You might think that Christmas in the UK can’t be very different to Christmas just over the channel in France, but you might be surprised. Firstly, there are many traditions that we have over here in the UK that are, apparently, completely hilarious to the French. Trying to explain the idea of Christmas crackers and incidentally our Christmas hats to French primary school kids ended up in hysterics and baffled people in my experience. However, whilst our Christmas hats might appear bizarre in France, They also have some traditions that we would find also a little strange, but perhaps more chic.
My favourite French Christmas tradition has got to be the ‘Galette du Rois’. On the last day of Christmas in France, everybody gathers to eat a pastry called ‘Le Galette du Rois’. This can only be described as a buttery, almond-y, and delicious baked dessert. In said dessert there is a small toy king figurine. Whoever comes across this ‘King’ in their slice must wear a king’s hat for the rest of the social event (this hat comes with every galette you buy). Let me say that, this ‘kings hat’ is just as ridiculous as our Christmas cracker hats so really they have nothing to laugh at us about but alas. Also, I am not exaggerating when I say that this is taken very, very seriously in France (as all food is – rightly so).
As far as good food goes, their Christmas day dinner is no exception in true French style. Think about the finest dinner you’ve ever experienced, champagne, oysters, the works. This is what happens in France on Christmas (and many other events throughout the year for that matter). They have smoked salmon, oysters, foie gras, venison, roast goose, and that’s just the meat! Unfortunately if you’re vegetarian, Christmas in France might be much less enjoyable for you. However, the deserts wouldn’t disappoint. Whilst there are national traditions, there are also many fantastic regional traditions. Deep down in the south by the mountains in Provence, they have 13 different Christmas deserts to chose from. And if you’re anything like me you’d accept the challenge to try them all, and then maybe join the gym afterwards…
As far as food goes, it’s clear that we all need to experience a French Christmas once in our lives. However, there are also some other more ‘traditional’ aspects shall we say that are slightly different. Instead of stockings they put out shoes for Father Christmas. Adorable but also, stockings are bigger so I think we win there. As far as Father Christmas goes, milk as an offering is really not a think. It’s alcohol all the way. Another reason to experience a French Christmas perhaps.
Evidently, there are many more differences than one might think about Christmas in France, which in my opinion are all worth experiencing. Except, perhaps, for their distaste towards our Christmas hats and crackers that we are all very fond of (well I am at least!).
Published in The Spark Newspaper December 2017