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Manoir du Hilguy

Brittany, France

Christmas around the world; focus on France

Posted by Luci Ackers on Nov 29, 2016
Christmas around the world; focus on France

Christmas in France: differences and similarities

In France Father Christmas is known as Père Noël. 'Noël' originates from the old Latin word natalis which means 'birth'. It is thought that the name Noël would have been used during the Middle Ages as a name for children born during the Christmas season.

The festivities sometimes kick off as early as December 5th when some families exchange gifts on the eve of Saint Nicholas...

So who was Saint Nicholas?

Having performed a number of miracles and kind deeds during the 4th century, and being known for his habit of secret gift-giving and kindness to children, Nicholas's reputation evolved into the character Sinterklaas and eventually grew into the basis for Santa Claus, who is celebrated today.

One of his more famous acts was to hide money in the shoes of children. The tradition continues today with youngsters leaving their shoes out over night to be filled with gifts and opened in the morning of December the 6th, the feast day of Saint Nicholas.

In French households there is often a feast on Christmas Eve called réveillon and it is an extravagant affair with a number of courses and rich dishes. It is not unusual to have roast goose, oysters, foie gras and similar foods. Like in the UK, Christmas morning is the more popular day for everyone to gather and open their presents.

Joyeux Noël! - Happy Christmas!

Christmas Day is a family time and a number of households burn a Yule log. In France cherry is the traditional wood to burn, while in England it would have been oak. The practice dates back certainly to Medieval times, though it is thought the tradition actually originates from Scandinavia and was first a folk custom.

With this in mind one of the customary desserts during a French Christmas is the Yule log, a chocolate roulard sponge, rolled and decorated to resemble a chopped branch. This is called bûche de Noël.

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Luci Ackers
Author: Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

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