Culture  Jingle bells in France
24/12/201500:00 TV5MONDE

Christmas in France, do you know how it works?  

Christmas is a Christian festival celebrated with family on the night of December 24th to 25th after work and on 25th all day. Every year, it commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. December 25th is a public holiday in France which allows a family gathering around one or several festive meals and the exchange of gifts around the Christmas tree.  

Several days before Christmas, towns and villages of France take on a festive air. The facade of the town halls are decorated and huge Christmas trees are displayed in public squares. The main streets and trees are all covered with Christmas fairy lights. Department stores create very nice windows decorations and display some depict robots or toys. Children are photographed in Santa's company.



Christmas Eve dinner is the apotheosis of the festival. After celebrating the midnight mass on December 24th, family members gather around a table filled with delicious food. A typical meal starts with a Champagne aperitif, which is the festive drink par excellence. Then, the first course is made of seafood and oysters or smoked salmon are especially popular. Others prefer to have some foie gras with gingerbread. Then the main course is chicken, roat capon or turkey accompanied with chestnuts. We then serve a cheese platter with green salad before the traditional Christmas yule log made of ice, pastry, chocolate, vanilla or fruits.
These dinners are an opportunity to prepare all family recipes and to source fresh and authentic products on the Christmas markets.



Most families celebrate Christmas at home. They embelish their interiors with a Christmas tree decorated with Christmas lights, colorful balls and a star on top. With leaves that never fall, the Christmas tree recalls the tree of paradise and is the symbol of immortality. Nowadays, this tradition is known worldwide; but it takes its origin in Alsace. In 1708, Charlotte, the wife of Duke Philip of Orleans and sister-alliance by King Louis XIV, mentioned this Christmas tree tradition for the first time in one of her letters. Back then, the Christmas tree decoration was much more classic since it was only decorated with red apples, nuts and cookies. The tradition of the Christmas tree has now crossed borders. First ornaments appeared in the town of Meisenthal in Moselle (in the Lorraine region in north-eastern France). Winter in 1858 was so severe that there was no more apples to decorate the trees. A glass craftsman then had the idea of creating glass apples. 


Gifts, that have been made by elves, are usually placed right under the tree. During the night, Santa, who travels on his sleigh drawn by reindeers, drops the elves. Santa slides down the chimney to enter the houses. Gifts are opened by children during the day on December 25th. Adults sometimes exchange their gifts the day before, that is to say after Eve.  
The customs related to the celebration of the Nativity vary according to French regions. In 
Provence for exemple, crèches (Nativity scenes) are very popular and can be decorated with small terracotta figurines called santons. As an ideal representation of a Provencal village, each santon represents every character and profession of the village: a miller, a baker, a shepherd ... all of them take place around the Holy family.  There are so many regions with their own tradition in France that it is hard to list them all...
However, here is an overview of the different ways to wish "Merry Christmas" in dialects, 

Alsatian: Fràliche Wihnorde
Basque: Eguberri On
Breton: Nedeleg laouen
Catalan  Bon Nadal
Corsican: Bon Natale
Créole: Bon Nwèl (Guadeloupe), jénwèl (Martinique), zwayé Noèl (Île de la Réunion)
Franc-comtois: Bon Nâ, Noué
Gallo: Boun Noué
Gascon: Bon Nadau
Niçois: Bouòni Calèna
Normand: Bouon Noué
Occitan: Bon Nadal
Poitevin: Boune Nàu
Provencal: Bon Nouvé, Nadau ou encore Calèndo 
Savoyard: Bones Chalendes 

Merry Christmas to you all!

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