French Christmas traditions
Have you ever wondered how French people celebrate Christmas? This is how!
The 24th December is a normal workday in France. It is only by the evening that the festivities begin.
It all starts with the traditional Christmas Midnight Mass (Messe de Minuit), where the entire family goes to church to celebrate the birth of Christ. After that, families go back home or to a restaurant to celebrate the Réveillon (Christmas dinner).
Christmas dinner is the highlight of the festivities and it usually lasts a couple of hours.
The opening of the presents however, takes place on the morning of the 25th December. Kids find their presents under the sapin de Noël (Christmas tree) which Santa Claus left whilst everyone was sleeping at night. Also, kids already receive some presents from Saint Nicholas on the 6th December, which is another important festivity in France!
Christmas dinner starts with an Aperitif: a Pastis, a Martini, Champagne or another beverage and snacks like olives, canapés and other types of finger food.
Traditional starters can be oysters and smoked salmon. They are normally accompanied by white wine, which is exceptionally harmonious with seafood.
This is often followed by (the ethically controversial) Foie gras, still a favourite in France. It can be served with onion marmalade and raspberry mash. Toast and white wine complete this dish.
Like in many other countries, the main dish of a French Christmas dinner is a roast turkey. In France it commonly has a chestnut-filled stuffing. However, many regions have roast beef or duck à l’orange instead. These dishes are accompanied by all kinds of vegetables and red wine.
And again, depending on the region, fish can be served as well.
A cheese platter with bread often completes the extravagant and filling Christmas dinner.
After the cheese board it’s time for the Bûche de Noël, which literally means Christmas tree trunk. This is a traditional French Christmas cake consisting of chocolate sponge filled with chocolate buttercream, rolled up into authentic looking tree trunk. The outer part of the cake is also made to look like a bark. It is very common to find marzipan mushrooms, leaves and berries as part of the decoration of the cake.