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7 Festive French Traditions

Celebrate a Joyeux Noel as the French do

Every country has its own traditions during the festive season. For the Brits it’s hanging a stocking by the fireplace and a turkey roast. Here are some of the ways Christmas in France differs from ours.

1. Back in 1962, a law was passed decreeing that all letters addressed to Le Père Noël must be responded to with a postcard. 

2. The tradition of decorating Christmas trees goes back to 16th century Alsace, when people would hang apples and nuts on the trees' branches.

3. The French Santa has an evil twin – Père Fouettard, or the “whipping father”, rides on the back of the sleigh and whips children that have been naughty.

4. The main Christmas feast is taken on Christmas Eve, or following Midnight Mass, and is called Le Réveillon. Dishes that are typically served include escargots, oysters, goose, turkey and a cheese plate.

Galette des Rois
Galette des Rois

5. Epiphany is celebrated in France with a Galette des Rois, a sweet cake made from puff pastry and frangipane and served with a paper crown on top.

6. Many French homes burn candles in their windows to light the way for the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus as they pass.

7. The village of Viella in the Gers celebrates New Year with a torchlight procession to the vineyards, after which the grape harvest begins.

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