A Few Favorite French Christmas Traditions

By Catherine Rickman

Christmastime is all about pomp and circumstance and tradition, and who does tradition better than the meticulous French? In this video from France-based New Zealander Rosie (AKA Not Even French, currently back in NZ for quarantine), you’ll get to explore a few of the fun habits the French have picked up over several hundred Decembers.

Some things are similar, like Santa Claus or Père Noël, but did you know about his spooky brother, Père Fouettard? How about what a papillote is? Or what French children leave out for Santa instead of stockings? Rosie touches on things like the religious remnants of Catholic France, like the popularity of calendriers de l’avent or the handmade santons in a crèche, or nativity scene. She covers Réveillon, the great Christmas Eve feast (more on that here), and mentions the delicious Treize Desserts popular in Provence. And we’ll help fill in her gaps on knowledge of French Christmas songs in this list.

So whether you’re spending Christmas in France, or just dreaming of the vitrines at the Galeries Lafayette, enjoy this little sampler of French holiday customs this season.

Source: A Few Favorite French Christmas Traditions – Frenchly

Paris prepares for its first Christmas outside Notre Dame

Notre Dame
Notre Dame

The cathedral’s famed celebrations will take place at Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois as its congregants and choir carry their faith “beyond the walls.”

Notre Dame kept Christmas going even during two world wars – a beacon of hope amid the bloodshed.

Yet an accidental fire in peacetime finally stopped the Paris cathedral from celebrating Midnight Mass this year, for the first time in over two centuries.

As the lights stay dim in the once-invincible 855-year-old landmark, officials are trying hard to focus on the immediate task of keeping burned out Notre Dame’s spirit alive in exile through service, song, and prayer.

“This is the first time since the French Revolution that there will be no midnight Mass [at Notre Dame],” cathedral rector Patrick Chauvet told The Associated Press.

There was even a Christmas service amid the carnage of World War I, Mr. Chauvet noted, “because the canons were there and the canons had to celebrate somewhere,” referring to the cathedral’s clergy. During World War II, when Paris was under Nazi occupation, “there was no problem.” He said that to his knowledge, it was only closed for Christmas in the period after 1789, when the anti-Catholic French revolutionaries turned the monument into “a temple of reason.”

Christmas-in-exile at Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois this year will be a history-making moment.

“We have the opportunity to celebrate the Mass outside the walls, so to speak … but with some indicators that Notre Dame is connected to us,” Mr. Chauvet said.

Those indicators include a wooden liturgical platform that has been constructed in the Saint-Germain church to resemble Notre Dame’s own. A service will be led at midnight on Dec. 24 by Mr. Chauvet to a crowd of faithful, including many who would normally worship in the cathedral, accompanied by song from some of Notre Dame’s now-itinerant choir.

The cathedral’s iconic Gothic sculpture “The Virgin of Paris,” from which some say Notre Dame owes its name, is also on display in the new annex.

The 14th-century masterpiece, which measures around six feet and depicts Mary and baby Jesus, has come to embody the officials’ message of hope following the fire.

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