How is New Year Celebrated in France?
Travelling in France during the holiday period, or a recent expat, and wondering how New Year is celebrated in France? You can certainly assume the French New Year involves some delicious food and drink, that is for sure! In France, 31st December is known as la Saint Sylvestre, because it is the day dedicated to the saint’s feast day. The New Year’s Eve feast is also referred to as le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre.
New Year’s Eve
Traditionally, New Year’s Eve in France begins with a glass of champagne and foie gras, but each region has its own local specialities. Celebrations can range from intimate dinners to “une soirée dansante”, in the form of “une Grande ball”.
Towards midnight, paper hats and confetti are distributed and everyone counts down to New Year in France together! As the clock strikes midnight, everyone in the room exchanges kisses and wishes each other a Bonne Année.
In larger cities, there may even be fireworks or a parade on display! Many towns and communities also organize a ball, which is a formal or costumed affair. Unable to go out in public, on the TV there will be typically a variety show featuring France’s most famous entertainers.
New Year’s Gifts in France
For New Year’s in France, people typically do not exchange gifts. However, it is traditional to send cards to friend a family wishing people a Happy New Year! This is far more common than Christmas cards, and are called “les cartes de voeux du nouvel”.
However, when gifts are exchanged its typically to show gratitude to people who are in public service. These include, postal workers, fire-fighters, cleaners and janitors. However much you give depends on the level of generosity you chose and your ability to pay but it is typically between €5 and €50.
End of the Party
Typically, New Year festivities finish on the 6th January, which friends and family around the country sharing a piece of King Cake with each other, known as “La Galette Des Rois”. Hidden inside the cake is a small treasure called a fève, or a bean, but typically these days your more likely to find a plastic or ceramic figurine.
French New Year's Vocabulary
Here are some phrases you will typically hear over the period:
- Le Jour de l'An - New Year's Day
- La Saint-Sylvestre - New Year's Eve (and the feast day of Saint Sylvester)
- Les cotillons - party novelties such as confetti and streamers
- Bonne année et bonne santé - Happy New Year and good health
- Je vous souhaite une excellente nouvelle année, pleine de bonheur et de succès - I wish you an excellent New Year, full of happiness and success.
Ever wondered about how Christmas is celebrated in France? Discover more in our blog post How is Christmas Celebrated in France.