A Quick Caution
If you hate a dose of realism, please skip on to the next section. 🙂 Merci
Now, if you do a quick Google search in images for “French Christmas” you’ll find a whole bunch of beautiful, glamorous images of Christmas trees by the Eiffel Tower, Christmas-y French towns, and other things we only dream of seeing even once in our lives.
However, the reality of these photos and their impact in French lifestyle may not be depicted accurately. I asked native French bloggers what Christmas is really like in France, and what I found may surprise you.
For instance, all those beautiful images and stories of the magic of Christmas in France are really just that, stories. They may refer to Christmas in Provence (a region on the southeastern side of France bordering the Mediterranean and Italy). They may also refer to the amazing French tradition of the 13 desserts – but again, this tradition is an older tradition that you might only see in Provence now-a-days.
This is not to say that no one in France celebrates Christmas in a magical way, but if you talk with any native Frenchies, you may find that they don’t even own a Christmas tree.
I don’t share this information to discourage you, but more to give you a realistic idea of how the French really do celebrate Christmas. That, and I strongly encourage you to simply mix in some French into your own Christmas traditions, if you love them.
Why change something that works well for you?
So, shall we get on to the real French traditions and the ways you can keep learning French throughout the holidays without feeling like you are working and studying more?
French Christmas Traditions
Hopefully you aren’t too shocked when you learn that French Traditions de Noël revolve mostly around food.
The French Christmas meal is not just about the food, but about the presentation as well. Everything from the table setting to the presentation of the food will be well prepared and beautiful.
Some foods might include smoked salmon or some other form of seafood. This is quite common in France and I’ve heard that the prices are also reasonable there.
The likelihood of you finding foie-gras at a French meal is very high. This is probably the equivalent of the American Christmas ham.
However, don’t expect it to taste anything like the sweet ham that is common in the US, no foie-gras is duck or goose liver that has been fattened up. It may be eaten with toast or as a sauce. If you’re feeling adventurous, try out this sauteed scallops with a foie-gras sauce recipe. Camille from French Today gives amazing French recipes to try on her blog.
Other popular meats are classified as game meats – venison, pheasant, quail. While ham and turkey are commonly reserved for large family gatherings because they are a cheaper alternative.
What about those desserts you say?
Want to incorporate French desserts into your Christmas? Why not try some truffles? I’ve heard mushroom and chocolate are amazing. Or, you could try the classic Yule Log dessert (La Bûche de Noël or La Bûche du chocolat). It’s a chocolate sponge cake in the form of a log that is a very Christmas tradition in France.
Les Livres francais de Noël
Are you are an avid reader and just LOVE reading heartwarming stories for Christmas? I truly do wish I could help you. But unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any good Christmas books in French that we can get in the US. If you know of any, please leave me a comment so I can share the love with others. In the meantime, you can read La légende de Saint Nicolas online in French.
Les Films francais de Noël
Here are the top 5 recommendations I received from French natives and bloggers, but you can read more ideas for French Christmas movies here. (coming soon)
My personal favorite Christmas movies are actually American movies that have a French translation. I find that I enjoy these types of movies far more than the original French “classics”. Take a glance to see if any popular Christmas movies are in French just for you to enjoy.
And no, Hallmark Channel doesn’t have their Christmas movies in French 🙁 Anyone want to start petitioning them? 😉
French Christmas Music
The French don’t turn classical songs into pop music like we do here in the US, but that doesn’t mean their Christmas songs are no fun either, but just be prepared that the songs will be far more traditional than pop.
French Christmas Music Playlist
Get a free 3-hour playlist of Christmas music in French to enjoy the Holiday Spirit in French. 🙂