Posted in Kafevend Blog

Following our recent look at the Christmas traditions of Italy and the Netherlands, we turn to another European nation today. For those living in the south of the UK, France is closer at hand than much of their own nation, yet our status as an island separates us both linguistically and culturally. So how does a typical French family celebrate Christmas? Do they share our devotion to turkey and brussel sprouts? Do the children hang up stockings on Christmas Eve? It's time to find out!

Sharing borders with as many countries as it does, it should come as no surprise that French Christmas celebrations vary according to region. French children receive presents from Father Christmas, or Père Noël, on Christmas Eve. Nevertheless, in parts of northern and eastern France the feast of St. Nicholas is also celebrated on December 6th as it is in Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. In other areas the most significant day in the Christmas season is Epiphany, or la fête des Rois (feast of  Kings), as we discovered is the case in Italy too.

The serious eating begins for most on Christmas Eve with a meal named le Réveillon, which means awakening. Traditionally it's eaten at home with one's own close family after midnight mass. While fewer people attend the service these days, the custom of eating le Réveillon endures. Much effort and planning is put into producing a sumptuous feast. In Provence, this Christmas Eve meal is known as le Gros Souper (the great supper) and contains various symbolic elements. The table is laid with three white tablecloths and three candlesticks to represent the Holy Trinity; there are thirteen desserts to symbolise Jesus and his twelve disciples. Thirteen desserts might sound unmanageable, but many of them are accounted for by various fruits and nuts. A very popular Christmas dessert throughout France and beyond is la bûche de Noël – the Yule log. Visit the blog tomorrow for a delicious, easy to follow Yule log recipe.

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