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An insider’s guide to Christmas in France

8246457878_2ebf33342f_zI’ve never been fortunate enough to spend Christmas in France. But I am fortunate to know Angelique Larderot, my French teacher, who kindly offered to share her insider’s tips on how to spend a French Christmas in style. We even managed to incorporate our interview in French as a part of my lesson! 

So, carefully translated (because I know it will be checked!) here are Angelique’s tips for a special French Christmas.

Have a very merry French Christmas

Angelique, tell me about the Christmas traditions of your region.
I am originally from Burgundy. Because Burgundy was part of Germany in the past, Christmas markets are common. Also, because of its wine growing tradition vin chaud is commonly drunk during Christmas. One special tradition in Burgundy is the arrival of Père Janvier. He is a man, a little like St Nicholas, who brings sweets to children on the first of January.

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When I was a child, my sister and I followed the tradition of all children – we had to wait for morning to come to open our presents. We could never sleep and it was torture! We would wake up at 5.00am to see if Père Noël had arrived. Then we would wake up my parents at 5.00, 5.30, 6.00, 6.30 am until we were allowed to get up!

What particular dishes are eaten in Burgundy at Christmas?
Being a traditional Burgundian dish, we eat a lot of snails at Christmas. We also eat chicken prepared with a white wine cream sauce.

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One particular dish we eat at Christmas is oeufs en meurettes – poached eggs cooked in wine and served with lardons of bacon.

How has Christmas changed for you now that you are older?

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My parents have moved and now live in the Limousin. The Limousin is famous for its chestnuts, and in particular marrons glacés (candied chestnuts), so we eat a lot of those at Christmas. Marrons glacés are often given as gifts at Christmas in the Limousin.

As the Limousin is also famous for its beef, we tend to eat more of it at Christmas now.

Has Christmas changed in France over the years?
People tend to be much busier these days, so we tend to prepare dishes that are less complicated and take less preparation. That means things like foie gras and smoked salmon.

Many of our readers will be planning a trip to France for Christmas, so what are your insider tips for a traditional French Christmas?
Christmas in France is a cultural event nowadays. It is no longer a religious occasion for most people. I recommend visiting somewhere like Strasbourg or Brittany for Christmas, rather than a large city, because the French traditions are much stronger. I recommend Strasbourg because of its interesting mix of French and German culture and Brittany because it has a very strong local culture with its own special traditions.

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If you visit somewhere smaller the locals will love to discuss their traditions and engage with you far more than in big cities. While Paris has beautiful lights, it doesn’t have the same atmosphere and traditions of smaller towns. If you want to visit Paris during this time, make it New Year’s Eve.

Personally, I can’t wait to get to France for Christmas and put Angelique’s recommendations to the test!

Image Credits:
1.  via NH Hoteles
2. via The East Blog
3. via Shizuoka Gourmet
4. via Taccuini Storici
5. By BigPilou, on Flickr 


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