Christmas Customs Of France
In France, Christmas is time for family and close friends. It is time for family reunions, gifts, candies, helping the poor, Midnight Mass and le Réveillon. And the best part is that Christmas customs of France change from one region to another.
Most provinces in France celebrate Christmas on December 25. This is also a bank holiday so that everyone can be with their family. However, Christmas season begins from December 6 in eastern and northern part of the country. This is the time when people in these regions celebrate the feast of Saint Nicholas and the Epiphany.
Christmas Customs of France:
Christmas is truly a momentous occasion for children in France. They put their shoes in front of the fireplace with the hope that Papa Noel (or Père Noël) will fill them with gifts. Children along with adults hang candies, fruits, nuts and small toys on the Christmas tree.
France has an equivalent of Santa Claus who gives coal to naughty children. Here he is called Père Fouettard, and instead of coal he gives spankings to naughty and bad children.
A law was passed in 1962 in France which ensures that all letters written to Santa Claus is responded to with a postcard. This means if a class in a school writes a letter to Santa, each student receives a response.
During Christmas season, there are special traditional desserts made and served. The most famous among these desserts is the Yule Log. This is representative of the wood log burned from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day in the Périgord. The Yule Log is a log-shaped cake made from chocolate and chestnuts.
In Southern France something known as Christmas Loaf is given to a poor person. And on Epiphany, a round cake is baked with a charm. The cake is then cut into pieces and is distributed by a child who hides under a table. However, finds the charm is designated King or Queen and is free to choose a partner.
The main decoration in homes, streets, shops, offices and all other places is the sapin de Noel. This decoration appeared in Alsace during the 14th century and was decorated with apples, paper flowers and ribbons. It was introduced into France as a part of Christmas custom in 1837.
After Epiphany, it is normal to leave a candle burning incase the Virgin Mary passes by.