations in France vary from region to region. While the festival is mainly celebrated on the 25th of December in the eastern and northern regions, the celebrations start as early as on 6th of December, celebrating the la fête de Saint Nicolas.
Christmas Celebration in France
In the city of Lyon, December 8 is celebrated as la Fête de lumieres. On this occasion, Lyonnais pays homage to Virgin Mary, by placing candles in their windows. Christmas in France extends till la fête des Rois, which is usually celebrated on the 6th of January. However, in some places, the festival is celebrated on the first Sunday after January 1. There are a number of unique Christmas traditions that are practiced in France. On Christmas Eve, French children set out their shoes near the fireplace, with the hope that Pere Noel or Christ Child would fill them with gifts during the course of the night.
In Northern France, children are given gifts on 6th December, rather than on Christmas Day, while the elders gift each other on New Year's Day. Another surprise waiting for children is the tree filled with sweets, fruits, nuts and small toys. Almost all the houses in France are wonderfully bedecked and festooned with colorful decorative items, each displaying a nativity scene with little figurines. The sapin de Noel is the main decoration in homes, streets, shops, offices, and factories. An interesting tradition practiced in French families is the preparation of Three Kings Cake, with a bean hidden in it. Whoever found the bean in their slice was made King, or Queen, for the day.
While talking about celebrations, how can feast be far behind? Le Reveillon or the feast before Christmas is a very late supper held after midnight mass, on Christmas Eve. Culinary delights are prepared and served on Christmas Eve. The dishes vary from region to region, though poultry, ham, salads, cake, fruit and wine remains constant. For instance, while goose is the main course in Alsace, in Burgundy, it is turkey with chestnuts, while Parisians feast upon oysters and pat de foie gras. Though fading, the tradition of Yule log has given way to Yule log-shaped cake called the Buche de Nol or 'Christmas Log.' The cake, among other food items, is served at the grand feast of the season. Once dinner is over, the whole family retires to bed, leaving a fire burning and some food and drinks on the table, in case the Virgin Mary calls in.