If we are to go by historical records, the idea for a Christmas festival originated in Alsace many centuries back and while Alsace was in Germany then, it is now a province of France. So France and Christmas go back a long way. It is a common misconception that the French do are not much excited about Christmas, however that isn’t true, French are extremely religious and Christmas is a major festival for them. They also have many Christmas traditions that are unique to them.
Known as Father Christmas or Santa Claus in most countries, Père Noël distributes gifts to French Children. Père Noël travels with his companion Père Fouettard who reminds Père Noël just how every child has behaved during the previous year. Well-behaved children receive gifts of their choice from Père Noël while badly behaved children run the risk of being spanked by Père Fouettard. In some parts of France, Père Noël visits on
St. Nicholas’s Evening only to return again on Christmas. Children leave their shoes by the fireplace so that Père Noël can fill them up with candy and other treats. Many times they also find that fruits and candies have been strung on the branches of the Christmas tree. Adults wait till New Year’s Eve to exchange their gifts.
Sapin de Noël
One of the most important decoration is France during Christmas is the Sapin De Noël or Christmas Tree . People use it to decorate their homes, shops and offices.
Hélène de Mecklembourg was a German princess who married the Duke of Orleans, the heir to the French throne. She is commonly credited for having introduced the wonderful Sapin de Noel to France. The French believe that the Christmas tree is a reflection of God and nature and therefore it represents all the natural elements such as forests and seas, and the wonderful star which points to heaven like a beacon of light.
Büche de Noël
The French have a special Christmas cake called the Büche de Noël. This log shaped cake is an annual Christmas tradition and is made of rolled up sponge cake filled with a delicious filling of cream. The outside of the cake is usually covered in chocolate to give it the appearance of a log. The log is an ancient symbol which has for long been associated with Christmas. In many parts of France, a log is still burnt from Christmas Eve till New Year's Eve in many homes
The Thirteen Desserts
There is also a tradition of serving 13 different kinds of dessert at a traditional Christmas meal. These desserts symbolize Christ and his twelve Apostles. This custom is specially observed in Provence.
The Christmas Crib known as La Créche in France is also said to have originated in France and therefore you are likely to find cribs depicting Nativity scenes all over the place. You have to truly experience a French Christmas to realize just how much fun it can be!