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CultureFrench Christmas Traditions

Christmas in France is a holiday spent with family and wonderful food. Nowhere is the importance of dinning in French culture more evident than at Christmas. The meal I had at my in-laws for Christmas 2001 is a good example; it started off with a salmon appetizer followed by foie gras (duck liver), pâté and bread, with Montbazillac wine. Then, for the main course, we had turkey with chestnuts and endive, with red côte du rhone wine. Our meal concluded with cheese, followed by a buche de Nöel, the traditional French Christmas cake that looks like a log. Huîtres (oysters) are also a part of the traditional Christmas meal; they are eaten raw, not cooked.

Most families will open their presents on Christmas Eve and not on Christmas Day. Some families in France will open their presents on December 6th, Saint Nicholas Day, and not on Christmas Day.

France being a Catholic country, Crèches (nativity scenes) are everywhere and are very detailed and beautiful. Many French people will go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve after their family dinner.

The French region of Alsace is long on Christmas tradition; the town of Sélestat calls itself the "Christmas tree town," because in 1521 the first written record of the selling of a Christmas tree is recorded in the local Humanistic Library. In Strasbourg, for the last 400 years or so, there is a Christmas market spread throughout the old part of the city during the month of December. Lastly, the town of Gertwiller likes to call itself the "Capital of Gingerbread," because since the middle ages its bakers have been baking - you guessed it - Gingerbread! For more information on the Christmas traditions of Alsace see, Christmas Around the World.

Related Article:
Christmas Markets

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