The first written mentioning of the word Noël is dated 1112 AD. The word itself can be traced to the Latin word natalis (birth). However, linguists believe that a more ancient common origin appears in the Hebrew word nolah, meaning "to bring forth young."
Christmas fairs - marchés de Noël - appear on the streets of French towns and cities long before Christmas. Not only people go looking for presents for their beloved ones there, but they also choose their Christmas trees - sapin de Noël – at these fairs.
On the Christmas Eve, all family is gathered around the table. Yes, French people are famous for being foodies and they celebrate all holidays at the table:) Foie gras, goose or duck liver, is a traditional dish. It is often accompanied by turkey and followed by a famous Christmas log (bûche de Noël) soaking in chocolate for desert. This log is a remainder about an old tradition to put a big log into the fireplace in the beginning of the evening in order for the house to stay warm until early morning.
Father Noel (père Noël) emerged in France only in the middle of the 19th century as an imitation of the Anglo-Saxon traditions. Obviously he brings presents:) However, the tradition to exchange presents on Christmas existed back in the Middle ages.
If a family is religious, after dinner all members go to church for the night mass (messe de minuit). A colorful nativity scene is displayed in each church during the festive season.
Last, but not the least, the French wish each other Merry Christmas - Joyeux Noël!
Story by Alena (Daimblond)Translation by Anastasia (Lightkeeping)