Between vin chaud, Joyeux Noël and other French Christmas traditions, there’s no shortage of French Christmas Vocabulary you need to know about (particularly if you’re planning to visit Paris this winter period, or indeed, the rest of France). Here’s your complete guide to French Christmas vocab!
French Christmas Vocabulary and French Christmas Traditions:
Joyeux Noël (Happy Christmas)
Noël is the French word for Christmas (and as such will feature heavily in this post). It is also where the name Noel originates from. During the middle ages, it was not uncommon for a child born in the festive season to be named after the holiday.
Bûche de Noël (Yule Log)
Originally a Nordic tradition, the burning of the yule log can be traced back hundreds of years. In Frace, red wine (for fragrance) is traditionally sprinkled over the carefully selected cherry wood ceremonial log before it is carried into the home and burned on Christmas Eve. The log is then left burning overnight.
Le Sapin de Noël (Christmas Tree)
The first recorded use of a Christmas tree in France dates all the way back to 1521 in the Alsace region. The original tree was covered in apples and lights. Much like in England, the fir tree is often chosen as a suitable Christmas tree in France as they do not lose their needles and symbolise eternal life.
Père/ Papa Noël (Father/ Daddy Christmas)
In eastern France, another character, Père Fouettard, traditionally accompanies Papa Noël on his present-delivering mission. While the children who have been well behaved during the course of the year receive sweeties, money and small toys in their stockings, Le Père Fouettard hands out coal to those who have misbehaved.
Renne (France) / Caribou (Canada) (Reindeer)
There is a French version of the song Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer; ‘Le p’tit renne au nez rouge,’ and while the tune remains, the lyrics are altogether entirely different.
Le Jour de l’An (New Year’s Day)
A public holiday in France, most people welcome in the New Year with a glass of vin chad or champagne. In a town named Viella near the Spanish border, there is a tradition for the villagers to descend onto the vineyards at midnight for late night grape-gathering.
Following an evening mass at the local church, villagers then proceed to harvest the grapes that have been allowed to mature on the vine. A special ‘New Year’s Day’ wine is created with the collected grapes.
Although mistletoe has been romanticised in recent years and become the place to push your crush under over the festive period, ‘gui‘ was originally hung above the entrance to the home for good luck in the forthcoming year.