Foie Gras

Foie gras

Foie gras, the goose liver pâté that is the staple of le Réveillon in some regions, actually originated in ancient Egypt 4,500 years ago. Around 500 BC, it spread to Greece but didn’t make it to France (or, as it was then, Gaul) until the Romans brought the recipe with them almost four centuries later.

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Le Réveillon

le réveillon

After midnight mass on Christmas Eve, le Réveillon, a fast-breaking feast, is served. Cafés and restaurants stay open all night to accommodate those who are not feasting at home. Le Réveillon comes from réveiller – to wake (hence reveille being the morning bugle call to wake up the troops), and is a symbolic spiritual awakening… as well as an end to the day-long fast traditionally associated with Christmas Eve. The feast usually consists of a succession of dishes, both hot […]

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Christmas Presents In France

christmas eve

As in many countries around the world, Christmas in France is a time for family gatherings. On Christmas Eve, instead of stockings however, children leave their shoes in front of the fireplace (or under the tree), so that Père Noël can fill them with gifts. In Northern France however, gifts are exchanged on December 6th, Saint Nicholas Day.

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Hospice Wine Bar Spreads Festive Cheer

Clermont-Ferrand wine bar

This Christmas, terminally-ill patients at the palliative care centre of the Clermont-Ferrand University hospital in Puy-de-Dôme in central France, will be able to enjoy some festive spirit with their friends and relatives in a purpose-built wine bar attached to the hospice. The medically-supervised visits to the wine bar, which was opened in September, are proving to have a very positive impact upon patients’ psyches, and offer some semblance of normality during patients’ final days. The hospital staff believe it is […]

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Christmas Drinks – French Style

christmas drinks

It’s no secret that the rest of the world considers the French to be the epitome of sophistication when it comes to alcoholic beverages; whether it’s wine, beer, cider, apéritifs, liqueurs, or spirits, French booze generally beats everything else into a cocked beret. I say beats… more like, gently coaxes. It should come as no great surprise therefore, that at Christmastime, festive drinks are just as sophisticated as their year-round counterparts. Here then, are three of the best Frenchmas quaffs […]

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Provence’s Nativity Cribs

Provence's Nativity Cribs

We’re all used to seeing Nativities decorating our homes, shops, schools, and churches but in Provence, they go one better. Not only do people’s homes have a Nativity but very often, a miniature village to accompany the birth of the baby Jesus as well. These Nativities (crèches), are full of little clay people (santons), which represent not only the Nativity figures but also, in some cases, the entire village too. Common santons are the baker, policeman, butcher… and of course, […]

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Yule Logs – French Style

yule log

You wouldn’t expect the French to use just any old wood for their yule logs, would you? Of course not, and you’d be right not to; in France, traditionally, cherrywood logs are used. Not only that but they are sprinkled with red wine so that the house smells even nicer as the log burns on Christmas Eve. The yule log and candles burn all night to light the way for the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, and a little food […]

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Lei Tretze Dessèrts

les treize desserts

  Lei Tretze Dessèrts is Occitan for the Thirteen Desserts (les treize desserts in French), the final course of le gros souper (the great supper), or le Réveillon, eaten after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The great supper is a highly symbolic affair: three white tablecloths are used to symbolise the Holy Trinity. Similarly, there are three lighted candles on the table, and three saucers of sprouted wheatgerm, which would have been planted on St Barbe’s day (December 4th). Tradition […]

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Get Your Skates On In Paris This Winter

ice skating in paris 2014

For most of us, I’m sure, ice-skating holds a kind of mystical, childish delight; after all, what can be more magical than rivers, lakes, and ponds becoming so frozen that one can strap a couple of slivers of metal to our feet, and glide as gracefully over the resultant winter ice as the swans do upon the water in the summer? Those of us who grew up on a staple diet of European folk tales, of the Brothers Grimm, of […]

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Père Fouettard and Hans Trapp – Santa’s Little Helpers

St Nicolas et Père Fouettard

Tomorrow, December 6th, is St. Nicolas’ day, which means that tonight, children will be putting out their shoes in the hope that when they wake up in the morning, they will find their footwear filled with candies. Good children, that is.  Naughty children, on the other hand, may find themselves whipped by le Père Fouettard (or Hans Trapp in Alsace & Lorraine) – St Nicolas’ faithful companion as he goes on his rounds on December 6th. While St Nicolas rewards […]

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