Christmas in France.

La Crèche

During the Christmas season French families display the Crèche or Nativity Scene. The figures in the creche are called santons or 'little saints'.One little French town has become famous world-wide for its little figures used in Christmas cribs. It is Aubagne, a modest little Provenal town about halfway between Marseilles and Aix-en Provence, and is the home of the French Foreign Legion. Here craftsmen make unbaked clay figures called santons or 'little saints'. These were started by Jean Louis Lagnel . He held his first Foire aux Santons, a 'little saints festival', in 1803. In addition to the Holy Family, shepherds & kings his crèche included figures in the form of local dignitaries and characters.

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Le Sapin de Noël

In France, one of the most important decorations at Christmas time is the Sapin de Noël (Christmas tree). It is used in homes, streets, shops, offices, and factories. The Sapin de Noël was introduced to France by a German Princess called Hélène de Mecklembourg. She brought one to Paris after her marriage to the French heir to the throne, the Duke of Orléans. The Christmas tree symbolizes what creation has to offer: light and the movement of angels, the gifts of the orchards and fields, forests and sea, all topped off by the star that points to Heaven.

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Le Reveillon.

On Christmas Eve everyone eats a huge dinner called "Le Reveillon." Sidewalk cafes and restaurants are open all night serving reveillon . Reveillon means to wake up, or first call of the day. So, Reveillon is a symbolic spiritual awakening to the meaning of Christ's birth. After this large dinner of oysters/ham/goose/ turkey/ chicken/ beef, cheese, bread, wine, and fruit, many families serve a Büche de Noel.

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La Bougie de Noël

 

It is customary to leave a candle burning just in case the Virgin Mary passes.

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La Büche de Noël .

The Büche de Noël is a special type of Christmas cake. It is a sponge cake which is rolled and shaped like a log. Inside there is often a creamy filling and it is covered in chocolate to make it look like a log. The log is a very ancient symbol associated with Christmas time.

The tradition of logs of wood and Christmas comes from the times before French people were Christian. People believed that some trees had very special powers which were made stronger through burning the wood and using the ashes. Part of the log was used to make the wedge for the plough as good luck for the coming harvest. People would burn the rest of the logs at a special festival in December called Yule.The logs had to burn slowly for a whole week. Then people would spread the ashes and cinders on their fields. They believed this would bring them a better harvest. They also spread the ashes in the barns and lofts where they stored their corn since they kept rats and weevils away.Some of the cinders and charcoal from the log were kept inside peoples' houses since it was believed that if you relit them during a thunderstorm it would protect your property from lightening.

In Southern France today, people still burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Years Day.

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Père Noël

French children put their shoes by the fireplace on Christmas Eve in hopes that "Père Noël " (Santa Claus) will bring them some toys. Pere Noel brings toys to children in a sack

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