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Christmas in France
Many of the French customs and traditions I found while doing research
for this page made me feel right at home.  In New Orleans, some of these
customs - unique in the U.S. - have survived from the city's early history
as a French colony.  Time has passed and many other cultures and
customs have made their way to the old city by the river, but if you
spend much time in New Orleans, no matter your ancestors' country of
origin, you can't help feeling just a little bit French.  This year I thought it
would be a good idea to go straight to the source and devote a page to
Christmas in France.  The photographs on this page were taken there,
most of them in either Paris, the Alsace region or the French Alps.
Season's Greetings!    Joyeuses Fêtes!
-- Nancy
Most French homes display a crèche.  The figurines, made of clay from the south
of France, have often been passed down from generation to generation.  They
symbolize the holy family, wise men and shepherds, but, in France, you will
often find village characters (called santons) in the scene, as well.
There is a tradition of sticking cloves in oranges
and rolling them in spices, which fills the whole
house with a delightful holiday scent.
In France, as well as one or two other European countries; in some French-speaking
provinces of Canada; and in the city of New Orleans in the United States, the ancient
tradition of the Réveillon dinner is still celebrated.  Réveillon was originally a meal
served after returning home from midnight mass on Christmas Eve.  In New Orleans,
many restaurants offer special Réveillon menus featuring a traditional Creole holiday
feast, not only on Christmas Eve, but, also, during the weeks leading up to Christmas.
As far as I know, New Orleans is the only city in the U.S. that celebrates Réveillon.
On Christmas Eve, people leave their shoes
filled with carrots for Père Noël's donkey.
If the person has been good, Père Noël
exchanges the treats for gifts.
Some cities in France hold a fête de
lumières, with candles in windows
symbolically lighting the way for Mary.  
In south Louisiana, bonfires dot the
Mississippi River levees on Christmas
Eve, lighting the way for Père Noël.  
The bonfires had their origin in France
and were brought to south Louisiana
by the Acadians.