What are French Christmas traditions? And how can you use them to love learning French throughout the holidays? Read on to find out.

Looking for French Christmas Music? Access it here!

What makes Christmas such a magical time of year? Is it the traditions? Or maybe the movies we watch? Perhaps it’s the food we eat? Personally, I feel it’s more a result of the extra time we spend together and of the time we spend thinking of one another. That being said, we aren’t really here to dissect the psychology behind the Christmas spirit. Rather, let’s “jeter un coup d’oeil” at the French style of celebrating Christmas. Not so you can be just like the French, but rather so you can incorporate whatever aspects of French traditions that you feel would benefit you on your language learning journey.

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.

If you’d like to learn more about the French Christmas meal and what you could bring to your table this year, visit Camille’s blog. Oh, and yes, there will probably be some good wine at the dinner meal as well.

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)

For those history buffs out there, Joyeux Noel is based on the true story in World War I when German, French, and Swiss armies had an impromptu cease-fire for Christmas Eve. Sharing all those things that connect humanity together despite our differences.
8 Femmes is a popular film that occurs during the holidays. Although, don't expect it to be a Hallmark Channel type of romantic, warm and fuzzy-feely type of show. No, if you love murder mysteries, this is the show for you. Recommended by Virginie of French Truly.
The comedy Les Rois Mages follows the story of the 3 Wise Men who made a mistake when searching for the baby Jesus but made a mistake and ended up in the 21st century. Made by the famous French Comedy trio "Les Inconnus" who are a huge part of French culture. Most French people can quote a few lines from a movie made by "Les Inconnus" so this is a great cultural movie to watch - although, it does help to understand enough French to get the jokes.
If you like sweet or romantic Christmas movies, both French-native Marie from Just French It recommends The Holiday and French-native Camille from French Today recommends Love Actually. Both are romantic comedies with a sweet and loving ending. Furthermore, both movies have a French language track for listening. 🙂 (For the record, The Holiday is PG-13 and Love Actually is R. I personally have seen neither of these, but I’ve met a lot of French natives who really enjoy them, so I thought I would share.)
If you are interested in purchasing one of these DVDs, please check the DVD format as well as the formatting of your DVD player. Generally speaking, international films cannot be played with a US standard DVD player. You'll need a multi-region PAL/NTSC DVD player to view it in USA/Canada. Please note that the largest complaint with these players is that they sometimes struggle with Netflix DVDs and some US-only DVDs. This is not a Blue-Ray player.

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. 🙂

I hope you’ve found at least one thing that you want to add to your Christmas traditions this year, not because you have to be like the French, but because you honestly enjoy it. Joyeux Noël mes amis!

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