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Christmas in France – facts, traditions & more!!

Category: Festival

Celebrating Christmas in France

Christmas in France, just like in other parts of the world, is a major annual celebration, a public holiday loaded with merry time that people spend with their family and friends. Every establishment in France from banks to offices, cafes and restaurants, all remain close on Christmas day. It is not uncommon to see people putting up Christmas trees, attending special church service and sharing meals at the end of the day with their loved ones.

The Xmas festivities in France start on 6th December with Saint Nicholas Day and continue into January. Considering its long history, the french christmas comes with its own share of traditions and facts.

Popular questions related to Christmas in France:

What is Christmas called in France? Joyeux Noël
When is Christmas celebrated in France? 25th December
How is Christmas celebrated in France? It is celebrated as a holiday but celebrations start in the first week of December and end in the first week of January

Christmas traditions in France

  • Father Christmas

    Christmas celebrations, as already stated above, start on 6th December with St. Nicholas Day. As per the legend, on this day St. Nicholas saved two children from Père Fouettard, a wicked butcher who intended to pickle them.

  • Christmas in France for kids

    Children in France are given Advent Calendars – they open a fold each day until Christmas. Also children write letters to Santa Clause and it is a rule there that every letter written by a child to Santa should not go unanswered. All such letters are answered by a postcard which they call ‘the postcard from Père Noël’.

  • Decorations & the nativity scenes

    It forms a major part of the festivities. The people and French churches showcase both life-like and miniature nativity scenes which are called “crèche” in french. These are displayed till 2nd February (40th day from Christmas) and is called “La Chandeleur”.

  • Le Réveillon de Noël – The Christmas Eve Dinner

    When talking about food, Le Réveillon de Noël is really important. It is the dinner served on the eve of Christmas. The french families stay awake past midnight hour and share a meal which mainly consists of traditional french dishes like burgundy snails, fresh oysters, and foie gras.

  • Les Treize (13) desserts

    13 desserts are served on Christmas Eve and they are really important for they symbolise Christ and the 12 apostles at the Last Supper. Dried figs, Hazelnuts, almonds, dried grapes, dates, dried plums and almonds are some of the traditional christmas desserts

  • Christmas dinner

    This is the luxurious affair and families serve a great amount of food to the relatives and friends as they gather for Christmas. Cheeses, chestnuts, oysters, roast goose, foie gras, lobster, and venison are some of the dishes served at the Christmas Dinner.

  • The sapin de noël – The christmas tree

    It is decorated days before Christmas day. People use a lot of things to decorate their Xmas trees like homemade paper flowers, candies, pine cones, ribbons and even dried cake. Christmas baubles, candles and tinsel is also used; an angel, star or a finial is used to decorate the tree’s top.

  • Shoes, fireplace and Les Cadeaux de Noël

    The children in France leave their shoes in front of the fireplace so that Father Christmas could find and fill them with the presents. On the day of Christmas it is Les Cadeaux de Noël, the time for the children to check their shoes for their Xmas gifts.

Best cities for Christmas in France

Here are the top 4 cities in France which provide the best you can find in France during the Christmas season.


It is best known for its Christmas markets like Mulhouse Christmas market, Authentic Christmas market in Kaysersberg, Medieval Christmas market in Ribeauvillé, Traditional Christmas market in Riquewihr and Christmas market in Haguenau. The number of events lined up for the big day consists of light show, concert, craft workshops and treasure hunts.


Strasbourg’s cathedral, known for its large Nativity Scene is a great place to start out. The streets of Strasbourg come alive with lights, and to get the best out of it, make sure you take a stroll across the city for a memorable experience, especially the walk from the Cathedral to Petite France.

Concerts, live performances and with events like nocturnal bike ride, Christmas spent at Strasbourg is bound to be exciting.


Winter in Paris is a lovely time of the year. You can go window shopping, can enjoy the christmas lights and visit various christmas markets. Some of the famous Xmas markets in Paris are Marché de Noël at Notre Dame and Abbesses Christmas Market at Montmartre.

In addition to all this, you can go ice skating. Though there are many outdoor ice rinks in Paris, the best venue is certainly the Eiffel Tower – you can skate under the iconic marvel at the Champs de Mars Christmas market.


Aix-en-Provence’s christmas market consists of 50 chalets run by locals and is a great place if you are looking to buy an original xmas gift. Aix-en-Provence also has a theater where you can enjoy the nativity play.

To have a better insight into the lives of the local try to attend the Village Fete – cheerfulness, the music and the dancing is quite an uplifting experience.

Renting a car in France for Christmas

Christmas in France is a whole new experience! Different from the Yule celebrations around the world, XMas in France is a good way to make lifetime memories. The best time to make reservations will be in summer months or at least a month before your trip.

Winter tyres or snow chains are advised especially if you plan to go skiing in the mountainous regions. You can add that to your rental at the time of the booking, by paying a small per day fee.

Where to pick the car rental in France

Biggest Airport in France: Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle

If you are still wondering where to pick the rental car for your trip across various cities, Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle is the perfect choice. No matter from which part of the world you are flying in from, Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle cover 300 destinations around the globe. Other important airport in France are listed below:

  • Paris Orly Airport
  • Nice Airport
  • Lyon Saint Exupéry Airport
  • Toulouse Blagnac Airport
  • Marseille Airport
  • Bâle Mulhouse Airport
  • Bordeaux Mérignac Airport
  • Nantes Airport
  • Beauvais Airport

Car rental companies we work with in France

In France, we provide car hire deals through:

Why book car hire through

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  • You can book through us in 3 easy steps – search, compare, reserve
  • Long term rentals are available for month or multi-month trips
  • Short term rentals can also be booked on weekly and daily basis
  • One way option available (use the ‘Different drop-off location’ tab on our booking form)
  • Wide fleet of rental car-types that include
    • SUV
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