Now, as part of our Christmas traditions from around the world series, let’s travel to France. The celebration of Christmas in France varies by region. Most provinces celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December. However, in eastern and northern France, the Christmas season begins on December 6th, with St. Nicholas Day (la fête de Saint Nicolas). In Lyon, December 8th is la Fête de Lumières, when candles are lit in windows to light up the city. Strasbourg, near the German border, is famous for its beautiful Christmas market.
As in the US, The Christmas tree, called sapin de Noël, is the main decoration in homes, streets, shops and offices. Another important aspect of French Christmas celebrations is the nativity scene (la crèche) filled with figurines called “santons”, displayed in many homes and in churches, which sometimes also display living crèches.
On Christmas Eve night, French children leave their shoes in front of the fireplace for the Père Noël (the equivalent of Santa Claus in the US) to fill with gifts. The Père Fouettard is also out, giving out spankings to bad children (who is the equivalent of the Grinch, or the Bogeyman, or Santa Claus giving coal to bad children instead of gifts).
Christmas Eve usually has a huge family feast, called le Réveillon, the culinary high point of the season. Dishes include goose, capon, or turkey stuffed with chestnuts, oysters, boudin blanc, and foie gras. The bûche de Noël (Yule log), a log-shaped cake, is the traditional Christmas dessert.
In our next installment we will travel to other parts of Europe and Asia