FRANCE

Christmas in France (Noël on the French calendar is celebrated mainly in a religious manner, though secular ways of celebrating the occasion also exist, such as Christmas decorations and carols. Children do not hang Christmas stockings but put their shoes by the fireplace or under the Christmas tree so Père Noël (Father Christmas or Santa Claus) can give them gifts (a practice also among French-speaking Switzerland). Some families also attend midnight mass and decorate their homes with Nativity Scenes depicting the birth of Jesus. Additional Santons (little saints) may be added in the nativity scenes.
In France and in other French-speaking areas (see French Canada), a long family dinner, called a réveillon, is held on Christmas Eve. The name of this dinner is based on the word réveil (meaning “waking”), because participation involves staying awake until midnight and beyond. Réveillon is generally of an exceptional or luxurious nature. Appetizers may include lobster, oysters, escargots or foie gras, etc. One traditional dish is turkey with chestnuts. Réveillons in Quebec will often include some variety of tourtière. Dessert may consist of a bûche de Noël. In Provence, the tradition of the 13 desserts is followed, almost invariably including: pompe à l’huile (a flavoured bread), dates, etc. Quality wine is usually consumed at such dinners, often with champagne or similar sparkling wines as a conclusion. Christmas carols may also be sung.

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