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A French Christmas

Could it get any more swoon-worthy than celebrating Christmas in France?

Is there anyone who knows how to do Christmas quite as spectacularly as the French do?

The food is heavenly, the lights twinkle like stardust, while the traditions make the holiday season feel extra special. Their festive season stretches out for weeks rather than a couple of days. 

What’s not to love about that?  

Although celebrating Christmas in France may not be an option this year, you can bring France right to you! From cooking a French-themed Christmas dinner and decorating your home to some gorgeous French gift ideas, there are so many fun activities to enjoy this season.

Here’s how to do the perfect French Christmas and have a très chic Joyeux Noël (FYI: that’s French for Merry Christmas)!

France at Christmas time

Go to town on the Crèche

Nativity scenes are known as the “crèche” in France and are super popular across the country. 

But you won’t just find the usual suspects like baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph popping up. 

Oh no.

France likes to get the whole community involved in the celebrations, and rightly so! You’ll see a butcher, a baker, and a policeman on display too. And traditionally, these are all made of clay.   

In the month of December, certain towns like Marseilles have delightful Christmas markets (more on this to come) where you can purchase authentic, local versions of these nativity figures.

One of the unusual facts about Christmas in France is that, unlike the rest of the world, the crèche remains on display in homes until February 2nd, 40 days after Christmas

French markets 

Christmas market

Christmas markets (marchés de Noel) are a big part of France’s Christmas tradition. The first one can be traced back to 1570, which was Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmarik

Many of them start in the last weekend of December, running through into the New Year. And each one is slightly different from the next.

At these staple French markets, you can buy beautiful decorations, yummy festive treats, and high-quality artisan products from local producers. Each Christmas market is slightly different from the next, with its own unique charm. At every market, you’ll find beautiful decorations, yummy festive treats, and high-quality artisan products from local producers. 

The array of delicious food is perhaps the highlight and a brilliant way to bring France to you this year.

If you’re looking to bring that beautiful Christmas aroma into your home, start by roasting some chestnuts. This is one of the most popular snacks at French markets as you stroll around the different stalls. 

Delicacies like pâté, foie gras, cheese, and charcuterie are all French favorites, and each region boasts its own specialties. 

One dish that can’t be missed when visiting a French Christmas market is a cheesy tartiflette, which originates from Savoie. It’s a mix of real comforting ingredients: potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons, onions, and herbs. 

 

Those with a sweet tooth can whip up a batch of homemade waffles smothered in melted chocolate, just like you’ll find at the Arras Christmas market. Other family favorites include beignets (a mini doughnut), macarons d’Amiens (an almond and honey cake), and gâteau battu (a brioche-like cake shaped like a chef’s hat).

Don’t forget to share a toast with a glass of gently spiced mulled wine, or vin chaud as it’s known in France. 

French market at Christmas time

Some of the standout French Christmas markets to head to are:

  • Colmar
  • Strasbourg
  • Amiens
  • Reims
  • Metz
  • Montbeliard
  • Lille
  • Avignon

Check them out, and make a note of the ones you want to head to next winter!

Le Sapin De Noël

Christmas tree

In France, a Christmas tree is called “un sapin de noël” or “un arbre de noël.” 

Strasbourg is said to be the birthplace of the festive tree. A fir tree is chosen because it doesn’t shed its leaves, a symbol of hope and eternal life. This tree was originally covered in red apples and lights and stood in front of Churches as a symbol of Christ. 

Many homes quickly adopted this tradition and would decorate their trees with apples and biscuits. However, one year there was a shortage of apples. To avert the crisis, glass-blowers created decorative versions of them, and that is how the Christmas bauble was invented!  

To create the perfect French-themed tree, decorate using ribbons, candles, and baubles, and place a star at the very top. 

If you want to go one step further, you can place your shoes under the tree (or by the fireplace) on Christmas eve instead of hanging stockings. It’s tradition for French children to do this in the hopes that Père Noël (Santa) will fill them with gifts. 

Spread the love like Père Noël

Christmas letter writing

Did you know that in France, it is illegal for a letter to Santa to go ignored?

That’s right.

In 1962, France passed a law stating that all letters to Père Noël must be responded to with a postcard. Isn’t that beautiful? All those handwritten letters from children are saved from ending up in bins and storage boxes. 

Christmas is traditionally a time of giving and receiving, so how about giving to those less fortunate than you this year? 

You could volunteer to respond to children’s letters to Santa or donate food and gifts to a local shelter. Bake some French Christmas treats and give them out along with blankets and sleeping bags to homeless people in your local community.

This year has been a tough one for all of us, but Christmas is all about family, love, and compassion. Let’s end the year on a high and spread the Christmas cheer.

Enjoy a beautiful log fire

Christmas socks by the fire

Long ago in France, it’s said that a large log would be carried into the home on the eve of Christmas, sprinkled with red wine to make it smell nice (plenty leftover for you to enjoy), then left burning all night long. 

Yule logs made of Cherry Wood are always a firm favorite across French homes. 

There’s something about an open fire that feels so wintery, cozy, and festive. You might even want to make some mulled wine or hot cocoa, slip into some snuggly clothes and relax as the warmth fills your soul. 

The perfect stocking stuffers

Christmas stocking

Whether you’re filling shoes or stockings, it doesn’t matter! What really counts is what’s inside. 

What better way to celebrate Christmas like the French than by stocking up on some French beauty products? 

Our Long-Lasting Matte Lipstick Duo Pack in classic red is the perfect shade to see any woman right through the holiday season. Think Réveillon, Christmas dinner, New Year’s Eve, and everything in between. And if red is too bold for you, there are plenty of tamer shades to choose from. 

No French woman can do without some classic French mascara in her beauty bag. Why not pick up the legendary Cabaret Première Classic French Mascara—promising natural volume and definition in one swoosh. 

How to celebrate Réveillon in style

Christmas dinner spread

In the US, Christmas dinner on December 25th tends to be the pinnacle Christmas meal. But the French like to do things a little differently.

The holiday season’s biggest meal is traditionally eaten around midnight on Christmas Eve, known as le Réveillon. Starters often include delicacies like foie gras, oysters, or escargots. The main course is usually roast goose or turkey. And the meal is completed with the bûche de Noël (Yule Log). There’s always plenty of wine on hand too.

Doesn’t Christmas dinner in France sound amazing?

If you’ve never done this before, why not mix things up this year and prepare a feast for Christmas Eve. It’s a perfect way to get into the French Christmas feels.

Sweet treats to indulge in

Holiday pastry

What I love most about the way the French do Christmas is their celebration of all things sweet.

One of the most noteworthy facts about Christmas in France is their tradition (in some regions) of eating a grand total of 13 different desserts! 

Yes. You read that right. 

Here are a few of the standout sweet treats to try


Chocolate Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) Cake

A French pastry chef invented this in the late 1800s. Traditionally, it’s a Genoise sponge layered with buttercream and shaped into a log. It’s then topped with some beautiful decorations like meringue mushrooms or even a fresh cutting of holly. 


Classic French Marrons Glacés (Candied Chestnuts)

These are a popular holiday treat in France and will fill your home with a deliciously sweet aroma. They take a few days to prepare, but they're definitely worth it.


Chocolat Chaud

This is hot chocolate, but it's not just any hot chocolate. This is probably the most decadent hot chocolate you’ll ever drink! Made with melted chocolate, warm milk, topped with whipped cream, and maybe some marshmallows for extra fun—the perfect companion to an open fire. 


Celebrate the Fête des Rois

Fête des Rois

Fête des Rois (known as Epiphany in the US) is celebrated on January 6th. This marks the official end to Christmas in France.

Baking and eating a galette des rois (king cake) is a tradition. This is a delicious flaky pastry filled with frangipane (almond cream). Hidden inside the pastry is a fève (a small baby figurine). Whoever is lucky enough to get the piece with the fève becomes the King or Queen for the day.

This is such a popular tradition that most French bakeries sell the cakes with a paper crown.   

And why not?

We are all Queens in our own way. Let’s celebrate that more this year!

And that is how to do Christmas like the French do. Enjoy weaving a bit of French wonder and magic into your holiday season.  

Wishing you all a beautiful French Christmas, wherever in the world you’re celebrating this year.


Joyeux Noël!

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