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Christmas Day in France

Many Christians in France celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day (Noël). Many people spend the day quietly with family members or close friends.

"Santons"visit the new-born child Jesus.
Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus (figurine pictured above).
Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus (figurine pictured above).
©iStockphoto.com/ Munic

What do people do?

Many people in France put up a Christmas tree, visit a special church service, eat an elaborate meal and open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. However, special Christmas meals are also popular. Dishes may include:

  • Rabbit terrine.
  • Brouillade de truffes (omelet with truffles).
  • Roasted capon (a small bird).
  • Salad, peas, green beans, carrots and potatoes.
  • Aigo-boulido (garlic soup).
  • Papillottes (small chocolate candies wrapped in shiny paper).

Many people spend Christmas Day quietly and some attend a special church service. Popular activities also include walking in a park or the countryside and sharing a meal with family and close friends.

Public life

Public life on Christmas Day is generally very quiet. Post offices, banks, stores, restaurants, cafes and other businesses are closed. However, some stores at airports, railway stations and major highways, may be open.

Public transport service schedules vary depending on where one is and hopes to travel. Churches may be closed for visitors who do not wish to take part in the services and guided tours are often not available.


Christians celebrate Christmas Day by remembering the Jesus Christ's birth in Bethlehem around the year 3 BCE (the date varies depending on different sources). Christianity was introduced to the area that is now France at the time of the Roman Empire, around 300 CE. This religion has played an important role in the France's history.


Many churches display a crib scene, often with life-size figures representing Mary, Joseph, Jesus and other characters from the Nativity, during this time of the year. Some churches even include actors and live animals. However, many churches were closed and nativity scenes prohibited during the French revolution.

People began to make and display santons at home during at the time of the French revolution.  Santons are small nativity scene figurines. They may be made of terracotta and painted with bright colors or doll-like figures dressed in miniature clothes. There are more than 50 different santons representing the holy family and traditional village characters. They include:

  • Mary.
  • Joseph.
  • Jesus.
  • Shepherds.
  • A baker.
  • A vegetable seller.
  • A scissors grinder.
  • A woman selling fish.
  • A blind man.
  • A man selling roasted chestnuts.

Today, santons are still an important symbol of Christmas, particularly in the Provence, a region of southeastern France. Special fairs are held in December to enable people to buy more figures for their displays.

About Christmas Day in other countries

Read more about Christmas Day.

Christmas Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday type
TueDec 251990Christmas DayNational holiday
WedDec 251991Christmas DayNational holiday
FriDec 251992Christmas DayNational holiday
SatDec 251993Christmas DayNational holiday
SunDec 251994Christmas DayNational holiday
MonDec 251995Christmas DayNational holiday
WedDec 251996Christmas DayNational holiday
ThuDec 251997Christmas DayNational holiday
FriDec 251998Christmas DayNational holiday
SatDec 251999Christmas DayNational holiday
MonDec 252000Christmas DayNational holiday
TueDec 252001Christmas DayNational holiday
WedDec 252002Christmas DayNational holiday
ThuDec 252003Christmas DayNational holiday
SatDec 252004Christmas DayNational holiday
SunDec 252005Christmas DayNational holiday
MonDec 252006Christmas DayNational holiday
TueDec 252007Christmas DayNational holiday
ThuDec 252008Christmas DayNational holiday
FriDec 252009Christmas DayNational holiday
SatDec 252010Christmas DayNational holiday
SunDec 252011Christmas DayNational holiday
TueDec 252012Christmas DayNational holiday
WedDec 252013Christmas DayNational holiday
ThuDec 252014Christmas DayNational holiday
FriDec 252015Christmas DayNational holiday
SunDec 252016Christmas DayNational holiday
MonDec 252017Christmas DayNational holiday
TueDec 252018Christmas DayNational holiday
WedDec 252019Christmas DayNational holiday
FriDec 252020Christmas DayNational holiday

Quick Facts

Christmas Day is an occasion for Christians to celebrate Jesus Christ's birth. It is public holiday in France.

Christmas Day 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Name in other languages

Christmas DayEnglish
List of dates for other years

Related holidays

Other holidays in December 2015 in France

Other calendars

Related links