Christmas and New Year vocabulary

Vacances de Noël

It’s here! Christmas is coming! Hope you know the French traditions during the holiday season. Now is the perfect time to review a bit of vocabulary and check you haven’t forgotten anything. In a few days’ time, everyone will be using these words, so get yourself prepared!

Objects and nouns

Firstly, all families decorate their sapin (Christmas tree) with guirlandes (garlands) – bright ribbons in every colour of the rainbow. They also set up a crèche (nativity scene), featuring the Baby Jesus and all the animals, including a bœuf (ox), an âne (donkey), etc. Of course Christmas is above all about Père Noël (Father Christmas) with his long beard, red clothes and traîneau (sleigh) pulled by rennes (reindeer). On his back, he carries a large bag full of all the presents – his hotte (sack). If there’s lots of snow outside, you can build a bonhomme de neige (snowman) with your friends.


But as you know, Christmas is also about the traditional food that we eat at this time of year. In France, people are very fond of dinde. What’s that, you ask? Well, you’ve heard of Thanksgiving haven’t you? Then you’ll know it’s a large bird that is roasted and eaten (a turkey)! It’s delicious on the evening of Réveillon. Réveillon? Ah, yes, I forgot to mention: Réveillon is the meal eaten in France on Christmas Eve. In fact, there are two of them: a similar meal is eaten on the evening of 31 December. For example, French people like to enjoy a bûche (yule log) for dessert. This is a Swiss roll covered with a coffee- or chocolate-flavoured buttercream frosting. It is shaped like one of the large pieces of wood that people used to put in their hearths.


Now that we’ve looked at nouns and food, how about revising a few verbs? When we cover gifts with multicoloured paper before giving (offrir) them, we use the verb emballer (to wrap). When we open them, the verb is déballer (to unwrap). Giving gifts is a good way of wishing (souhaiter) your loved ones a Merry Christmas. Finally, after the presents have been given out, you might go with your family and friends to look at the Christmas lights which are twinkling (briller) in the streets of your town. So there you have it: now, you know all about Christmas and New Year in France. Happy holidays!

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French traditions during the holiday season


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