France has wonderful holiday traditions that can be easily replicated in New York City. Follow our 10 suggestions to celebrate like the French!
1. Shop at a marché de Noël.
Shop for gifts like the French by visiting a marché de Noël (Christmas market).
Christmas markets are a big deal in France. The most famous (and oldest, founded in 1570) is the Strasbourg Christmas market. Wonderful artisan and specialty items are sold here. While our markets may not be as old as those in France, the US has plenty of unique Christmas markets with wonderful gifts to buy. A few in New York:
Bryant Park’s Bank of America Winter Village shops are open now until January 2. Bryant Park is located between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
Union Square Holiday Market located at 14th St to 17th Street between Broadway and University Place. Open now until December 24th.
Brooklyn Winter Flea Market located at 1 Hanson Place at Ashland Place in Fort Green. If you are looking for vintage inspired gifts (the French love these), be sure to visit.
2. Listen to des chants de Noël.
Get into the festive spirit with some Christmas carols en français. Traditional songs include « Il est né le divin enfant, » « Minuit Chrétien » and « Petit Papa Noël ». Find more songs here.
Give your loved ones French perfume or cologne, a fine wine, travel book, cookbook, French ground coffee, dark chocolates, pastries, macrons, or a scarf.
4. Wear your best outfit.
Dress like the French this Christmas. Wear something stylish that fits you well and that no one else has. For les femmes, try a jewel-toned dress with a scarf. For les homes, go for a fitted suit with a colored shirt and scarf. (Always a scarf!) There are lots of French clothing stores in New York City to help you get ready.
Christmas Eve midnight mass is still an important part of Christmas for many French families. Instead of attending a midnight mass in English, why not attend a mass en français in New York? The Church of St. Agnès in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn offers French mass every Sunday at 11 a.m (but no midnight mass yet).
6. Enjoy a five-course meal.
The main Christmas meal called le Réveillon (which means the awakening) is eaten on Christmas Eve/early Christmas morning depending on when people have returned from church. The French typically eat many courses for this meal. The dishes that are served depend on your French region. For example, in Aquitaine, located in southwest France, many start their meal with fresh oysters. In Alsace, located in the western part of France, the main meal may be Ganzeltopf, or goose prepared with winter vegetables. In Provence, thirteen desserts are served at the end of the meal. This may include fruit, nuts, tarts, biscuits, cheese, nougat, and/or profiteroles.
The French love drinking champagne with their Christmas meal. The light bubbles go great with any appetizer or dish, making everything more festive. This guide is very helpful if you are new to buying champagne.
8. Say joyeux Noël, bonne année and bonne santé.
Wish your friends and family a joyeux Noël, bonne année et bonne santé (Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and good health) this year. Joyeux Noël is pronounced as joah-yeu noh-ell. Bonne année and bonne santé (usually spoken together) is buh na nay ay buhn sa(n) tay. Clink your champagne glasses together (remembering, of course, to make eye contact) as you wish your loved ones well.
This decadent log-shaped chocolate sponge cake with buttercream frosting is a French must for Christmas dessert. It represents a yule log that was used to welcome the Winter Solstice. New York City has plenty of wonderful bakeries where you can get your fix.
10. Spend time en famille.
Spending time with family is a top priority among the French. Turn off the TV. Power down your phone and enjoy Christmas by being with your family.
With these 10 tips you are on your way to celebrating Christmas like the French. Joyeux Noël, bonne année et bonne santé tout le monde !