Want to give your Christmas decorations a French twist this year? Here are some ideas…
Christmas decorations have so much more meaning when there’s a story behind them, and in France, some of our favourite festive ornaments have a history going back hundreds of years. These decorations may be steeped in history, but thankfully, they are still fashionable today. So read on to to discover the history behind some of France’s favourite seasonal decorations and where you can find them…
Modelled from baked clay, santons are little figurines that you put in a nativity crib are typically handmade and painted in Provence. The crib figures include the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph plus other characters including a charcutier, a shepherdess, a musician and animals so as to re-enact a scene from 19th-century Provence. Most santonniers ship to the UK, though you can head to one of the many santons markets taking place from mid-November to Christmas Eve in and around Aix-en-Provence.
Every year, Lyon hosts the Fête des Lumières in December where buildings in the town centre are animated with illuminations projected onto the façades. The festival has a religious origin expressing thanks to Mary, mother of Jesus. Inhabitants of Lyon place small candles in the windows of their homes and you can do the same with this set of white and gold lanterns from Melody Maison, £20.95.
Baubles for Christmas trees
Traditionally, people used to decorate their Christmas trees with real fruit such as apples or pears. Legend says that in 1958, a terrible drought plagued the Vosges mountains and there were no fruit to adorn the trees come Christmas. So a glass blower from Goetzenbruck, a town in Moselle, tried to replicate the fruit by creating glass balls to hang on the branches. Thus a tradition was born and the already famous glassblowing industry or nearby Meseinthal branched out to create glass Christmas baubles. You can shop these beautiful models online at ciav-meisenthal.fr or in their various shops in Meisenthal, Strasbourg, Metz, Colmar or even Paris.
Another traditional decorative element originates in Alsace and particularly in Mulhouse. Every year, a Christmas pattern is revealed and replicated on thick swathes of fabric which is proudly exhibited in town in elaborate decorations. Instead of baubles and tinsel, people tie ribbons or intricate knots to their tree using fabric boasting the Christmas pattern.
Of course, Christmas cannot take place without a tree. In France, the vast majority of Christmas trees are grown in the Morvan regional park in Burgundy. Indeed, even the President’s tree has been known to be shipped from there. You can shop real or artificial trees at Truffaut like this artificial Morvan tree at €229.90.
A lovely decorative element is a Christmas wreath. You could always pick mistletoe and holly from the forests, like the French do, but if you aren’t near the woods, this elegant (albeit artificial) wreath is a great alternative. You can get it for £45 at Not On The High Street.Check out our Pinterest board for more festive French inspiration!