The Ultimate Guide to Christmas in France

The Ultimate Guide to Christmas in France

Whether you are browsing the traditional marchés de Noël with a vin chaud in hand, enjoying the spectacular Christmas lights or tucking into a delicious Réveillon feast, France is the perfect place to spend Christmas. Christmas gets started on the 6th of December in most regions of France, with la fête de Saint Nicolas, and the turning on of lights.

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you enjoy the festive season in France…

A traditional French Christmas

Towns and villages are bedecked in lights, advent calendars are out and the shops are full of festive offerings – the lead up to Christmas is not that different in France than in the UK.

One difference is that it is not customary to send cards in France – you may find some extortionately priced cards in the shops as it is not common to send cards to everyone you know, only the occasional card hand-delivered to a close friend or family member. It is of course, customary to give and receive gifts – you might find some inspiration in our 2023 Gift Guide.


Fun Fact: Since 1962, the French post office has been responding to each letter sent to Père Noël through the postal service, with a team of Santa secretaries in Libourne opening and replying to the letters.


If you’re wondering how Christmas is celebrated in France, take a look at how they tend to decorate for the festivities. A crèche or Nativity scene can be found in many homes, featuring santons of various characters made from clay in Provence. Talking of Provence, why not read about Carol Drinkwater’s Christmas in the region. If you enjoy reading real life stories, you can read about this Australian’s first French Christmas, as they attempt to embrace the traditions.

Traditionally, Christmas Eve is when the French have their big Christmas meal, and some households choose to also have a feast on Christmas Day at lunchtime – scroll down to see what’s included in a typical Christmas meal, plus some recipe ideas…

Test your knowledge of French Christmas traditions with this quiz… and let us know how you did!

Quiz! How much do you know about French Christmas traditions?

Visiting Paris at Christmas

Galeries Lafayette – Trey Ratcliff

Where better to celebrate the festive season than in the City of Light – wonderful Paris? I’m sure we don’t have to tell you why a visit to the capital at Christmas is recommended, but if you’re looking for reasons, we’ve listed some!

But what will be on your Paris Christmas bucket list? Check out this list and pick your favourite things to do in Paris at Christmas.

French Christmas Markets

One of France’s biggest Christmas traditions is its markets, and Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmarkt, which dates back to 1570, is the most famous. The markets feature stalls selling festive gifts, food and souvenirs, and sometimes there’ll be an ice rink. We’ve put together a list of our favourite marchés de Noël at which you can sample regional specialties. While these are our favourites in Paris.

Le marché de Noël Colmar

Christmas Food & Drink in France

Planning on visiting one of those beautiful Christmas markets this December, and want to know what food and drink you should be looking out for? Here’s our top picks of what to eat and drink at a marché de Noël.

If you’re hoping to serve up a feast for your family and friends this Christmas, take a look at our French Christmas Recipe Roundup with options for all courses.

Throughout December, shops sell festive delicacies including foie gras, oysters and snails, and the centrepiece of the meal is a goose or turkey. In Provence, some households have les treize desserts, a plethora of puddings representative of Jesus and the 12 disciples to follow the seven courses that represent the seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary.

A chocolate bûche de Noël is often served as dessert, a yule log decorated with Christmas signage and mini gifts. To mark Epiphany on 6th January a Galette des Rois is enjoyed, and a member of the household is declared ‘King’ or ‘Queen’ for the day.

Galette des Rois – Steph Gray

If you’re wondering why you should put scallops on your shopping list this Christmas, take a look at our choice of Christmas recipes, from festive spiced gingerbread cookies to four impressive, but oh-so easy, French desserts to finish off your feast.

We’ve also put together the ultimate French cheeseboard for you to serve at Christmas – you’re welcome! As France is a country of gastronomic excellence, one of these foodie gifts might be perfect for the Francophile in your life.

Christmas Entertainment in France

Whether you’re after a feel-good comedy or something more gritty, there’s a French Christmas movie to suit your mood, here are five of our favourite French Christmas films.

Get in the competitive spirit with our Christmas language quiz, and see how well you know your festive French vocab. Or have some fun with our Christmas puzzles.

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