In part one, of this two-part feature, we looked at some of the fun traditions in France, like Père Noel (Santa Claus) decorating Christmas trees on Christmas Eve with candies, nuts, and small toys. We also looked at some different Christmas celebrations in different regions of France that go on during the month of December, in addition to Christmas day. In Part 2, we’ll discover some of the different decorations that are unique to France during this wonderful time of year.
Christmas Decorations in France
There are some regions in France that have Christmas trees, mostly near the German border, since Christmas trees are more a German custom. But much of France does not have a Christmas tree in the home as a part of their decorations. Some might say in the US that a Christmas tree is even the most common Christmas decoration. In France, however, it is the crèche (or nativity scene). There are many variations of the nativity scene, both indoor and outdoor nativity scenes, and even live nativity scenes. Nativities are very popular a Cathedral squares where both live and outdoor nativity sets can be enjoyed. The live nativity scenes are very endearing, with the use of puppets by skillful puppeteers, or actors playing the roles of those common to the nativity story, telling the beautiful story of Christ’s birth. Additionally, little hand crafted figurines called santons (little saint) are made and sold each year during two Christmas festivals in Marseille and Aix. Their popularity date back to the French revolution. During that time, large nativity scenes were outlawed, and the little figurines were a way to still decorate and celebrate Christmas. In southern regions of France, these figurines are still a popular tradition, with family members getting together to make them each year.
Christmas & Food in France
You can’t talk about Christmas in France without talking about the food. Of course, French cuisine has a reputation for being one of the highest achievements in flavor, presentation, and enjoyment. It would come as no surprise, then, that Christmas culinary traditions in France are just as delightful. As with other traditions in France, varying from region to region, Christmas dinner also varies from place to place. In Burgundy, you’ll find their main course is similar to here in the US, a turkey dinner, but with chestnuts. However, in Alsace goose is the main dish. In Paris, the main course may be foie gras and oysters. All of which sound delightful, don’t they? (I’ll have one of each, please!) Of course, if you think the main dishes in France are divine, you’ll think their desserts are heavenly especially their Christmas holiday deserts. Along with everything else in France, store window displays are beautiful, and display the tastiest Christmas delights. You can choose from delicious holiday bread, cakes, cookies, and even candied fruit, and of course macarons. One of my favorite French food traditions at Christmas, is Christmas desert. This is not just because of the amazing variety, but because Christmas desert represents something more. It is tradition to have thirteen deserts or treats, which are meant to represent Jesus and the twelve apostles during the last super. All thirteen deserts are to be served together, and everyone is supposed to try each different desert. Hmm, sounds like a wonderful tradition we should adopt here in the US. Who’s with me?