Christmas Markets in France, Episode 45

Categories: Alsace and Lorraine, Christmas in France

This episode features our frequent and very popular guest Elyse Rivin. If you enjoy her episodes, please consider supporting her on Patreon.

For me, Christmas is all about the anticipation. The music, the decorations, and the Christmas Markets! I love all the little things we do in preparation for the big day. And in France we have a long tradition of Christmas Markets. In today's episode Annie and Elyse chat about Christmas Markets in France: how they got started and why they are so important.

Christmas Markets in France Are Getting More Popular Every Year

It used to be only a few French cities held a Christmas Market, not any more! In the last few years there has been a glut of new Christmas Markets popping up all over France. We even have French villages putting on a Christmas Market for a day or two! Some of them are very quirky, others offer a lot of promise.

Not All Christmas Markets in France Are Created Equal

But there are vast regional differences between the size and quality of Christmas Markets. The Alsace region is where you'll find the biggest and best Christmas Markets. Then comes Paris and then Provence. Other regions are trying to catch up, but we're not there yet.


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The wise men presenting gifts: Christmas Markets in France episode

Let's Review

If you listen to the episode or click through to the Show Notes you'll hear Elyse explain why we see so many regional differences. Hint: it's about the history, of course!

Given that, where do we think you should go to enjoy Christmas Markets in France? We have definite recommendations for you!


Read more about this episode
Show Notes 

Categories: Alsace and Lorraine, Christmas in France

3 Replies to “Christmas Markets in France, Episode 45”

  1. I am on your e-mail list. I live in Waterloo Ontario and am 82
    years old. I (we) have been in France several times but am not
    likely to have that opportunity again. My husband died 3 months ago.
    I enjoy your podcasts very much. I listen to them in the evening and can see many of the places that we have visited. They bring back happy memories and I congratulate you both
    on beginning this project with all the best intentions and now
    your audience is growing and there is promise of many more
    podcasts to come. Thank you and Happy New Year.

    1. Welcome to Join Us in France Geralda and thank you for the kind words. It’s lovely to know there are people like you listening out there! May I ask how you found out about the podcast?

  2. In Southern California, the weather hardly gets that cold around Christmas, but when there is even the slightest breeze, people will put on their heavy winter clothes when you could survive with way less. I suppose it has something to do with nostalgia. Sometimes, there are outdoor skating rinks but they’re far and wide and not out for long. And yes, our tree is also a hodge podge of things.
    My family here is Mexican and that means one word: tamales, tamales, tamales. So we eat pretty much only tamales (many kinds) at Christmas when the entire family is together. Sometimes we make them by hand, or we just buy them. As you mentioned earlier with making the Nativity scenes and grottos, my mom likes to make them too and set them up with these old, fragile clay figures from her town in Mexico. We used to make the stable and cut off palm leaves from our backyard and use that as the roof covering. She would usually hide Baby Jesus until Christmas day and lay him in the manger then. And just for kicks, I like to inch the Wise Men closer and closer to the stable with each day. We also have this awful red devil to accompany the Nativity scene (behind the stable…farther out of sight) which is absolutely creepy and I hate it, but has always been present. Originally, a lot of the Christmas music in Spanish has no allusion to snow and things like that- it sounds more tropical. Of course, there are the Spanish versions to traditional Christmas songs that everyone knows which are popular as well.

    My dad is Hungarian and we used to get these marzipan chocolates from Hungary called “Szaloncukor”, and tie two together with a thread to hang on the tree. We also make “Bejgli” which is delicious and is a type of rolled up pastry bread with either poppy seed filing or walnuts, etc. rolled up inside -like a Hungarian counterpart to the “Bûche de Noël.”
    I’ve been to several Christmas markets in Europe and go nuts over them. One of my favorites are the ones in Hungary (Budapest) because of the originality of artisan goods found there, I think I went crazy and bought a lot of jewelry last time.
    Anyways, that’s how we do Christmas here.

    À plus tard,

  3. Love the podcast! I’m a new listener living in Sydney, but originally from the Seattle area in the States. My husband is Aussie (though his ‘Mum’ is originally from Argentina) and Sydney is very multi-cultural, so I’ll try to share a bit of what I’ve learned about Christmas in the Land of Oz (no true Aussie would call it that, by the way, but I’m taking some creative liberty). 🙂

    Christmas traditions in Australia can vary a lot based on cultural backgrounds, but it’s summer here now which is also known as “the silly season” (because of great weather + holidays). Many businesses close between Christmas and New Years (sometimes workers receive this time off as additional paid leave and others use a chunk of their annual leave during this period). It feels strange for me as an American in many ways because I definitely still associate Christmas with cold weather and things like hot chocolate, going to a Christmas tree farm and putting lights on a house. (Aussies might do the latter if they own a home–but housing is really expensive in most cities and so is electricity, so it’s not very common.)

    Because of the heat, many Aussies will “grill prawns” (NOT “put shrimp on the Barbie”!) or other seafood. They may eat cold picnic-style food–like salami, olives and cheeses. Some may cook ham, lamb or foods that would seem more mainstream in the US (hopefully, they have air conditioning!). But if I ask those from Italian background, for example, they talk about having seafood and pasta…so families may keep some cultural traditions from their home countries (in the latest census, ~28% of those living in Australia were not born here).

    Because many of the businesses are closed between Christmas and New Year’s (with the exception of retail shops and some cafes and restaurants), it’s a very relaxed vibe. People go camping, spend time at the beach or travel ‘interstate’ to other parts of Australia. A few interesting tidbits (though I feel like I’ve written a book already!):

    -No Christmas sweaters–it’s WAY too hot. You might see funny Christmas t-shirts or ‘budgie smugglers’ (aka Speedos), though!

    -Many of the suburbs (neighbourhoods) will host concerts with local musicians or bands performing Christmas music. Australia isn’t as PC as the US with the ‘happy holidays’ lingo and even in public schools, you might hear more traditional carols like “O Holy Night” (despite the fact that many of the people don’t identify as religious).

    -Some places in the major cities like Sydney have nice Christmas displays, like the big tree in Martin Place (it’s not like the Rockefeller Center tree, but it’s big and it does look festive). Some of the store windows like at David Jones (a Nordstrom-like store here in Aus) are very well done, too.

    -Many of the office Christmas parties are ‘dress up’ parties–which are costume parties. In the US, they’d be an HR nightmare, but the Aussies are quite fond of them.

    -Because many of the offices are closed for a week and it’s summer with ‘school holidays’, you’d find that many Aussies take off much of December and January to relax or go on holiday.

    -In general, markets and festivals are a big thing here and I am pretty sure Sydney has a few Christmas markets…and I know for a fact I’ve spent WAY too much at our regular local markets picking up gifts for family and friends. Some of the markets can be tacky (think garage sales of used clothes), but some of them are quite good with artisan crafts, food or other locally made goods.

    -Christmas isn’t as commercialised here and doesn’t really feel like as big of a deal as it is in the US. For example, the Elf on a Shelf craze has not taken off, many of the homes won’t have lights or decorations beyond a Christmas tree, etc.