How Do French People Celebrate Christmas?

french-people-celebrate-christmas Credit: joe daniel price/Moment/Getty Images

The French celebrate Christmas, or Noel, in many of the same ways as those in the United States; gifts are given and a large meal is eaten. The holiday is celebrated on Dec. 25, and Pere Noel, the French Santa Claus, brings gifts on Christmas Eve.

For a portion of the French population, the holiday season begins on Dec. 6, which is St. Nicholas Day. The major celebration begins with midnight mass on Christmas Eve, however. After midnight mass, families enjoy a large feast called "le reveillon." The foods enjoyed during le reveillon vary from region to region and may include several different types of poultry or even seafood. The Yule log cake, a cake with a hazlenut filling rolled into the shape of a log and then covered in chocolate icing, has become a le reveillon staple, regardless of region. The cake has largely replaced the tradition of the Yule log, which was burnt between Christmas and New Year's Days, though some French families still enjoy the tradition of the Yule log.

Instead of stockings, French children set a shoe outside their door on Christmas Eve to be filled with candy, fruit, nuts and small gifts. Although Christmas trees are not wildly popular, for those families that erect them, Pere Noel also decorates the tree on Christmas Eve when he comes to leave gifts.