Christmas in France: Traditions and Religion

Christmas in France: Traditions and Religion

Salut c’est Géraldine, bienvenue sur Comme
une Française TV, Sound French, even to the French! Christmas is coming soon. Here in France, we love this celebration ! The
Christmas tree and Santa Claus are very popular, among people of all religions as well as non-religious. We’ll get into that more though in a next
episode. For more than a thousand years, Christmas
has been first and foremost a Christian tradition. So I want to share with you all the French
traditions and customs for the 25th of December that come from the church. Let’s dive in! Noël is the French word for Christmas. It comes from the same latin word as la Nativité,
Nativity. Noël is usually masculine, that’s why we
wish people Joyeux Noël ! , “Merry Christmas!” with the masculine adjective. Noël can even be a French man’s first name! The feminine counterpart would be Noëlle
but it’s less common. Before the 25th of December, four weeks are
spent spiritually waiting and preparing for Christmas: it’s l’Avent, the Advent. It’s a masculine word, and is spelled with
an e. Don’t mistake l’Avent with the adverb
avant, (before), even though they’re close. L’Avent vient avant Noël. Advent comes before Christmas. It’s considered a spiritual time for conversion,
contemplation and hope. However you will mostly see that word used
in le calendrier de l’Avent, an Advent calendar used to make children and adults wait for
Christmas with patience. Every day in December, you punch in a small
box in the calendar and receive a hidden chocolate. Or maybe you forget about it for a few weeks
and you end up with twenty chocolates to eat on Christmas night. Either way, you win ! Une crèche de Noël is a Nativity scene. They’re a staple for Christmas in France,
set up during l’Avent. They can be small, handmade and put in display
on a shelf in the living room; other kind of crèches can be grandeur nature, full-scale,
in churches or public squares. Either way, they usually show la Vierge Marie,
the Virgin Mary, Joseph, a manger, sometimes des bergers , shepherds, but most importantly,
l’âne et le boeuf, the donkey and the ox! Le petit Jésus, the traditional baby Jesus,
is usually brought in on Christmas night itself. Later in the year, in early January, you may
find les Rois Mages, the three Magi or three Kings, bringing their peculiar gifts. All these characters, as well as additional
figures, can be represented as hand-painted terracotta figurines: les santons (un santon),
a famous tradition coming from southern France, especially from la Provence. If you’re in France around Christmas, a
few weeks before or after, you might go see the beautiful crèches in most catholic churches
and some public places. Some of them are even in display in our republican
secularized townhalls; their presence is seen as legitimate or not, depending on who you
ask. This debate has been resurfacing every December
in the last few years. La messe de minuit, the midnight mass, is the Christmas evening mass. For many families, it’s the only mass they’ll
attend in the year, as a tradition. This night, French public television even
broadcast the one in Rome, with the Pope. In French parishes, the midnight mass usually
takes place between 6 pm and 10 pm. It can be quite long; it’s also the time
for the occasional quaint theater play by local children, about the Nativity, and for
singing the special songs and hymns. It’s a way for the community to gather together,
when the nights are long and cold. And after that, every family goes home to
eat a giant dinner! Pour les non-croyants, for the unbelievers like me or for people from other faiths, Christmas
is also a time to share and celebrate. Around le solstice d’hiver, winter solstice,
communities want to gather together, to feast and hope for warmer days. Even Celts [“kelts”], Gauls and Romans
had their own pagan traditions way before Christmas. Nowadays, some French people, of Jewish faith,
celebrate Hanoucca, Hannuka, for eight days in december or november. That week is a festival for the light in the
long night. But for the most part, France nowadays is
secularised. Non-religious people make up the majority
of our country, and Christmas has long been a national holiday even for non-Christians. Adding to the catholic rituals around the
birth of Jesus, non-religious Christmas has built up its own customs and traditions, with
a heavy following in French culture. But that’s a talk for a later episode! Et toi ? What does Christmas mean to youWhich
meaning does Christmas have for you? What are the traditions of your own faith
or culture during winter? Tell me in the comments section., I want to
hear from you! If you’re on Youtube, you’ll find a link
below this video to the blog CommeUneFranç on the site I read all the comments and answer
all your questions too! Did you like this video? Want more? Let me share exclusive lessons, private offers
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sound French, even to the French. Allez, salut !

25 Replies to “Christmas in France: Traditions and Religion”

  1. It's interesting hearing you describe French Christmas traditions as they sound very nearly the same as I had growing up in an English Anglican family in Canada. We also had nativity scenes, Advent calendars, and of course midnight mass. The only difference I could see was in your description of a midnight mass, here it is literally a midnight mass. It would typically start around 9 or 10pm, and last till just after midnight. Needless to say there wouldn't be a big supper afterwards, especially if you brought your kids, you got home and pretty much went straight to bed. Big family feasts typically took place on Christmas Eve (before going to mass), or on Christmas itself (which is what my family usually did). Churches did have services earlier in the evening, but I don't recall them being referred to as a midnight mass, that term being reserved for the actual mass at midnight.

  2. Bonjour! C'est très intéressant que nos traditions ici (J'habite à le "West Coast" des États-Unis) sont très semblables à la vôtre (Calendrier d'avent, Hanoukka, un banquet, Nativité, etc.) Mes grands-parents ont grandi chrétiens, juifs et non-religieux, alors j'ai vécu les traditions des trois. C'est une bonne vidéo sur les coutumes françaises, et j'attends impatiemment pour la prochaine vidéo! 🙂

  3. My non-religious Australian daughter, living in Paris has a French partner of Muslim background but he being secular. His Muslim family also celebrate Christmas in the same way as the Christians do, sans alcohol of course, which is lovely to see. But they are horrified to see her make up a serving of British style gravy for the Christmas turkey and roast vegetables the way we always do in Australia. Obviously not a French thing. I'd love to spend another Christmas in Europe but I can't stand such cold weather. Joyeux Noël Geraldine.

  4. wait….did you just say that Christmas in France is popular with all religions in France? Really? ha… wow… ok. I guess where you live, Grenoble, hasn't had a Paris problem yet. But once it does, let's see how "popular" the Christmas in France is, among all religions (to quote you). 🙂

  5. Moi, je suis pas du tout religieux, mais ma mère et ma sœur sont chrétiennes. Elles célèbrent la naissance de Jesus mais pour moi le Noël n'est que de montrer votre appréciation de votre famille et vos amis.

  6. Très bonne vidéo… Excusez moi Géraldine, mais j'ai toujours entendu un cliché sur les français, on m'a dit qu'ils adorent fumer des clopes, c'est vrai ça ? Jen suis curieux :p

  7. Bonsoir. I am a fan from San Francisco, CA. I love your channel! Would it be too much to ask you to speak a tiny bit slower? 😔 You are beautiful, by the way!

  8. this is helpful for me because im writing a book where the main character is french. its a romance novel.

  9. France is not any more Christianity and Catholic country more muslim country 1905 France made law become none religion 2004 more by law you can't caring across in the public. France do not care about Christmas they pretend that they do More about ramadan and Hanukkah If they be more Christianity and Catholic country they will not close church and not demolish of pope statue like John Paul II 65 million of France citizen each year less citizen become religion 7 to 8.5 muslim France by 2030 going 11million or more then Christmas tree no more Church's will open Christmas spirit will shut down more terrorists will attack Christmas markets The only in Europe Christmas will Poland Slovakia Lithuania Hungaria that all this true facts bye

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