Christmas Quick Facts - FR

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2023 Date25 December 2023
2024 Date25 December 2024


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Christmas in France celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, a significant aspect of Christian faith worldwide. It is a time of family reunions, exchanging gifts, and sharing meals. The holiday is known for its rich customs, ranging from the midnight mass to listening to carols. France's unique blend of diverse cultural elements gives a distinct charm to the celebration.

The tradition of Christmas in France dates back to the 4th century when Christianity was legalized. Over time, various regional customs became integrated with the religious observance, enhancing the cultural identity of the festivities. A customary aspect that resonates with the French is the creation of the nativity scene, or 'Crèche', often featuring local saints and figures, reflecting the strong Catholic heritage of the country. 'Réveillon', the grand Christmas Eve feast, holds a special place in French Christmas traditions, showcasing France's globally acclaimed culinary culture.

In observing Christmas, the French place a strong emphasis on family gatherings. Decoration of homes with 'Calendrier de l'Avent', a special advent calendar, and 'Sapin de Noël', the Christmas tree, exemplify festive spirit. 'Père Noël', the French equivalent of Santa Claus, leaves presents in children's shoes, another unique French custom. As part of the religious observation, many attend the 'Messe de Minuit', or midnight mass. Christmas in France is celebrated on the 25th of December, aligning with worldwide Christian observances.

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Christmas facts

  • During the 4th Century A.D., Bishop Nicolas of Smyrna was known to be very generous to the poor, especially to children. He was later given the title of Saint Nicholas and is patron saint of children.
  • Constantine the Great named the holiday and set the date for Jesus' birth as being December 25th. This happened in 325 A.D.
  • The Christmas tree is a custom that is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century. Candles and decorations that are lit represented the light of Christ in the world.
  • A common Christmas tradition in France is the carrying of a Yule Log or ‘La Bûche de Noël.' It symbolizes the warmth, and light of newborn Jesus. Today, this tradition has evolved into a popular dessert known as 'la bûche de Noël', a log-shaped cake made with sponge cake, chocolate, and buttercream filling.
  • In France, children leave their shoes by the fireplace for Père Noël (Father Christmas) to fill with gifts instead of hanging stockings like in other countries.

Top things to do in France for Christmas

  • Attend a Christmas Eve service at a local church. Many churches offer midnight mass. Alternately, watch the Pope's annual Christmas eve service broadcast live from the Vatican.
  • Many churches hold pageants for children that involve playing the parts of the nativity scene. Go to one of these events or put up a nativity scene in your home.
  • Unlike many other countries, France typically exchanges gifts on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning. Families gather for a festive meal and exchange presents before attending Midnight Mass.
  • French cuisine offers various traditional Christmas recipes, such as "vin chaud" (hot mulled wine), "coquilles Saint-Jacques" (scallops), "escargots de Bourgogne" (snails), "foie gras" (goose or duck liver), and "galette des Rois" (king cake) for Epiphany.

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