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French Festive Traditions


8th December 2017

It seems that every country around the globe celebrates the festive Christmas period a little differently to each other. The French are no exception and so have their own Christmas traditions to enjoy.

Here are some of them:

  • In some regions such as Flanders and Alsace, gifts are given to children on December 6th, the feast of Saint Nicolas. Whilst many families prefer to exchange presents on Christmas Eve, others may wait until 6th January, the Feast of the Kings.
  • Inspired by Saint Nicolas, Santa in France is called “Père Noël”. He’s much the same as other Santas around the world, wearing the traditional red suit, hat and wide black belt around his plump waist. In the past however, a character Le Père Fouettard (the Bogeyman) dressed in black and covered in coal marks, would whip or spank children who had misbehaved. These days however, you’ll be pleased to know that he’s been replaced with other characters such as elves and reindeer!
  • Much like the UK, any letters to Father Christmas are responded to in the form of a postcard. Also like the UK this is an additional burden on the postmen at such a busy time of year!
  • Across the world the nativity scene is a fairly common tradition but in France not only do they include the usual characters of Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph but other characters known as Santons, such as bakers, local dignitaries or market sellers.
  • It’s not a carrot, a glass of milk or indeed a stocking that’s left out for the French Santa but shoes! All in the hope that Père Nöel will fill them with small gifts, fruit or sweets.

  • Although practised more in the South of France, families burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. In the past, part of the log would be used to make the wedge for a family’s plough to bring good luck for the next harvest. Nowadays it’s a chocolate version that’s eaten called Bûche de Noël.
  • The feast known as “Le Reveillon” takes place late on Christmas Eve or in the early hours of Christmas morning following midnight mass. Chestnut stuffed turkey, goose, oysters and foie gras being the main dishes served.
  • The 12th day of Christmas or the feast of Ephiphany on 6th January is celebrated by serving Galette des Rois or Cake of Kings. They are flat round pastries that come with gold paper crowns. A small object known as a fève such as a small toy is inserted. When it’s cut, whoever finds it whilst eating is crowned king or queen and can wear the gold crown.

We hope you enjoy whatever traditions you like to keep to over the festive Christmas period and that you are able to spend some quality time with your friends and family.

Whilst the Gascony Cookery School is closed to students during the festive period, our booking portal will remain open so if you’re looking for that last minute Christmas gift, check out our courses here.

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