France - Christmas Customs and Traditions

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Joyeux Noel! (Merry Christmas), is the phrase that resonates everywhere in France, at Christmas time.

The French respect Christmas days, as some sacred and important meaning to be with the whole family. For them this holiday is marked by generosity, a deep peace and serenity, gifts, the midnight Liturgy and humanitarian gestures for the needy.

One of the Christmas traditions of the French, which dates back hundreds of years, says that every family was to prepare the cake of the three Magi. In this cake it is hidden a grain of bean. Who find it became King or Queen of the day.

In France the houses are decorated with scenes with figurines representing moments of Jesus birth. "Creche", means representations of the same themes: baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, "santons" (little Saints). The figurines are made of clay, painted by folk artisans who sell their work in the Christmas fairs.

The highlight of the Christmas meal for the French is the traditional "Bûche de Noël", a chocolate cake. The people of France think that the time spent with family members on Christmas day is a quality time. At the same time, dinner represents a true feast, preparations, such as roast turkey, goose, duck, bacon and wine are irreplaceable.

‘’Sapin de Noel’’ (Noel's Tree), is a must have decoration that trim houses, streets, offices and factories. ‘’Sapin de Noel’’ appeared in the 14th century in Alsace, decorated with apples, paper flowers and ribbons, being introduced in France in 1837.

The traditional desserts are: ‘’Buche de Noel’’ (Yule Log), consisting of a long chocolate cake with chestnuts. ‘’La Galette des Rois’’ (‘’King’s cake’’), is a round cake, cut into pieces by a child hidden under the table, called "le petit roi" or "L'Enfant soleil" (the little King or baby). Whoever finds the bean hidden in the cake becomes "King" or "Queen" and may choose a partner. Another tradition, especially in the South of France is to share ‘’Calendeau bread’’, to a poor men.

Christmas fairs held in France have a special beauty with a lot of things dedicated to this holiday. In this Christmas period, in front of the Cathedrals there are theatre scenes and puppet shows, representing the scene of Jesus Christ’s birth.

In Christmas morning, children and parents gather together to see what brought them Santa Claus. The day 25 December is called "Twelfth Day" in some areas of France. It is the last of the 12 days of Christmas, the period which, in the past, it was a holiday weekend.



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