Festivities in France

Bonjour à toutes et à tous et bonne année ! J’espère que vous avez tous passé un merveilleux Noël. Dans ce billet de blog, je vais vous parler de Noël ainsi que d’autres choses festives qui se passent en France à cette période de l’année.


Bien qu’il y ait de nombreuses similitudes dans la façon dont Noël est célébré en France, j’ai également remarqué quelques différences que je vais exposer. To begin, I found that unlike the UK, Christmas est beaucoup moins commercialisé and not as widely celebrated in France. For example, I didn’t see illuminations de Noël in most towns until late November at the very earliest and similar can be said about des chocolats et des cadeaux de Noël in the supermarkets. According to statistics*, France is the country in Europe which least looks forward to Christmas and I found this was reflected in the attitudes of many students in my class. When I was teaching at le lycée, I was sharing how we celebrate Christmas in the UK. Plus de la moitié des élèves de ma classe ne fêtaient pas Noël and in general there was a lot less excitement for the festive period. La musique et les chants de Noël aren’t really a part of the build-up to Christmas. In addition, the pupils in my lycée were shocked to find out that we write des cartes de Noël to so many people as nobody seems to do that in France. (However, some French people send New year cards instead wishing une Bonne Année). Furthermore, en raison de la laïcité in public schools in France, there are no nativity plays at school.  


Personnellement, j’adore la période de Noël so to get myself into l’esprit des fêtes, I visited some marchés de Noël. I wanted to go to the Christmas capital of Europe but unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time. Do you know where I’m talking about? … Instead, I visited the markets in Lyon and Dijon.

The market stalls typically take the form of chalet’s, and they tend to sell beaucoup d’artisanat local et de spécialités culinaires. It was a great place to do some Christmas shopping to pick up some traditional French goods to give to my family. Just like in Scotland, il faisait très froid in my region of France during this time of the year so to warm myself up, I bought vin-chaud from one of the vendor’s. While in the UK I would be taking advantage of this season to eat lots of mince pies, I couldn’t do that in France as ils n’existent pas. Instead, I enjoyed pain d’épices (a cross between bread and cake which contains spices), c’est très savoureux – I would definitely recommend! (Although it doesn’t beat mince pies :p)

Au marché de Noël de Dijon, il y avait une patinoire, alors je suis allée faire du patin à glace avec mes copines. Cela ne coûtait qu’un euro pour 50 minutes – quelle bonne affaire !

Personnellement, je suis rentrée en Écosse pour Noël afin de pouvoir passer du temps avec mes amis et ma famille. So, I celebrated Christmas according to UK traditions however, my French friends explained to me how it commonly is spent in France.

Normally, the main family gathering takes place on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. Practising Catholic French families attend la Masse de Minuit which is then followed by a big meal in the early hours of the morning called Le Réveillon. The meal varies by region and from family to family but it generally tends to include du champagne, des huîtres, du foie gras, des escargots, de la dinde farcie aux marrons and is completed by une Bûche de Noël for dessert.

On Christmas morning, children wake up to see what Père Noël has left them in their shoes. Rather than putting up a Christmas stocking, it is tradition for French children to leave out une paire de chaussures for Santa Claus to fill.

Another difference between Christmas in France and the UK which I think is important to note is the fact that the French do not celebrate Boxing Day. It is not even a public holiday!

Connaissiez-vous ces différences ?

New Year

New Year in France is celebrated very similarly to the way it is in the UK however one thing I have noticed is the difference in etiquette with regards to New Years Greetings. In France, it is totally acceptable to wish someone a Bonne Année many weeks after le jour de l’an. In fact, it is customary up to the 31st of January to say Bonne Année to people that you’ve not yet saw and wished it to.

La Galette de Rois

Before returning to France, I made une Galette de Rois. This is a cake that is made from puff pastry. It is normally filled with frangipane and paired with un verre de cidre. Usually this is eaten on the Epiphany, on the 6th January. Inside there is une fève and whoever finds it in their slice gets be the King for the day (and wear la couronne which comes with the galettes you buy). De plus, if you have the fève, it is believed that you will have a year pleine de chance et de prospérité. Upon my return to Lyon, I saw Galette’s everywhere in les boulangeries et les supermarchés.

Voici un lien vers la recette que j’ai utilisée :

Meilleure recette de la galette des rois frangipane par Hervé Cuisine (hervecuisine.com)

If anyone gives it a go, please leave a photo in the comments for me to see!

Voilà, vous êtes tous au courant de mon séjour en France entre décembre et maintenant. I hope you all had a relaxing break over the Christmas holidays and I’m looking forward to reading your comments and catching-up on the next blog post! S’il y a quelque chose que vous aimeriez que j’écrive, n’hésitez pas à le demander dans les commentaires.

À la prochaine,



2 thoughts on “Festivities in France

  1. Salut Emma,

    Merci beaucoup for the two blogs! We read them both in class and really enjoyed learning about all of the recent festivities! We have discussed them and have come up with a few questions.

    What do French people celebrate if they don’t celebrate Christmas? Are there any other celebrations throughout the year that everyone celebrates? What about Easter?

    What happens in France if people disagree with the laïcité rule? Is this a law?

    Was it strange being in France around Christmas? Did it not feel Christmassy?

    How long do French students get for lunch at school and what do they eat? We would like to know a wee bit more about French schools if possible!

    We love learning about the city of Lyon and looking at your photos.
    S3 at Clydebank HS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Salut S3,

      Merci bien pour votre questions. Voici mes réponses.

      Was it strange being in France around Christmas? Did it not feel Christmassy?

      C’était un peu étrange d’être en France pendant la période des fêtes. I definitely felt the least Christmassy I have ever felt. Maybe it is because I am getting older, but I think it was also because there was a lot less excitement and anticipation in France. I gave Christmas cards to some of my colleagues, and I think they were a little surprised as no other teachers gave each other cards. My mentor teacher explained to me that French people don’t really send Christmas cards to each other unless it is to family who live really far away. The overall impression I got in France was that people cared more about la nourriture they were going to eat on Christmas and spending time with family than presents or anything else.

      What do French people celebrate if they don’t celebrate Christmas? Are there any other celebrations throughout the year that everyone celebrates? What about Easter?

      Some of my pupils didn’t celebrate anything at all. The reason for many in that category was that they are Muslim and so that was the why they did not celebrate Christmas. While in the UK elements of Christmas are celebrated by most people regardless of their religion, this isn’t always the same case in France. It is the same for Easter. Traditionnellement, Pâques est une fête chrétienne. While there are many non-Christians that choose to celebrate this holiday, there are also plenty of people who don’t celebrate it at all in any way. In France, Easter Monday is un jour férié. It is celebrated very similarly as it is in the UK, with egg hunting (La chausse Aux Oeufs)- except it is magic bells that delivers the eggs, not the Easter bunny – and of course like any other tradition in France, Pâques involves a family get together around a home-cooked meal, with un gigot d’agneau (a leg of lamb) being the star of the show.

      The biggest celebration in France is Bastille Day. C’est une fête nationale en France et elle est célébrée le 14 juillet. It marks the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 by revolutionaries signalling the start of the French Revolution. Elle est célébrée dans tout le pays par des fêtes, des défilés, des feux d’artifice, des drapeaux français et le chant de l’hymne national français – La Marseillaise.

      What happens in France if people disagree with the laïcité rule? Is this a law?

      Laïcité is a pillar of France’s political and cultural identity. In 1905, the concept of Laïcité was introduced into law, following a long history of struggles by republicans against royalist and authoritarian movements that were supported by the Catholic church. In broad terms, Laïcité refers to the freedom of citizens and of public institutions from the influence of organized religion. En d’autres termes, religious expression is prohibited in the public sphere and the State is neutral regarding religion.

      Laïcité est compliquée et controversée, mainly because it can be said to disproportionately affect certain religious groups more than others. Par exemple, in school you cannot show your religion because it is a public institution. As a Christian, this means you cannot be seen wearing a necklace with a cross and as a Muslim you cannot wear your hijab.

      In some of my classes, there are girls who are Muslims. In the classroom they cannot wear their hijab but when they go out at lunchtime, they will put their hijab back on to respect Islam. Laïcité restricts Muslim religious expression more so than other religions and some consider it to exacerbate religious and racial tensions. While initially Laïcité was designed to enhance social harmony, in modern multicultural France some argue that it does the opposite. It is a contentious concept that is highly debated across France.

      How long do French students get for lunch at school and what do they eat? We would like to know a wee bit more about French schools if possible!

      En ce qui concerne le système scolaire français, restez à l’écoute pour mon prochain article de blog où je répondrai à toutes vos questions à ce sujet 😉


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