Do the French have Christmas trees

Christmas in France

A festive decoration is also part of Christmas in France (© Atout France / Fabrice Milochau)
As in many European countries, Christmas is celebrated in France as a big festival where families come together. Although Christmas decorations are already being used in the run-up to Christmas, Advent calendars, as they are often used in Germany, are not common in France.

How does Christmas Eve go in France?

Christmas Eve starts off as a normal working day, the children go to school, and shops are often open until 6 or 8 p.m. For the family, Christmas does not begin until midnight mass in the festively decorated church, which, contrary to what its name suggests, often takes place in the early evening. Then everyone meets for the classic Christmas dinner, "le réveillon", which traditionally consists of a turkey stuffed with chestnuts or a capon with a plum filling. Oysters, the typical French “foie gras”, the stuffed foie gras and candied chestnuts are served with it. Fish, cheese platters and other delicacies round off the rich Christmas meal. Sparkling champagne is served as a drink. The so-called "bûche de Noël", the Christmas tree cake, is particularly important. This goes back to the custom of burning a tree trunk on Christmas Eve. The ashes of this tree were scattered in the fields after the holidays, which was supposed to promise good luck and a successful harvest.

How to decorate the house for Christmas in France

The house or apartment is often decorated with sprigs of holly, which promise success for the coming year. Most households also have a nativity scene. Of course there is also a Christmas tree in French households, the "sapin décoré" or "sapin de Noël", which is decorated in a colorful way, just like in Germany. What many do not know: The tradition of the Christmas tree originated in the French Alsace and from here spread throughout Europe.

And who brings the presents?

Père Noël, as Santa Claus is called in France, brings the Christmas presents on the night of December 24th to 25th. The children put their shoes next to the fireplace or under the Christmas tree. The "Christmas father", dressed in a red coat with a pointed cap or a hood, carries the presents with him in a wooden box on his back and secretly climbs through the chimney at night to fill the provided shoes with the presents. The gifts will then be given on the morning of December 25th. Unlike in Germany, for example, December 26th is no longer a public holiday in France. Christmas ends on December 25th.

Regional differences

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as 'that' Christmas in France. Because, of course, there are a number of different Christmas customs regionally. Nativity plays are often held in Provence. The Christmas dinner is also very opulent. The Last Supper is symbolized with 7 meals and 13 different desserts. Trying all 13 desserts should promise happiness and health for the coming year. In Alsace, Christmas begins with the first Advent and does not end until Epiphany in January. Nativity plays are an important part of the Christmas festival, in the run-up to Christmas there are Christmas markets and the houses are festively decorated and illuminated. On December 4th, branches are cut from a fruit tree and placed in a vase in the living room. If these branches then bloom for Christmas, this is considered a happy omen for the course of the coming year.

Find out more about Christmas in France

Comparison of Advent in France and Germany

The Advent season in France and Germany is a time of preparation for the great Christmas festival. However, it has significantly more traditions in Germany than in France. In France, for example, there are only a few cities with a Christmas market.