Noël à Paris
Updated: Mar 24, 2019
The Sapin de Noël at George V
I’m currently sat on the bus back from work, contemplating the 4am wake up time I have to adhere to, to catch my flight back to England for the holidays. Whilst also contemplating the daylight robbery that took place whilst booking my tickets (£300 for an hours flight!!!) My family had better appreciate me this Christmas is all I’m saying.
France definitely don’t go as commercially cuckoo as we seem to in England, it doesn’t hit November and all the shops are brimming with Christmas goodies and Christmas songs can be heard all around. In fact, in my local Supermarché there is only one aisle dedicated to Christmassy delights. Although, personally, I feel there is a severe lack of good French Christmas tunes.
The kids are so excited eagerly awaiting Papa Noël, and my Spotify has been alternating between Jingle Bells and Vive le Vent for the past month. There’s been the usual Christmas Fairs at their school and lugging tons of Christmas Crafts home. My favourite thing to see is real Christmas trees everywhere, which have become increasingly rare back in the UK, even my tiny local Franprix has a collection for sale outside! On the bus the other day, I watched a mother and daughter lugging their 6ft Christmas tree back home with the ingenious use of a scooter to push it along!
The French are foodies at the best of times, but Noël is the time to be a true gourmandise, indulge in beautiful chocolates, patisseries, vin chaud, foie gras, camembert, marrons (and marrons glacé,) not to forget the bûche de Noël! Christmas is a time for the French to celebrate their passion for food, and not only the food itself but the meal time as a whole, the conversation and sitting down with family. In France, the main event of Christmas is on Christmas Eve when all the family sit down for a huge feast of festive foods and wine to celebrate. However, it is becoming more and more common now for families to have their main celebrations on the 25th.
For table decorations, the French symbolically place three candlesticks on the table to represent the trinity, and it is as important for the table to be elegant and sophisticated as it is for the food to be delicious. A lesser known tradition is for the ends of the tablecloth to be knotted, so as to prevent the Devil from getting under the table, but as France is no longer a Catholic country this tradition is dying out.
The French also share and have many of the same traditions as us in the U.K. but there are a few obvious differences. For example, instead of stockings, French children put their shoes by the fireplace for Papa Noël (and hope not to meet Père Fouettard who spanks bad children!) They also do not send Christmas cards, as we are accustomed to doing, and instead wait until the New Year to send cards to family and friends with well wishes for the coming year.
I have loved being a part of these new traditions, and learning all the words to 'vive le vent' but I do have a certain nostalgia to be back home, writing out my Christmas cards as 'White Christmas' plays out in the background with a plate of mince pies by my side, and of course my family.
For more insights into French Christmas traditions have a read of my blog post here.