We all know how a traditional English Christmas pans out, but how about a French Christmas? Take a look below and discover how different our traditions are.


There’s no hanging of stockings on the mantelpiece in France; use your shoes instead.

French children place their shoes in front of the fireplace hoping that they will be full of gifts on Christmas morning.

In 1962 a law was passed stating that all letters from Father Christmas must be responded to with a postcard.

Father Christmas

In England we have one Santa Clause, who will send you coal if you’re naughty and gifts if you’re nice. In France it’s a little different. Santa has a helper named le Pére Fouettard (father spanker) who will ‘spank’ the naughty children rather than sending them coal!


The sapin de Noel – the Christmas tree – is the main decoration in homes, streets and shops similar to England. It first appeared in 1837 in Alsace in North Eastern France, where it was decorated with apples, paper flowers and ribbons.

Mistletoe is hung above the door during celebrations to bring good fortune throughout the year.

French Candles


The British have prawn cocktail for starter and the French have an array of oysters, foie gras and smoked salmon served with sweet wines.

For main course there’s a lot more than the traditional turkey dinner. The French choose from a selection of roast meats including guineafowl and turkey served with mushrooms, green beans, courgettes and chestnuts.

Before dessert there’s green salad and a selection of cheeses… that’s if there’s room!

There’s no Christmas pudding being served here, but instead a vast amount of une buche de Noel (Yule log) – a buttercream cake, shaped like a log and decorated with festive figurines.

yule log


Unlike England, different regions of France celebrate Christmas at various times during December. Strasbourg celebrate le fête de Saint Nicolas on December 6th and la fête des Rois from January 1st to 6th to celebrate the end of Christmas.

A traditional way of celebrating la fête de Rois (Festival of the King) is by baking pastries with gifts hidden inside and placing small paper crowns to decorate. This represents the three kings who brought gifts for baby Jesus.

Another celebration before December 25th is held in Lyon, la fête de lumieres which pays homage to the Virgin Mary by placing candles in windows to light up the city.


Le Réveillon

You will be familiar with midnight mass in England and this is the same concept in France. Some restaurants choose to open late and serve a feast to celebrate.

We  know that every family celebrates with different, personal traditions. What are some of yours?