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French New Year traditions: celebrating New Year’s Eve in France

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

Determine how you may begin following French New Year's customs immediately. Create your version of the traditional French king cake to celebrate the Feast of the Three Kings with your friends and family.

Since there is no New Year's Eve tradition in France, arranging New Year's Eve events often leaves the French at a loss. Typical French New Year's parties include an abundance of delectable food and wine. In commemoration of Saint Sylvester's feast day, la fête de Saint Sylvestre, the French refer to December 31st as la Saint Sylvestre. The celebration is also known as Le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre, the French name for the New Year's Eve party.

France observes the last hours of the year

Champagne and foie gras is French New Year's Eve staples, however, regional specialties vary greatly throughout the nation. Residents of Fontevraud celebrate the New Year with a bottle of Crement de Loire or a pettipants wine from the wine cellars of Gratien et Meyer, Vouvray, or Ackermans of Saumur. To commemorate the occasion, they raise a glass of champagne or a toast of oysters or mussels à la marinière.

In France, New Year's Eve meals with close friends may vary from informal to extravagant (in the style of "une soirée dansante," a grand ball). On rare occasions, our hotel in France will host a New Year's Eve celebration with gourmet dishes and samples.

Imagine yourself at an exclusive restaurant in Paris. A tiny jazz ensemble is playing. At the stroke of midnight, paper hats and confetti are handed to everyone as the French people ring in the New Year. Next, keep an eye on your hats while you and the rest of the room exchange New Year's Eve kisses and cheers (Happy New Year).

Many French folks dine out on New Year's Eve and the following day to enjoy the holiday. Typically, there are eight dishes, but there might be as many as fifteen at this feast.

Sandre (a kind of perch fish) or crab from La Rochelle may be on the menu for dinner given that we had previously eaten fish. When made simply and paired with a completely developed Chenin Blanc or Muscadet, sandre has a delicious flavor.

At our French New Year's meal, it is usual to have a supply of Christmas crackers on the table and periodically take one out. As the clock strikes midnight, family and friends kiss under a garland of well-wishes (mistletoe). In France, the under the gui, or French kiss, is exclusively performed on New Year's Eve.

Typically, French New Year's Eve festivities finish with a backyard fireworks display.

New Year in France: Le Jour de l'An

On January 1, we will gather to discuss our goals for the next year. Our French colleagues share presents and greeting cards, but we do not. If you live in France, a French friend is more likely to send you a New Year's card than a Christmas card.

Clement A. Miles, who published a book on French New Year's customs in 1912, asserts that on this day in France "gifts are sent, family reunions are organized, and phone calls are made." This information comes from Clement A. Miles' book. Children, he explains, "discover presents in their stockings in the morning, and then they go out to make their parents' mornings happy," and so on. After spending the day with their grandparents and great-grandparents, the younger family members assemble at the patriarch's residence for supper.

Some French houses may continue to observe this New Year's ritual. The majority of our French friends no longer exchange gifts on Christmas Day; instead, they prefer to do it on Christmas Eve.

After a wonderful supper, we will take our customary long, stroll down the picturesque riverbanks of Chouzé sur Loire, where we will grandly ring in the New Year.

French greetings for the New Year

● Happy holidays: Joyeuses fêtes!

● Season’s greetings: Meilleurs voeux!

● Happy New Year: Bonne Année! Joyeuse Année!

● All my/our wishes for the New Year: Tous mes/nos voeux pour la Nouvelle Année

● Happy New Year and good health: Bonne année et bonne santé

Terms for the New Year in France

● New Year's Eve party/feast: le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre

● Midnight: minuit

● Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve: Le Réveillon

● New Year’s Eve: la Saint-Sylvestre

● New Year’s Day: le Jour de l’An, le Nouvel An

● 1 January: le premier Janvier

● Mistletoe: Le gui (hard g)

● New Year’s resolution: une bonne résolution

● New Year's gifts: des étrennes

● Epiphany: Fete des Rois

● Firework/s: un feu d’artifice/ les feux d’artifice

● To propose a toast: porter un toast

● Hangover: la gueule de bois

Epiphany in France

On January 6, the Epiphany (the day the Three Kings visited the infant Jesus), it is customary to enjoy La Galette des Rois, or French King cake, with one's loved ones. Delectable puff-pastry shell filled with almond cream paste; some variations have a porcelain "feve" in the center. If you are successful, you get to wear the golden crown that is often affixed to the top of the cake and reign as King or Queen over the celebrations. After choosing a King and Queen, the guests will be led in traditional dances.

Various galette kit choices are now available in French retailers. Listed below is a tried-and-true King cake recipe for those who want to bake their own.

King cake recipe: La Galette des Rois

Even if you create your butter and flour to make puff pastry, store-bought puff pastry is as delicious. Required is the French term feuilleté, which consists of two big circles. You should not choose the least expensive option unless you have no other options.

A handmade or Bonne Maman apricot jam of high quality is one of our family's all-time favorite kinds of this spread.

Eight ounces in a total of almond meal

The almond paste must be prepared with a single egg white.

Before baking, brush the pastry with the beaten egg yolk.


Mix the sugar and ground almonds well; then, while the mixture is being handled, including the egg white. The final paste should be thick and devoid of any lumps. On one side of the pastry, spread a thick layer of apricot preserves, and on the other, place the opposite side. The second round of dough will be handled identically to the first; thus, return to step two with the almond paste.

Stack them, and then add the beaten egg yolk using a pastry brush. Sugar should be spread everywhere. Cook at 180 degrees Celsius in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the color is a deep golden brown.

Instructions for making a King Cake

When you bake your own French King cake, you have the exclusive privilege of adding your own distinctive "fève" (token).

You may add decorations like as candied fruits or a chocolate paste filling if you prefer it over the frangipane filling we previously discussed.

Children will enjoy putting together a little craft on the French festival of Epiphany and the customary gift of La Gallette de Roi. Children will love creating crowns from a variety of materials, such as cards, foil, stickers, faux jewels, and glitter.

In the south, La Galette des Rois is a staple, while northerners must make do with a different pastry.

Make a game out of meticulously disassembling the Christmas decorations and storing them till next year if you are having trouble cleaning up.

As seen in Paris, New Year's celebrations

To give you an idea of the kind of traditional French dishes served on New Year's Day in Paris, here are a few possibilities for your New Year's Day lunch (le Jour de l'An menu):

On the menu were both raw and cooked green asparagus, as well as quail egg mousse and black truffle paste soldiers.

Crustacean stock with a lobster Thermidor topped with nori.

Line-caught sea bass topped with imperial caviar, green cabbage, and lemon-butter whipped cream.

Seasonal vegetables, conchiglioni pasta loaded with celery root, mushrooms, and conch, and "Tuna St. Remy" prepared with tomatoes and fresh herbs.

A flawlessly aged Brie de Meaux topped with walnuts

Champagne granité flavored with grapefruit and hibiscus jelly and garnished with a gold leaf.

An elixir of wild strawberries combined with coconut milk and fresh strawberries.

There are accessible sugary snacks, filled fruits, and gummy bears.

Can you remember the New Year's resolutions of Sir Walter Scott? That "each new generation has chosen that the New Year is the most appropriate time for jubilant celebration." If one were to accept the French New Year's customs observed on December 31 and January 1, the French New Year's celebration on those days would be more "festive" than Christmas.

Many thanks and best wishes for the New Year!



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