Student Perspective: Christmas in France

Paris has been described as one of the most beautiful places in the world to spend Christmas. So we were especially excited to speak with Guillemette Berthoud, a French exchange student studying agriculture at the University of Missouri! Guillemette will spend part of the Holiday break with his family in Paris, taking in the spirit and radiance of La Ville-Lumiere or “The City of Light”. However, underneath the allure of the lights, fantastic decorations, and holiday desserts lies a deeply-seeded tradition of family coming together to celebrate Christmas, a common practice among many cultures during this holiday season.

For Guillemette, the celebration begins and ends with family. “We all meet for a couple days and enjoy each other.  This begins with the decoration of the Christmas tree, and put the lights on the house. The night on the 24th we are going to church, then we have dinner with my mom’s family.” A few days prior to Christmas day on the 25th, it is customary for families to adorn the tree with candles, lights, roses, tinsel, and/or colored stars. Retailers, primarily in Paris, compete with each other in creating ornate holiday displays.

A unique tradition for many families in France is participating in la messe de minuit (Midnight Mass) and le Réveillon (Awakening) on Christmas Eve. Many families like Guillemette’s attend this Midnight Mass that is then followed by the symbolic le Réveillon feast where families honor the meaning of Christmas and enjoy foods from a traditional Christmas menu (goose, chicken, oysters, puddings).On the 25th, Christmas Day is celebrated and marked by more family time and of course, the exchange of gifts. “We spend all morning in pajamas enjoying our presents…we [then] all go to my dad’s family to have lunch,” says Guillemette.

Christmas is celebrated in different ways, with different meanings to varying countries and cultures around the world. However, there are common elements that bind all celebrations together; and that is, the reunion of families, and the display of not only ornate decorations, but also a display of kindness and generosity.

1. An elaborate Christmas tree and dangling gifts add a festive spirit to this mall in paris

1. An elaborate Christmas tree and dangling gifts add a festive spirit to this mall in paris

2. Hundreds of lights decorate a Christmas tree outside the famous Notre Dame Cathedral

2. Hundreds of lights decorate a Christmas tree outside the famous Notre Dame Cathedral

3. Blue bulbs light the way along the Champs Elysees

3. Blue bulbs light the way along the Champs Elysees

4. An outdoor skating rink and the Trocadero Christmas Market stand along side the Eiffel Tower

4. An outdoor skating rink and the Trocadero Christmas Market stand along side the Eiffel Tower

5. A small neighborhood market decorates its windows for the holiday season

5. A small neighborhood market decorates its windows for the holiday season

6. Visitors admire the elaborate holiday pastries and desserts shops display in their windows

6. Visitors admire the elaborate holiday pastries and desserts shops display in their windows

7. Vendors set up beautiful and festive displays of their goods near the Eiffel Tower

7. Vendors set up beautiful and festive displays of their goods near the Eiffel Tower

Image Credits:

Feature Image: Paris Tourism. http://www.helloonline.com/travel/201112196782/paris-christmas-lights-photo-gallery/

1. A Photo Journey Through France and Beyond. http://www.france-and-beyond-photoblog.com/2010/12/paris-at-christmas-time-shopping-mall.html

2-4. Paris Tourism. http://www.helloonline.com/travel/201112196782/paris-christmas-lights-photo-gallery/

5-6. Matt Long. Land Lopers. http://landlopers.com/2012/10/14/paris-christmas/

7. Jean Pierre Dalbera. Paris Perfect. http://www.parisperfect.com/blog/2010/12/christmas-in-paris/

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