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Christmas In France

Christmas is a popular festival celebrated all over the world. It is celebrated with the same Christmas spirit of love, hope, joy and faith in god. So the main theme behind the merrymaking is same everywhere and hence its known as a universal festival, although every country has slightly different customs and traditions related to Christmas festivity

It is interesting to know about these differences in Christmas celebrations and we present here some of these interesting facts about Christmas celebrations in France:

  • Unique and delightful Christmas traditions are followed in France. In France, Christmas is known by the name of 'Nol' and Father Christmas is known as 'Pre Nol'. Decorated Christmas trees are a must and Christmas meals are means of family gatherings where good meat and best wine are served.
  • Christmas was primarily a religious festival in the early days of New France. But in 1645, French colonists gathered together in a little church in Quebec City to attend the Midnight Mass and began to sing Chantons No, an old Christmas carol that they had brought from their native land. The medieval words No ! Nau ! are still used to refer to Christmas. The custom at this time was to distribute holy bread to those attending Midnight Mass.
  • The midnight service on Christmas Eve is traditionally followed by a meal known as "Le Reveillon". The sidewalk cafes and restaurants are open all night to serve the Christmas dinner. Reveillon means to wake up, or first call of the day. So it carries a symbolic spiritual awakening to the meaning of Christ's birth. The meal can consist of goose, turkey, chicken, or beef; a fish dish, cheese, bread, wine, oysters, sausages, roast fowl, salads, fruit and pastries. Christ cakes are baked and decorated with sugar to resemble the Holy Child. After the festivities, it is customary to leave a candle burning just in case the Virgin Mary passes that way.
  • While Christmas trees have become fashionable in France not so long ago, the centre of attraction is the popular Christmas decoration, the Nativity scene or la crche (the manger) that is adorned with cute little clay figures called "Santons" or "Little Saints". These colorful little saints are a unique and age old feature of Christmas in France and are prepared all round the year by skilled craftsmen in the south of France. These manger figures are passed on through generations in families. Popular Santons include shepherds, Magi, Holy Family besides local merchants and dignitaries.
  • In France, Christmas tree is not so popular but its symbolic presence can be felt in the Christmas cake. The traditional French Christmas Cake is a sponge cake prepared in the shape of Yule log and is called the "Buche de Nol" meaning "Christmas Log". This cake is a special feature of the Le reveillon - a grand feast of the season celebrated after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Some families burn a real log in the fireplace.
  • On the eve of Christmas, French children leave their shoes or wooden clogs called "sabots" in front of the fireplace in a hope that their favorite Christ Child or Pere Noel would fill it with gifts. Children believe that Pere Noel travels with his disciplinarian companion Pere Fouettard (Father Spanker), who tells Pere Noel about the behavior of each child in the past year and 'reward' bad children with a spanking.
  • In northern France children are given gifts on St. Nicholas Eve (December 6) instead of Christmas Day. In other places it is "Le Petit Jesus" who brings the gifts. Adults usually wait until New Year's Day to exchange gifts.
  • French families think that mistletoe is very lucky and hang it everywhere.

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