Facts About France (Part I)
So, glass of red wine in hand, and heating turned up to full, I've sat down to finally write the first of many "Facts about France." You'll see there is a little running theme in this post with the festive season... which is hard to forget seeing as I still see Christmas decorations up everywhere around Paris! So here are just four little facts you may not have already known about French Holiday Traditions...
An interesting thing that I've found is a lot of my French friends tend to keep their Christmas decorations up until Candlemas (Feb 2nd), when Jesus was presented at the temple. Unlike us Brits, who generally abide by the rule that Christmas decorations come down on the twelfth night (5th Jan) or the Epiphany (6th Jan).
Further afield in Provence, at the end of their (already big!) Christmas meal they have 13 desserts to represent Jesus and the 12 apostles...
Traditionally, children in France leave their shoes by the fireplace or door to be filled by Papa Noël ( or Saint Nicholas if you are in North or Eastern France) instead of hanging stockings.
On New Years Eve (La Saint-Sylvestre) it is the custom that when the clock strikes midnight you make as much noise as is humanely possible, through shouting, music or loud exchanges of "Bonne Année!" Perhaps due to the old belief that it would scare away demons and spirits.
Finally, it is traditional on La Épiphanie to eat " Gallete des Rois" which is a large flaky pastry, within which a figurine is baked. The youngest child at the table must close their eyes, as the person cutting the cake asks who each piece is for, to which the child will reply "pour maman, papa" etc. An extra piece is cut called "part du pauvre" which is meant to be saved for the first poor person who enters the house. Whoever finds the figurine must yell "J'ai la fève!" after which he or she is crowned and may choose their King or Queen. Then everyone at the table must say "Vive La Roi/ Vive La Reine" and after that everyone can tuck into their pieces.