Christmas is celebrated differently in every country, and France is no exception. So, if you’re spending Christmas in France, here are 5 little-known facts that might interest you. Joyeux Noël!
5 things you should know about Christmas in France
See also: 6 Reasons Why You Will Fall Madly in Love with Paris
Santa’s little helper, not of the Simpsons variety
What’s creepier than a man who sneaks into your house when you’re asleep? His little helper, Père Fouettard (along with the entire controversy surrounding his existence). This little guy accompanies Santa on his annual night shift. If you’ve been naughty, he will give you a lump of coal. If you’ve been really naughty, you’ll find out why his name means ‘Father Whipper’ in English.
Mildly interesting:5 Bizarre European Christmas Traditions
Postcards from your penpal
Just what does Santa do for the rest of the year? Well in France, he’s very busy. Since 1962, he’s been legally obliged to write a postcard response for every single letter he receives.
This trend was started by Magdeleine Homo, a postal worker in the 1950s. Appalled to discover that Santa’s letters were being thrown away, she decided to reply to them herself.
Spoiler: Father Christmas doesn’t really write the postcards. Each year, 60 volunteers receive 1 million letters to Santa. If children write before December 22, the children are guaranteed a response. It’s great for the kids, but not so great for the postman!
Unlike in England and the United States, tipping big is rare in France. Unless it’s Christmas. In which case … and this being France … public service workers may well demand to be tipped. Binmen, firewomen and postmen all often expect a little reward for their hard work.
Merry Christmas (Eve)
Once we hit 16, the Christmas highlight for most of us is the meal, not the presents. But did you know that in France, the feast is often enjoyed on Christmas Eve? Although tradition is changing, the French typically stay up after the Midnight Mass to eat their Christmas dinner (Le Réveillon).
The same goes with gifts. December 25 is not always the day to open presents. Sometimes it’s Christmas Eve, and sometimes the 6th of January.
So what do they do on Christmas day? (I really want to know.)
C’est quoi, le Boxing Day?
Boxing Day. A chance to digest your Christmas meal, return unwanted presents (to the shop), or queue for sales (also in the shops). In France, they don’t have this – Boxing Day just doesn’t exist.
Top Christmas markets in France:
There’s no better way to get into the spirit of Christmas in France than by visiting a market. Here are some you shouldn’t miss:
Largest in Paris:** **L’Arche de Noël à la Défense is situated in, you guessed it, La Défense. This market stays open until the 27th, so you can even go when Christmas is over.
Oldest in France: Nicknamed the Capital of Christmas, Strasbourg is home to France’s oldest Christmas market. Founded in approximately 1570, this marché de Noël attracts visitors from all corners of Europe.
An icy treat:Visit the 1st floor of the Eiffel Tower for some ice skating, a Christmas activity loved by children and adults alike. What a romantic setting!
See you in France!
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