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Jan 2

New Year's Traditions in France

French Culture – New Year’s Traditions

On this deuxième jour de janvier (second day of January), I’d like to start off by wishing everyone une très bonne année! (a very Happy New Year!) New Year’s provides the French with not one, but two more chances to do what they do best . . . celebrate!

Like most festive French holidays, New Year’s (both le Réveillon et le jour de l’An / New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day) feature great food and, of course, Champagne!* Many French New Year’s feasts also feature a (or many!) big platter(s) of freshly shucked huîtres (oysters). Shipped fresh from the ports of la Bretagne (Brittany), les huîtres are a favourite of the French for the holidays

Les mois sans ‘r’

While oysters are now consumed year-round, historically eating oysters (and other seafood) in the warmer months could be dangerous for those living far from the shore (no refrigeration meant that delicate seafood could easily spoil in transport). Oysters also reproduce when the water around them gets warm (generally in mid-spring and summer months of mai, juin, juillet, et août / May, June, July, and August) and some find that oysters are not as good at this this time. These two facts resulted in a common French tradition of avoiding oysters in les mois sans ‘r’/months without an ‘r’!

New Years Eve

Le saviez-vous? / Did you know?

Le jour de l’An (New Years Day) was not always January 1st. For centuries, the start of the year varied from country to country and even sometimes by region. In parts of France the new year once started on April 1 (and some say that the tradition of le poisson d’avril dates from this period). It wasn’t until the late 16th century, when Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar we know today, that January 1 was officially established as the start of the new year (at least throughout the Christian world).

* While most wine-producing countries have some form of vin mousseux/sparkling wine (Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain; even France has vin mousseux produced in regions outside Champagne ), Champagne is only Champagne if it is produced in the French region of the same name.

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

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Jan 1

Bonne année! Happy New Year!

French Question: Why is it “Le Novel An” and not “Le Nouveau An”?

We wish all of our readers a happy and healthy 2019.

Talking about the new year in French can be especially difficult. This is because there are two words that mean “year”–an (m) and année (f), and because both of these words start with a vowel, which can change the word that comes before it.

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What’s the difference between an and année?  Besides the fact that an is masculine and année is feminine, an describes a particular moment during the year while année describes a span of time (this is similar to the pairs soir and soirée).

Thus, you would say: C’est le jour du nouvel an (It’s New Year’s Day) using an instead of année because you are referencing a particular moment of time during the year (New Year’s Day).

If, however, you would like to wish someone a happy new year, this is over a span of time, which lasts for the entire year. That’s why you use année in the expression “Happy New Year” or bonne année.

But there’s another trick when referencing the new year, or le nouvel an, in French. Because an is masculine, the adjective typically used with it should be nouveau. However, in French, an adjective cannot end with a vowel if the following noun also begins with a vowel (for reason of pronunciation or liaison).

Thus, there is always a masculine form of a word that can be used only in front of masculine nouns that start with vowels. In this case, that would be nouvel. Nouvel is pronounced just like the feminine form nouvelle, so don’t get confused if you hear someone say le nouvel an–this doesn’t mean that an is feminine. (You can also think about the difference between the demonstrative adjectives ce (masculine), cette (feminine), and cet (masculine before a masculine noun that begins with a vowel).

Alors, je vous souhaite tous une bonne année et j’espère que vous avez passé un bon nouvel an avec votre famille!

Bonne année! Happy New Year!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Dec 31

Auld Lang Syne In French

Only An Au Revoir

La Saint-Sylvestre (New Year’s Eve) may be celebrated slightly differently in France, mais (but) there’s a song associated with la fête (the holiday) that is fairly familiar to tout le monde (everyone).

La chanson du réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre (The New Year’s Eve song), Auld Lang Syne, is one that all anglophones know. It’s interesting to note that while les anglophones know the song and can sing along to it, most do not understand les paroles (the lyrics), because la chanson is not actually en anglais!

Auld Lang Syne was originally written in 1788 by le poète écossais (the Scottish poet), Robert Burns. Les paroles were written in Scots and set to une ballade écossaise (a Scottish ballad). La chanson quickly spread around l’Écosse (Scotland) and the rest of le monde anglophone (the English speaking world), and in the course of a few hundred years Auld Lang Syne became the traditional New Year’s Eve song it is today.

The Scottish origins of la chanson explain why most anglophones have trouble understanding les paroles, but translating the title from Scots to English makes the odd name easier to understand:

Auld Lang Syne

Long Long Ago (literally: Old Long Since)

La chanson traditionnelle (the traditional song) was translated into French in 1920 by Jacques Sevin, one of the cofounders of les Scouts de France (The Scouts of France). Outside of New Year’s celebrations, Auld Lang Syne is often song at Scouts events around the world.

La traduction (the translation) changes les paroles quite a bit, but successfully captures the spirit of old friends and saying goodbye. Even le nom de la chanson (the name of the chanson) is completely different, but the change keeps the feeling behind the song:

Ce n’est qu’un au revoir

It’s only a goodbye

Auld Langs Syne

In between making your voeux du nouvel An (New Year’s resolutions) and remembering the best of 2017, take a moment to celebrate la Saint-Sylvestre and sing Ce n’est qu’un au revoir en version francaise :


Faut-il nous quitter sans espoir,

Sans espoir de retour,

Faut-il nous quitter sans espoir

De nous revoir un jour


Do we have to leave without hope,

Without hope of returning,

Do we have to leave without hope

Of seeing each other some day



Ce n’est qu’un au-revoir, mes frères

Ce n’est qu’un au-revoir

Oui, nous nous reverrons, mes frères,

Ce n’est qu’un au-revoir



It’s only a goodbye, my brothers

It’s only a goodbye

Yes, we will see each other again, my brothers

It’s only a goodbye


Formons de nos mains qui s’enlacent

Au déclin de ce jour,

Formons de nos mains qui s’enlacent

Une chaîne d’amour.


Let’s make with our hands held together

At the end of this day,

Let’s make with our hands held together

A chain of love.


Unis par cette douce chaîne

Tous, en ce même lieu,

Unis par cette douce chaîne

Ne faisons point d’adieu.


Connected by this gentle chain

Everyone, in this same place,

Connected by this gentle chain

Do not bid farewell.


Car Dieu qui nous voit tous ensemble

Et qui va nous bénir,


Because God who sees us all together

And who will bless us,


Car Dieu qui nous voit tous ensemble

Saura nous réunir.


Because God who sees us all together

Knows that we will meet again.

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

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Dec 28

Saint-Sylvestre (New Year’s Eve)

Le réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre (New Year’s Eve)

The new year (le nouvel an) is fast approaching.

In France, as elsewhere, New Year’s Eve (called le réveillon du jour de l’an) is typically celebrated with friends. It’s common to celebrate the new year with champagne and fireworks.

But did you know that, unlike in English, New Year’s Eve also has a different name? In French, New Year’s Eve is also known as le réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre.

New Years Eve

But who was Saint Sylvester?

Saint Sylvester was pope (pape) from 314 to 335 AD. Not much is known about his life, although the church grew in power during his tenure, erecting such monuments as Santa Croce in Jerusalem and the old Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Most of our common knowledge about Saint Sylvester is through unverified (and potentially fictional) stories about his relationship with the Emperor Constantine. One fictitious story stated that, upon administering blessed water, Sylvester cured Constantine of leprosy. Supposedly, it was Sylvester’s miracle that influenced Constantine to convert to Christianity.

The Feast of Saint Sylvester is celebrated around the world on December 31, because this was the day he died in 335. Today, many countries around the world—and not just France—refer to New Year’s Eve as Silvester, or a similar name in tribute of the ancient pope. For example, in Germany, Christian households traditionally celebrate Saint Sylvester’s Day by melting Silvesterblei (Silvester lead) in a spoon and dropping it into cold water, then divining the year ahead based on the shape of the cooled metal. In Switzerland, men dress as Silvesterklaus and ring large bells to welcome in the new year.

In France, la Saint Sylvestre is celebrated with friends, good food, champagne, and firecrackers or noisemakers. But there is one more tradition that is often reserved for this special day: le baiser sous le gui (kissing under the mistletoe). Unlike in some Anglophone cultures, where kissing under the mistletoe is a Christmas tradition, this ancient ritual is reserved for la Saint-Sylvestre in France.

Bonne année!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

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Dec 27

How do the French celebrate New Year?

As New Year's Eve is fast approaching we thought we should take a look at how it is celebrated in France and see if we can point out some differences to where you live?

December 31st - New Year's Eve is called la Saint-Sylvestre and is celebrated with a feast by most people, called le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre unsurprisingly (31 December is his saint's day). The feast includes special items like champagne and perhaps controvertially foie gras, the accompanying party can range from an intimate dinner with friends to lavish public events most often called une soirée dansante (a dance ball).

Kissing under the mistletoe

At midnight, everyone kisses under the mistletoe and offers their best wishes for the new year. Kissing under the mistletoe? I hear you ask? well, interestingly, kissing under the mistletoe is a New Year's Eve / Day custom in France rather than a Christmas custom as in the UK and other countries. Note that the kissing may be on the lips or on the cheek, depending on the relationship between the two people so if you are not sure then start with the cheek and the French person will take the lead from there!

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The end of the holiday season is Epiphany, on 6 January, although I have seen Christmas decoratyion still 'up' and illuminated at night almost as long as up to Easter!, Epiphany in France includes a traditional cake called la galette des rois but if you bite into one becareful as you may break a tooth on the cadeaux often found inside these cakes, but don't worry it means good luck!

Saint Sylvestre was Pope from 314 to 335 A.D., during the time of the rule of Constantine the Great. Although there is no actual link between Saint Sylvestre and the new year, it just that 31 December is his feast or Saint's day. La Saint-Sylvestre is feminine because it's short for la fête de Saint-Sylvestre.

New Year in Bordeaux

New Year’s Traditions in France

Celebrating the New Year is a little different in France than it is in the UK or the US.


I hope you were not offended if you got less Christmas cards this year, if it was your first year in france? the French people don’t send Christmas cards! they send New Year’s greeting cards instead, so they is hope yet. So if you are sending cards to people in France, you don’t have to rush, just catch the post for the week inbetween Chritmas and New Year.

People in France continue to wish each other la bonne année throughout the month of January! No interaction is complete in France in the month of January without starting your conversation with Meilleurs voeux (Best wishes).


It is also common practice in France to give gifts of money to people who serve you on a regular basis, any tips to Cle France staff will be accepted merrily (LOL). The local firemen are the most proactive in my experience and they will knock on your door with the 'excuse' of selling you a calendar, even the garbage man in towns and cities (les éboueurs) may knock on your door. It’s the equivalent of their 13th month, and the French tend to be quite generous so if you want a good service you may have to dig deep.

Le Réveillon.

As you know by now the Christmas Eve dinner is known as le réveillon and so is New Year’s Eve dinner! so easy to remeber even after a galss or two! To distinguish the two, the celebration on the 31st is called la Saint-Sylvestre, or le réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre. The festive meal is similar to the one shared at Christmas – goose or turkey, oysters, foie gras, Boudin blanc – with the addition of copious amounts of champagne, bien sûr, and dancing and partying long into the night is normal and to be expected.

Metros and public transportation in the large cities are free for the evening to discourage drivers from taking to the road in their cars after indulging which is a very effective policy.


At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, expect to receive kisses on both cheeks and a hearty bonne année! Fireworks at private parties have been surpressed in the past years due to the dangers, but this is not the case for the local communes who often have a spectacular display and a party for all the villagers.

On New Year’s Day – le jour de l’an.

Parades fill the streets which you can watch in person, if you don’t mind the cold, or on TV from the comfort of your own home, friends house and even in the local sports bar, in fact anywhere where there is a TV it will be tuned to the local 'big town' celebrations!

New Year in Montpellier

The most famous New Year parade takes place in Paris every year. Thousands of performers from all over the world take part in the show with wonderful songs, dances and other cultural activities. The parade goes through the many districts and streets of Paris. Generally, it starts on 31st December and passes through Chantilly to reach Trocardero, under the Eiffer Tower on January 1st.

What about New Years Resolutions?

Le Jour de l'An is the day when people share their resolutions among near and dear friends, you may not get such a warm reply if you ask a neighbour what their resolution is, these are really kept between very close family members. Cards and gifts are exchanged on New Years Day, which reflect the mood and the spirit of the celebration.

This is the perfect time for family members and friends to be with each other. They dine together, have fun and form great memories. I have seen that the chef in the family will prepare heart or log shaped desserts, usually made from ice cream (don't worry these are also widely available in supermarkets across France).

People are highly excited and welcome the fresh year in whole-heartedly in France so all you need to do is join in, not that different to the UK or the US afterall, just jump in and have a good time seems to be the order of the day.

Bonne Année ! from Sharon, David, Simon, Alex and all the team at Cle France.

Happy New Year to you all from Cle France

Blog submitted by: David at The French Property Network - Cle France.

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