Today we will take a little tour of the Christmas traditions in France. This is one of the most anticipated times of the year because it is synonymous with family reunions, feasts and gifts, all with a joyous and festive atmosphere. The celebration of Christmas on the 25th of December began during the fourth century. Previously, this date was the day of the pagan festival of the winter solstice, called the Birth of the Sun. Christmas plays a large part in French customs during this time of the year.
What is Advent? Many assume that the word
before Christmas, since it is what we call the period that
precedes the holiday. But the etymology of the word is a bit
different. The Latin term
arrival, and for
Christians this means the coming of Jesus Christ to Earth. Thus, Advent is used
to prepare for the arrival of the child. The Advent calendar is
itself a Germanic invention consisting of 24 little doors to be opened on the
24 days before Christmas. Each door includes an image, biblical
quote or a small candy for kids to enjoy.
Midnight Mass is the Mass celebrated by Catholics on the day before Christmas, Christmas Eve. Midnight Mass is very popular in France, bringing together practitioners and non-practitioners.
The Christmas Eve is also the time for Christmas dinner. This feast often included oysters, smoked salmon or foie gras. As a main course, the famous Christmas turkey and lobster are eaten. Then, for dessert, plenty of Christmas treats!
The tradition of the Christmas tree represents life and immortality. This symbolic tree is decorated and provides a place to display gifts. Depending on the family, the gifts are opened either after midnight on the 24th or on the morning of Chrsitmas morning. Since Santa comes at night, most homes with small children prefer to open gifts in the morning to preserve the magic of Christmas. The day of Saint-Nicolas, the patron saint of children, is celebrated on 6 December.
Christmas markets are a classic in Alsace, but also in many other regions. These magical locations are usually installed during the last week of November. They create a special, festive atmosphere in the city squares on which they appear. On weekends, families walk along the small shops through a lighted Christmas village discovering handicrafts often unique to the region. Mulled wine, crepes and cinnamon cakes help to warm hearts and are mandatory for these magical atmospheres.