ESL – Xmas in France (vocabulary) Part 4

16 December

Xmas in France vocabulary


I hope you like the thinking behind the displaying of this image: Xmas is a wonderful opportunity to give, help and share.  A kind greeting or deed is the perfect Xmas present.   A universal Xmas message for us all, young and older people alike!

Following the 9 December blog, here are the remaining four topics of vocabulary that I promised.

4 – La Crèche de Noël – the Christmas Manger / Nativity

Another important Christmas tradition in France is the nativity: a little house with Mary and Joseph, an ox and a donkey, the star and an angel, and eventually baby Jesus. The nativity set can be larger, with the 3 kings, many shepherds and sheep and other animals and village people. Some are very old and in the South of France, the little figurines are called “santons” and can be worth quite a lot of money. Some family make a paper crèche as a project for Christmas, others have a tiny little one somewhere in their house, and some churches would have a live nativity scene during the Christmas mass.

Traditionally, baby Jesus is added on December 25th in the morning, often by the youngest child of the household.

  • La crèche – the manger/ nativity
  • Le petit Jésus – baby Jesus
  • Marie – Mary
  • Joseph – Joseph
  • Un ange – an angel
  • Un boeuf – an ox
  • Un âne – a donkey
  • Une mangeoire – a manger
  • Les rois mages – the 3 kings, the 3 wise men
  • L’étoile du berger – the star of Bethlehem
  • Un mouton – a sheep
  • Un berger – a shepherd
  • Un santon – manger figurines made in the South of France

 5 – About Santa, Shoes, stockings, Cookies and Milk

In the old days, children would place their shoes next to the fireplace and hope to get a little present from Santa, such as an orange, a wooden toy, a little doll.  Stockings are used instead in Britain.

In France, most new houses do not have a fireplace, and the tradition of placing your shoes by it has totally disappeared. Although he does bring the presents on his sleigh, in France what Santa does is not that clear: some think he comes down the chimney himself, some believe he sends a helper or just magically places the gifts on the shoes (if he is an old-fashioned Santa) or under the Christmas tree. In any case, there is no clear tradition of leaving cookies and milk for him… Maybe a bottle of Bordeaux and a toast of foie gras? Just kidding… 

  • Le Père Noël – Santa (or Saint Nicolas in the North-East of France)
  • Le traineau – the sleigh
  • Les rennes – reindeers
  • Les elfes – elves
  • Le Pôle Nord – North Pole

 6 – Christmas Cards and Greetings

It’s customary in France and many other countries to send out Christmas/ Happy New Year cards to your friends and family.  E-cards are becoming a popular alternative option to send Christmas greetings.  Although we are grateful, on receipt of the traditional Xmas card, for the time and expense the sender has gone to,  I can see how sending an e-card could save us all a lot of postal costs, be more eco friendly and give us the chance to share the delightful xmas video, that comes with many e-cards,  Here are the 3 customary Xmas greetings we exchange:

  • Joyeux Noël – Merry Christmas
  • Joyeuses fêtes de Noël – Merry Christmas
  • Joyeuses fêtes – Happy Holidays (more Politically Correct since not Religious)

7 – Les Marchés de Noël – Christmas Markets in France

Christmas Markets are little villages made up of wooden stalls (called “châlets”) which pop up in the center of towns in December. They typically sell decorations, local products and “vin chaud” (mulled wine), cakes, biscuits and gingerbreads as well as many handcrafted items. Originally common in the North-East of France, they are now popular throughout France – there is a huge one on “les Champs Elysées” in Paris.

Thank you for visiting my blog.


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