A feast! Christmas in france, a child’s affair

Jérôme is French and comes from a small town near Lyon in France. He is currently visiting Germany. At the Advent breakfast we talk about how differently we celebrate Christmas. Jérôme recalls how he celebrated Christmas in France as a little boy.

Garlands and sapin de noël

When Jérôme thinks of the pre-Christmas season in France, the first thing that comes to mind is colorful and glittering garlands. They will be hung all over the city in early December. But not only the city, but also the living rooms are festively decorated long before Christmas. Of course, garlands should not be missing here either. A week before Christmas the Christmas tree (sapin de noël) is bought, which is placed in the living room. Jérôme was always there when the tree was chosen and would have loved to take the tallest home with him every time.

Joyeux Noël!

On the evening of December 24th, Jérôme’s family came together to celebrate Christmas. In France, Christmas is not a holiday, everyone has to work until the evening. That is why the Christmas tree is decorated together a few days before Christmas. Here in Germany the Christmas tree is often decorated during the day on December 24th. As soon as the whole family is there, you wish for Joyeux Noël! That means "Merry Christmas" in French. Pronounced it sounds like "Schoajö Noel".

The banquet begins

At the beginning of the banquet there was a special Christmas shower for the children each year to toast with the adults, Jérôme recalls. After that, it starts with the most important thing for Christmas in France: the food!

Small appetizers such as olives, chips and peanuts are on the festively decorated Christmas table. Jérôme still knows exactly how his parents warned the children every year not to eat too much of the little things. Because you still needed space in your stomach for all the other food. The first course is served oysters and goose liver. Jérôme didn’t like either at all as a child. That’s why his grandmother smoked salmon for all the children one day before Christmas. It is still something very special in the Jérôme family. Every time Jérôme talks about it, the water runs in him mouth together.

The next course is another delicacy in France: snails. There is even a special plate with hollows and small tongs for this dish. Then there is turkey with chestnuts. These are sweet chestnuts that you can buy from us at the Christmas market. It is usually almost 10 p.m. after the turkey and everyone has to hurry to get to the fair in time come.

Time for desserts

Back from the fair it is almost midnight. Since the Christmas dinner is the highlight of Christmas Eve in France, the meal can take a few hours and all children can stay up late into the night. The first dessert is cheese and fruit. That sounds a bit strange to you – cheese as a dessert. This is very common for the French. France is known for its particularly delicious cheese. Jérôme never found the cheese to be particularly tasty.

He therefore spent the time until the sweet dessert eating papillote. Papillote means candy wrapping paper in French. Papillote are small chocolate candies wrapped in gold or silver paper. They are all over the table and scattered throughout the rest of the apartment. Every candy contains a small message, a quote, a joke or even a small firecracker. History says that the papillote was invented around 1800. A young clerk sent small messages to the woman he was in love with.

Then finally the book de noël is eaten. Bȗche de noël means Christmas tree trunk. It usually consists of chocolate butter cream or ice cream and is e.g. decorated with icing mushrooms. In France it used to be common to have logs in the fireplace for Christmas burn. At some point there were no longer large ovens and so the Christmas dessert in the form of a tree trunk was invented.

A thousand gifts from heaven

After eating, it’s finally about the presents. Jérôme remembers exactly how he never took his eyes off the clock. Because Santa comes at midnight. So that he really comes, you have to call him. You do that in France with the Christmas carol “Petit Papa Noël”. Translated this means "Little Santa Claus". The song is about Santa coming from heaven with a thousand gifts. He is asked not to forget to leave gifts in the shoes. Jérôme was always excited when there was a knock on the door and Santa Claus brought the presents.


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Christina Cherry
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