How to talk about Christmas in French – 100 useful Christmas words in French – Christmas celebrations in France

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Christmas in French
Christmas in French

Oh oh oh ! Here is the joyous and festive season of Christmas coming soon. Learn all about the vocabulary of Christmas in French as well as about Christmas traditions in France and other countries

How to say ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy New Year’ in French?

First of all we say,

  1. Joyeux Nöel – Merry Christmas
  2. Bonne année – Happy New Year

At Christmas we can,

  1. souhaiter un joyeux Noël – wish a merry Christmas
  2. souhaiter une bonne année – wish a happy New Year

You can also,

  1. envoyer une carte de Noël – send a Christmas card
  2. acheter ses cadeaux de Noël – buy your Christmas present

But the most important thing is to 

  1. passer Noël en famille – spend Christmas as a family
  2. ouvrir ou déballer les cadeaux de Noël – open or unwrap Christmas present

But when shall we open our Christmas presents ? on the 24th or on the 25th ?

  1. le 24 décembre – the 24th of December
  2. la veille de Noël – Christmas’ eve
  3. le réveillon de Noël – Christmas eve ‘s celebration
  4. le 25 décembre – the 35th of December
  5. le jour de Noël – Christmas day
  6. la fête de Noël – Christmas party

Well, since Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Birth and he was born on Christmas day, and the presents are a reminiscence of the presents brought from the wise men, it should be on Christmas day

  1. les trois rois mages – the three wise men
  2. les 3 cadeaux des rois mages; or, encens et myrrhe : the three wise men presents : gold, frankincense, and myrrh

Christmas decorations in French

Christmas decorations in French
Christmas decorations in French

Before we get to  the celebrations comes the important part of decorating your house for Christmas, and of course the king of the decorations is very famous …

  1. le sapin de Noël – Christmas tree
  2. les guirlandes – garlands
  3. les boules de Noël – Christmas bauble
  4. le sucre d’orge – candy cane
  5. la guirlande lumineuse – Christmas-tree lights
  6. une pomme de pin – pine cone
  7. une étoile – star
  8. un ange – an angel
  9. un bonhomme en pain d’épice – gingerbread man
  10. le calendrier de l’avent – Advent Calendar
  11. le pull de Noël – Christmas jumper
  12. le miracle de Noël – Christmas miracle
  13. la magie de Noël – Christmas magic
  14. les marchés de Noël – Christmas markets

Did you know that in the old days, Christmas trees were only decorated with apples ! However, in the middle of the 19th century, a severe drought deprived the Vosges region (in eastern France) of apples. A glassblower then had the idea of ​​reproducing the shape of apples, but in red glass. Very quickly, the tradition spread in France and went beyond its borders. 

  1. une pomme – an apple

To decorate your door, you could have

  1. une couronne – wreath

Outside your house you could have, if lucky

  1. de la neige – snow
  2. un Noêl blanc – a white Christmas
  3. des illuminations de Noël – Christmas lights

Hanging from your fireplace, you could have

  1. un bas de Noël – Christmas stocking
  2. la cheminée – the fireplace
  3. la collation du père Noël – Father Christmas tea
  4. la hotte du père Noël – Father Christmas’ bag

To decorate your table, you could have 

  1. des bougies – candle
  2. des décorations de Noël – Christmas ornaments

‘La collation du père Noël’ is the snack offered to Father Christmas and his deer or donkey to thank him for coming all the way to bring us our Christmas present.

  1. le père Noël – Father christmas
  2. le renne du père Noël – Father Christmas’ reindeer

The Christmas crib in French ❅ The nativity scene

The all important Christmas crib or Christmas crèche needs to be ideally seated under the Christmas tree and it contains …

  1. la crèche de Noël – Christmas crib or crèche
  2. Joseph – Joseph
  3. le petit Jésus – Baby Jesus
  4. la vierge Marie – Virgin Mary
  5. le berceau de Jésus – Jésus crib
  6. l’âne – the donkey
  7. le boeuf – the ox
  8. la paille – the hay
  9. les bergers – the shepherds
  10. les moutons – sheep

Where do the Santons ‘little saints’ come from ?

The Santons or little Saints are these characters made out of clay coming from Provence. Their story is, in Provence, small colorful clay figurines called santoun (“little saints” in Provençal) appeared to recreate a crib in the private space of the homes. Inspired by an Italian tradition, this custom spread quickly in France. Today, the santon tradition is still very present in Provence and many santon fairs are organized there, the most famous being in Marseille.

  1. les santons –  Christmas characters

In my native village, it was the tradition to build the best crèche for Christmas outside our house and every Christmas villagers toured the village to have a look at the different crèches and would give a prize to the most beautiful. On their tour, they could rely on the hospitality of the villagers to offer them …

  1. du vin chaud – mulled wine
  2. pain d’épice – gingerbread
  3. du boudin de Noël -Christmas white sausage

Christmas traditions in French

Christmas traditions in French

Before you celebrate Christmas, it is a common tradition to attend the Christmas mass in your local church :

  1. l’église – the church
  2. la messe de minuit – midnight mass
  3. la chorale – the choir
  4. les chants de Noël – Christmas songs

In Belgium, on the 6th of December, we have the tradition of receiving the visit of Santa Claus who distributes presents to the well-behaved children and Père Fouettard to reprimand the bad ones.

  1. Saint Nicolas – Santa Claus
  2. le traineau de Saint Nicolas – Santa Claus’ sleigh
  3. des friandises – sweets
  4. des gâteaux – cakes
  5. le père fouettard – bogey man

It is also a tradition to eat a Yule log on Christmas day as well as drink a bit of bubbly

  1. la bûche de Noël – Yule log
  2. une bûche glacée – ice cream yule log
  3. des marrons glacés – candied chestnut
  4. des marrons chauds – roasted chestnut

In France, people do not usually eat turkey but a vast range of Christmas food, some include

  1. du saumon fumé – smoked salmon
  2. des huîtres – oysters
  3. des fruits de mer – seafood
  4. le homard – lobster
  5. le chapon – capon
  6. le faisan – pheasant
  7. la dinde – turkey
  8. du champagne – champagne
  9. des truffes au chocolat – chocolate truffles

The 13 Christmas desserts from Provence

The 13 Christmas desserts from Provence
The 13 Christmas desserts from Provence

In Provence, the tradition is to have 13 desserts for Christmas, there are …

  1. des noix – nuts
  2. des figues séchées – dried figs
  3. des raisins secs – sultanas
  4. des dattes – dates
  5. de la pâte de coing – quince paste
  6. divers fruits confits – candied fruits
  7. une fougasse​ – the French equivalent of Italian focaccia bread
  8. du nougat blanc – white nougat
  9. du nougat noir (avec des amandes grillées et du miel caramélisé) – black nougat (with toasted almonds and caramelized honey)
  10. du nougat rouge (aux pistaches et à la rose) – red nougat (with pistachios and rose)
  11. des calissons d’Aix-en-Provence (confiserie de Provence composée de melon confit, pâte d’amande nappée de glace royale) – confectionery from Provence made from candied melon, almond paste topped with royal icing
  12. des oranges, clémentines ou mandarines – oranges, tangerines
  13. un melon d’eau – a watermelon

After Christmas, come of the course the New Year and its traditions 

  1. la nouvelle année – the New Year
  2. le gui – mistletoe
  3. s’embrasser sous le gui – kiss under the mistletoe
  4. la fête des rois – Epiphany
  5. la galette des rois – the Epiphany’s cake
  6. la Saint-Sylvestre – le Jour de l’An
  7. le jour de l’an – New Year’s day

Christmas expression in French

Christmas expression
Christmas expression
  1. Noël au balcon, Pâques au tison – if Christmas is mild, Easter will be cold

It means that if Christmas is mild enough that you can go outside and celebrate on your balcony (balcon), you will spend Easter by the fireplace.

What will you do for Chritsmas? Write in the comments what you will do in your country and what you will eat ! And I wish you all a Merry Christmas and happy New Year !

Jingle bells in French

Here is Jingle bells in French, ‘vive le vent’

‘Vive le vent’ fill in the gap exercise in French

Listen to the song and then fill in the gap with the words in French seen in this article 👍

Watch the video of this lesson : Christmas in French

Christmas in French

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Caro Naturopathe
2 years ago

Bonjour Lara,
C’est sympa de lire Noël raconté aux non francophones 🙂 et en plus, c’est joliment fait et très clair !
Je ne connaissais pas la décoration du sapin avec des pommes… comme quoi, on a beau être français, il y a des manques parfois dans nos propres connaissances ;-p
Quant au vin chaud, je crois qu’il dépasse cette période festive et que partout où il fait froid, on en consomme 😀

Yohan (Prof) Chopin
2 years ago

Bonjour Lara,
Bravo pour ton article qui est très complet et interactif !
Nous sommes doublement collègues (prof de FLE et BP) alors je vais te suivre avec beaucoup d’intérêt (même si mon public est hispanophone).
Longue vie à ton blog !

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