My favorite holiday has changed over the years. It used to be Easter, but now I am really loving Christmas. If I think about it, for me it makes sense. Considering that I hate summer, and LOVE LOVE winter.
Having grown up in America all I know is American traditions for Christmas. (Despite my mom being from France.) However, as I got older I realized that she did incorporate some French traditions.
They may seem kind of silly to us in the US but trust me they are sweet and you may want to follow them!
- Opening presents doesn’t always happen on the 25th. In the norther part of France, gifts are often given to children on December 6th. This day is known as the feast of St. Nicolas. Some families prefer to give presents on Christmas Eve but others, who are not related to me cause I have no patience, actually wait until January 6th. That day isn’t random it is the Feast of the Kings.
- Letters to Santa or Père Noël-Did you know the French actually has a law that says any letter to Santa must be responded to in the form of a postcard? Well, they do and it has been that way since 1962. I wonder if the postal workers or facteur get overtime?
- Gather around the fire-Yes a big bonfire. In certain parts of France, they gathered around a giant fire on Christmas Eve, known as haihe de Nadau. Here neighbors share treats, drinks and music.
- Nativity for Everyone-As with the rest of the world the French set up traditional nativity scenes. However, unlike most of us, they allow anyone into the scene. Such as vegetable sellers, bakers(important guys, they should always come to the party), men selling roasted chestnuts, crêpe guy, whoever!
- Krampus-this half goat half man guy that I am sure you have heard of if you are a fan of “American Dad,” is also known in France as Pere Fouettard or the Whipping Father. This guy hangs with Santa to, well hand out spankings to naughty kids, instead of coal.
- Shoes by the fire-Traditionally this would be clogs (I think). Unlike Holland though these babies are inside. Children put these in front of the fire in hopes they will sweets, fruit, nuts and whatever else that can fit in their shoe.
- Don’t give a ton of presents- this is one thing I have implemented in my own house. Traditionally, the French believe quality not quantity. In my house my kids only get about five or six presents and that includes anything from Santa. (it does not include what comes in their stockings.)
- Midnight Mass-predominantly Catholic but officially secular this tradition lives on. Traditionally Christmas carols and hymns are sung and of course this works up an appetite. (Yes you read that right!)
- Christmas Feast- This is the big Christmas feast and it takes place late on Christmas Even or even in the wee hours of Christmas mourning, after midnight mass. Depending on where you are in the country determines what you’ll be eating. You may have turkey, goose, oysters and foie gras.
- 12th day Christmas or the feast of Epiphany. Now, if you are or have ever been to New Orleans you might think of the traditional cake “King’s Cake” served around Mardi Grais. I believe this is the same concept but the cakes are a bit different. La Galette des rois is served on this day with a few extra pieces for someone dropping in. (Like the poor, Jesus or the Virgin). This cake is make of puff pastry, filling of almonds, brioche (already salivating!), and inside the cake is a tiny baby. Unlike the Mardi Gras cake where if you find the baby you have to buy the next “King’s Cake.” this little baby is too bring luck. Oh and there is an order to which this cake is served. The youngest goes first!
So there you have it. A few traditions for you to try!
What traditions do you like? Which ones will you try? What traditions do you have at home? I’d love to see how you celebrate the holidays!
Until Next Time!