Joyeux Noël – Merry Christmas
Now you can say Merry Christmas in French, but if you’re lucky enough to be spending Christmas in France or with French people then you’re going to need some Christmas vocabulary to get you through the holiday season. So here’s a list of handy Christmas vocabulary in French to get you started.
French Christmas Vocabulary:
Noël – Christmas
La veille de Noël – Christmas Eve
Le jour de Noël – Christmas day
Un cadeau – gift
La messe de Noël – Christmas mass
Une guirlande – garland
Un sapin de Noël – Christmas tree
Une boule – A bauble
Une étoile – star
Une couronne – wreath
La crèche – manger
Du gui – mistletoe
Du houx – holly
Une pomme de pin – pine cone
Le Père Noël – Santa
Un renne – reindeer
La Vièrge Marie – the Virgin Mary
Le petit Jésus – baby Jesus
Un âne – a donkey
Un ange – an angel
Les Rois Mages – the 3 Kings
Un berger – a shepherd
Un mouton – a sheep
Un elf – an elf
Food and treats:
Un sucre d’orge – candy cane
Un bonhomme en pain d’épice – gingerbread man
These might be a bit difficult to remember all at once, so instead you could use this as a reference list, and come back to it whenever you need to use a new word.
Or if you do want to learn all of the words, then a good way to do this is to use a memorisation app like anki or memrise.
French Christmas Traditions
Now you’ve learned some French Christmas vocabulary to use, let’s learn about some of the customs and traditions in France during Christmas time. France is one of our favourite countries for their Christmas celebrations and food. There’s something a bit sophisticated about a French Christmas we just can’t quite put our finger on.
Some might surprise you and are more typical to France, but the French also share a lot of traditions with other countries so you’ll definitely see some familiar traditions.
When do the French celebrate Christmas?
French Christmas celebrations begin on the 24th December or the early hours of the 25th rather than Christmas day, where they eat their main meal called the Réveillon. This normally happens after French families return home after midnight mass.
Although Christmas celebrations begin on the 24th, French children don’t usually open their Christmas presents until Christmas morning as le Père Noël (father Christmas) delivers presents while the children are sleeping.
What do the French eat at Christmas?
Just like most other countries, in France Christmas is a time to indulge in food and drink. Some typical foods consumed in France during Christmas time include:
- Roast turkey with chestnuts
- Roast goose
- Foie gras
- Bûche de Noël – Chocolate log
And of course, Christmas in France wouldn’t be Christmas unless you consumes copious amounts of wine. As well as the usual wine, the French also like to drink champagne and mulled wine at Christmas. And if you want a drink that isn’t alcoholic, then you can’t go wrong with hot chocolate.
Interesting French Christmas traditions:
Well now that’s covered Christmas day and the food, let’s have a look at some typical Christmas traditions in France.
No Christmas stockings
At Christmas time, the French don’t usually hang stocking to put presents in. Instead, a French Christmas tradition is to place gifts in shoes that have been left by the fire. However, as time goes on, this tradition has become less and less common and now it is much more common to see present underneath the Christmas tree.
Crèches or nativity scenes are very common in France
Because France is a predominantly Catholic country, nativity scenes are still incredibly popular. You will see nativity scenes in most French houses and in places around the cities.
You’ve probably encountered mistletoe in your own Christmas decorations but in case you haven’t, mistletoe is a plant that is usually hung in doorways or places people walk under. If you walk under mistletoe at the same time as somebody else then you two are supposed to kiss. It is seen as very romantic and a popular part of French Christmas decorations.
La fête des Rois
La fête des Rois is celebrated on the 6th of January and it is believed that this was the day the three kings came and gave their gifts to the baby Jesus. On this day there are parades on the street where the three kings walk through the street and families gather to watch the kings pass.
Lack of Christmas cards
French people don’t usually send each other Christmas cards. Instead of people sending cards during Christmas time, cards are usually sent to wish people a happy new year.
On a Christmas table, it is common to have decorations that represent the holy trinity; this is normally done in the form of three candle sticks. The trinity candle sticks are another tradition that comes from the Catholic faith.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning to say Merry Christmas in French, learning some important French Christmas vocabulary and finding out some popular French food and traditions.
If you’ve been lucky enough to spend Christmas in France or with French people then please tell us all about your experience and how much you enjoyed it. We love to hear all about your experiences.
If you’re interested in learning other ways to say Merry Christmas, then have a look here.
We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year.