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Many people finish work early on Christmas Eve (Réveillon). Many spend the rest of the afternoon and evening preparing a festive meal and visiting a special church service.
Is Christmas Eve a Public Holiday?
Christmas Eve is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.
What Do People Do?
Many people work during some part of Christmas Eve but finish work early. They spend the rest of the day with family members or close friends. People traditionally decorate their homes and prepare a celebratory meal. This meal consists of different dishes in different areas of France.
- Fish, such as pike, carp, or trout, foie gras, roast goose, cookies flavored with aniseed, cinnamon and almonds and cherry soup (Alsace).
- Crepes (Brittany).
- Seven meatless dishes (Provence).
- Thirteen desserts consisting of 13 different types of fresh and dried fruit, nuts and traditional candy to symbolize Jesus and his 12 apostles (Provence).
- Roast game or fowl served after midnight.
- A selection of regional cheeses made from cow's, goat's or sheep's milk.
- Special regional or rare wines.
Many people attend a special evening church service. They return home afterwards, may eat a meat-based meal, and open Christmas presents. Children are told that Pere Noël or the Christ Child brings the presents.
Christmas Eve is not a public holiday so many businesses and organizations are open. However, many organizations close early to allow their staff to spend the late afternoon and evening with family members. There may be some congestion on highways and at train stations and airports, as people travel to spend the Christmas period with family members. It is advisable to book tickets for travel on December 24 well in advance.
Christmas Eve has been an important holiday for French families for hundreds of years. The traditions of eating a large meal with family members, decorating homes with evergreen plants and lighting fires originated before the introduction of Christianity to France.
Logs are a symbol of the Christmas and New Year period in France. People traditionally poured wine over a large log and set it on fire on Christmas Eve. The log was then allowed to burn slowly over the next few days. Remnants of the log were saved as good luck charms and burnt the next year on Christmas Eve. Now many people eat a bûche de Noël (a log shaped dessert made of sponge cake or ice cream) on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve to remind them of this tradition.
About Christmas Eve in other countriesRead more about Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve Observances
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