2 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! In some parts of France, Christmas comes early when Father Christmas, Le Père Noël, brings small gifts and sweets for children on December 6th, the feast day of Saint-Nicolas (celebrated in the North and Northeast).
3 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! In other parts of the country, children place their shoes by the fire and wake up on Christmas Day to find them filled with presents from Le Père Noël and fruit, nuts and small toys hanging on the tree.
4 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! Some families start celebrating on 6th December, with presents from Saint Nicolas, others wait for Père Noël until Christmas Day .
5 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! Saint-Nicolas has a partner, Le Père Fouettard, Father Spanker, whose job it is to decide whether children have been good or bad and 'reward' bad children with a spanking!
6 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! While children open their presents on this day, not all parents do - some are patient and wait until New Year's Eve, la Saint-Sylvestre, which is more of an adult celebration.
7 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! After Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve people gather at home or in a restaurant for a feast called le réveillon. The menu varies in each region.
8 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! This usually consists of oysters les huîtres, snails les escargots, seafood les fruits de mer, smoked salmon saumon fumé or le caviar as a starter, followed by goose, l'oie, or some other roasted bird for the main course, all washed down with wine, le vin or le champagne.
9 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! The typical French dessert on this occasion is a rather rich and creamy yulelog called La Bûche de Noël
10 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! La Bûche de Noël: a cake made of chocolate and chestnuts, is the main desert in France and in some houses a real log is left burning from Christmas Eve until the Twelfth Night.
11 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! The ‘sapin de noël' (Christmas tree) is said to have come to France through the Alsace region (then belonging to Germany) in the 14th Century.
12 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! The tree was brought by German princess, Hélène de Mecklembourg after her marriage to the French Duke of Orléans, heir to the French throne.
13 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! The main focus in French homes at Christmastime is the Nativity Scene, or ‘crèche'. Besides the main characters of the Holy Family, the Shepherds and the Three Kings, the crèche is also filled with figures called ‘santons' (little saints), generally made from clay by craftsmen in the south of France.
14 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! New Year is also very important for the French and this is when greeting cards and more gifts are exchanged between friends and family.
15 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! The final celebration of the Christmas season is ‘la Fête des Rois', Feast of the Kings on the last of the twelve days of Christmas. On this day a special cake is baked called La Gallete des Rois, which contains a small ‘fève' (charm) inside it. The person who finds the charm is crowned King or Queen for the day.
16 Joyeux Noël! Bonne Année! Vive le vent, vive le vent, vive le vent d'hiverQui s'en va, sifflant, soufflantDans les grands sapins verts, Oh !Vive le temps, vive le temps, vive le temps d'hiverQui rappelle aux vieux enfantsLeurs souvenirs d'hier !