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This may surprise you a little, but Christmas in France generally speaking is not as big a deal as it is in many other countries. It's not that we don't celebrate Christmas in France, but it's more of a family celebration. The emphasis in France is on family gatherings, the food, the wine, and the gifts are secondary.
Family Christmas in France: Not As Commercial as it Is in America
Having lived in both France and America, I have to say that Christmas is not as commercial in France as it is in the USA. You should have seen how big my eyes got the first time I saw the pile of gifts under the tree at my friend's house in the US! I had never seen anything like it.
On the other hand, I found Christmas food in America to be more ordinary. Everybody made an effort, but we still ate on paper plates at big family gatherings because it was more convenient. I'm going to sound judgmental here, but I've never seen that in France.
Do They Exchange Gits for Christmas in France?
Of course we do! Just not as many. We don't spend as much. Children get several gifts in most families, but the adults generally don't. Mind you, the gifts for adults tend to be a lot more expensive than toys for kids, so that makes a difference.
French people don't decorate their houses for Christmas as much. We have the tree and the santons, but we don't go all out with lights outside, etc.
We definitely don't have as much Christmas music in stores and if we do it's just for a few days before Christmas, not for a month or more!
Families Love to Visit Christmas Markets
Some places are amazing at Christmas in France, especially Alsace, Paris, some parts of Provence. But other places are meh because they don't have good Christmas markets.
One of the purposes of this episodes is to tell you where exciting Christmas is in France. I'm afraid that in my home town of Toulouse, Christmas is still mostly a family affair. There isn't much for you to visit or do as a visitor. So, plan in advance and go to Alsace!
What Do French People Do at Christmas Time that They Don't Do the Rest of the Year?
And for those of you not planning a trip to France right away, we'll answer the question What do French people do at Christmas that that they don't do the rest of the year? It turns out we do a lot of fun stuff, even if it's a family thing.
Learn More: Christmas in France
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If you enjoyed this episode, you should also listen to related episode(s):
- At the Paris Christmas Market, Episode 132
- Christmas in Paris, Episode 95
- Christmas Markets in France, Episode 45